Step 1: Play (and Re-Connect)
I suppose technically, the bedtime routine begins when we get home from work/childminder. We play a bit, letting him choose whatever it is he wants to do (these days, mostly he wants to go out into the back garden) and we try to get our dinner on the go while he's playing, so that we can sit down together as a family for a meal (our dinner, his supper).
Step 2: Milk
It's only been 7 weeks since I stopped breastfeeding (a week's business trip to Boston will do that to you) and he still asks for milk, so we've kept this as part of the routine for now.
Step 3: Bath
I'm never entirely sure whether this actually wakes him up more, because he gets excited and splashy, but it's part of the routine now and we're trying not to change it. The only time we skip this step is if he's really overtired, on the basis that a screaming fit isn't exactly conducive to a good night's sleep.
We try and get this bit of the routine started as close to 7 as possible, but if work and public transport are conspiring against us, it can be later. It's also sometimes more difficult if it's earlier in the evening, because he's just not ready to face the idea of being separated from us again (even by sleep) when he's been apart from us all day.
This is a tough nut to crack and the amount of time we're apart due to work does make me feel a bit guilty, but we try and make the bedtime routine all about him, and quality time to make up for it.
Step 4: Jammies
We have a bit more play and some gentle snuggling on the bed while we dry him and get him into his jammies, then it's…
Step 5: Teeth brushing
He absolutely loves brushing his teeth, so he's usually very happy to do this, almost running back to the bathroom to climb up on the step and grab his toothbrush. He's very particular, demanding toothpaste and the tap has to be on, then off, then on again, before we're "all done".
All of this pales into insignificance compared to:
Step 6: Storytime
Introduced by daddy while I was in Boston, we have a 3 story limit.
We have a selection of books and he gets to choose the 3 stories he wants, one at a time, and when they're done, that's it for the night.
Step 7: Settling down
He's still very little (only 20 months old), and sleeping in his own room for the whole night is still relatively new, so one or both of us will stay with him while he settles down to sleep. When the stories are done, he givs us both a goodnight kiss and cuddle (often spontaneously), and will often give some of his teddies spontaneous goodnight kisses (which about makes me die of the cute) and we gently pull his quilt over him and hope that he goes to sleep quickly.
It doesn't often happen so smoothly, but if he keeps wanting to get up, we gently encourage him back to bed and discourage him from getting any more toys or books out (or playing with his cupboard doors).
We then lie next to him (mostly not actually touching him, just being there) until he falls asleep (or we do) and then once he's asleep (or a couple of hours later when we wake up) we tiptoe out of his room, close the door and hope he sleeps until morning.