Creative Bedtime for Night Owls

Creative Bedtime for Night Owls | Twin Cities Mom Collective

What do monsters, thirst, temperature, toilets, and tears have in common? They are the symptoms of little night owls who don’t want to fall asleep. 

I have a few little night owls on my hands. The most exhausting days don’t seem to phase them. In fact, one of my kids started regularly staying awake until close to midnight since about age of 4! That is way past the time I would like to be in la la land myself. 

I’m not entirely surprised since I am a night owl, too, but I prefer night-owling with my husband or other adults during something we call Second Evening, not refilling water bottles and chasing away scary shadows. 

Over the years, I have developed quite an extensive list of ideas for those wide-eyed kids. One of the reasons I believe they stay up so late is that they don’t know what to do with their big imaginations. 

Oftentimes we try to get kids ready for bed by eliminating things that would distract them. We say things like, “just close your eyes,” or “count to 100.” Those tactics just emphasize the issue of not being able to fall asleep for a kid who is struggling, in my opinion. 

So instead, I’ve literally printed out a list of things for them to do to occupy their minds when they can’t fall asleep. As their minds get busy thinking, they tend to become tired enough to finally doze off. 

The rule is they have to be quiet and stay in their beds, but beyond that I let them have the light on and stay up until they need to because I know it’s futile to force a child to fall asleep. That said, I do enforce a lights out time from time to time if it’s getting too late, or they have an early morning the next day. But for the most part, between the time they get in bed and when they fall asleep, the things on this list have helped them to settle into dreamland with less of a struggle than it used to be.

In fact, one of my kids’ friends recently saw one of these lists and asked if she could take it home to try herself! So here it is, a mixture of the ideas I have given to both my boys and girls, for you to pick and choose what your night owls might be interested in:

  • Write a story
  • Make a list of things – anything!
  • Put new outfits on dolls
  • Draw a design for the next project you want to do
  • Build something out of Legos
  • Color
  • Write a letter
  • Make a landscape out of your blankets for cars or small toy figures
  • Play with stuffed animals
  • Create a silly poem
  • Organize your drawers
  • Draw a picture of the last story you read
  • Brush your doll’s hair
  • Make a plan for the next day
  • Write down funny questions to ask your family
  • Think of a word for every letter of the alphabet
  • Make a list of all the things that are the same color
  • Imagine you’re a character in your favorite book
  • Make up an imaginary world and draw the creatures who live there
  • Draw a comic strip
  • Play with stickers
  • Plan some funny pranks to do the next day
  • Imagine having a unique pet: What would it be and what would you call it?

Based on a kid’s interests, there are so many things that can be drawn, written, or colored quietly in bed. And of course, reading books is always the top choice at our house. My kids know that as long as they’re reading quietly with a flashlight, they can pretty much stay up as late as they want. Not having a set time to fall asleep sounds so “big kid” to them, meanwhile they are unknowingly fostering a love of reading. Win-win. 

What creative bedtime solutions have you found for your kids? Share in the comments!

Joy Ballard
Joy was born and raised in Mexico by a Minnesotan mom and south Mexican dad. Ironically, she fell in love with a Minnesota guy and now they live in the Twin Cities with their two sons and two daughters. She spends most of her time homeschooling, trying to keep up with the laundry, convincing her kids to like her dinner attempts, and teaming up with her husband in running their vacation rental venture: The River Lodge. On a rainy day, she likes to create art for the lodge, their home, and others. Joy will always say yes to coffee, books and traveling--and all three combined are her very best life. She is awful at chit-chat, but loves getting into conversations about marriage, parenting, personality profiles, simple living and finding purpose and value in every day life. Follow along with her lodge and art ventures on Instagram @theriverlodgemn and @lemonjoystudio or connect with her personally @joy.ballard


  1. I can totally relate to this! My 8 year old can easily stay up past 10pm for multiple nights in a row. Even though I am a night owl, I still felt like we should be doing more to get her to sleep earlier. We recently gave her permission to stay up as long as she wants. (Needed our 2nd evening back!) I love the idea of having a list for her to fall back on when she is tired of books and word searches. It gives us a way to help her without having to go back into the room.


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