How A Bedtime Pass Can Stop Your Toddler’s Bedtime Stalling

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Do you feel like your child is a champion bedtime procrastinator? Do you feel like every single night they are asking you for one more [fill in the blank]? I mean how many books, songs, hugs, sips of water, trips to the bathroom can one child have at bedtime? If it were up to your little, the limit would not exist. But, let’s be honest, as much as we all love our kids, we also love bedtime. The bedtime pass is one of my all-time favorite bedtime “tricks” for kids 2.5+ years.

So, first we should discuss bedtime expectations. If you currently don’t have expectations for bedtime, then the pass is probably just going to end up being another thing “doesn’t work.” There are a few key elements when it comes to handling big kids at bedtime and you can read more about that in this blog post. In order successfully use a bedtime pass, you will need to incorporate it as an elemental part of your bedtime routine.

What Is The Purpose Of A Bedtime Pass?

This one-of-a-kind pass is good for exactly ONE more thing once your child goes to bed. One more kiss, one more hug, one more story, one more trip to the bathroom – whatever one more thing your child is asking for, they can have it… for the price of their bedtime pass.

How To Use A Bedtime Pass

Create Your Pass

First, you’ll need to make your pass. This is a great activity to involve your little with. Show me a kid that doesn’t get excited at the mention of a trip to the craft store or a computer project.

Creativity not your thing? I got you – you can download my version of a bedtime pass here!

Once you’ve created your pass, you’ll need to give it a ‘name.’ Pick something that is going to really help this pass work to your advantage at bedtime. Some kids have several general requests, but others are notorious for asking for the same one thing at bedtime. For example, “A Potty Pass,” for someone who just needs that one last trip to the bathroom.

example of a bedtime pass

Set Bedtime Pass Expectations

Once you’ve created your pass, you need to set very clear bedtime expectations. Specifically outline the steps of your bedtime routine. Anything that falls outside of the identified routine will require your child to cash in their pass. Once the pass is gone, it’s gone. Any future requests will need to wait until the morning.

Usually, they end up getting nervous that they might actually need something in the middle of the night (because, let’s be honest, we all know they didn’t need that additional trip to the bathroom 5 minutes after they just went), that all the ‘one more’ requests come to a screeching halt.

Using The Pass

If all goes according to plan, your child should no longer be requesting 20+ more things at bedtime. Waking up in the morning having not exchanged their pass, should give them a sense of pride – it’s hard work! For some kids, good old fashion praise and recognition is all they need to keep them motivated from night to night. If this is your child, great! Stick with the simplicity of a pat on the back in the morning for a job well done and most importantly, STAY CONSISTENT!


Unfortunately, the bedtime pass isn’t foolproof. Just like most everything else in the wild world of children, it isn’t a one size fits all approach.

Sometimes, kids literally do not care about the recognition that comes with holding on to their bedtime pass all night long. In this case, it’s time to up the ante. What IS your child motivated by? Whatever the answer to that question is, utilize it in exchange for your child’s pass if they still have it in the morning. If you don’t need to use your pass for anything overnight, in the morning you can have a specific food (M&Ms, juice, cake pops, etc.), extra screen time, a sticker, a prize, a trip to the Target dollar section. Don’t let this exercise break the bank, but sometimes it’s worth sweetening the deal.

Sometimes, kids need to be [overly] reminded about their use of their bedtime pass. You can’t assume they remember that their one ask is going to require the exchange of their pass. You might have to spend a couple of nights breaking in the bedtime pass (aka giving several reminders).

Lastly, sometimes the bedtime pass loses its appeal due to lack of consistency. If your child HAD to tell you the story from school today and they were so adamant about it that they willingly agreed to exchange their bedtime pass so that they could tell you right now, then when they call for a sip of water 5 minutes later you cannot, I repeat cannot, give them a sip of water. I know it is hard, but I promise you that they will not shrivel up like a raisin by morning. As soon as you give in (even if it’s only once), the bedtime pass means nothing, and you are right back at square one.


Here is an example of how to properly use a bedtime pass:

  • “Dada, come back! I forgot to tell you this one thing that happened at school today! I really want to tell you now!”
  • “Joey, I am sure it is a great story and I would love to listen to it now, but if you want to tell me your story now you will have to give me your bedtime pass. If you want to keep your pass for something that might be more important tonight, you can tell me your story tomorrow morning as soon as you wake up.”
  • Might this battle take just as long as listening to the story? Yes, it might. But over the course of a few days, the requests will stop. Unlike if you give in and listen to the story – in 3 day’s time you’ll be listening to *two* more stories about the day.

In summary…

I’ve seen the bedtime pass be SO effective when used appropriately. Craving control is a natural part of growing up. Letting your child create their own bedtime pass and choosing when they will use it gives them a sense of autonomy.

  • Remember, consistency is of the utmost importance when it comes to the bedtime pass.
  • Explain what it is for and how it will be used
  • When the request comes, remind your child that whatever they want will require the use of their pass and encourage them to reconsider
  • Once they use their pass, it is gone. You have to stay true to your word or the pass (and you) loses all credibility

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I'm Kristen

The expert & woman behind the screen. I'm also your new best friend who is ready to empower you on this incredible journey.

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