Kiddies need to rest enough to perform at their best – whether that means at school, at home, and when playing with friends. While rest is undeniably one of the most important parts of a child’s day, school is too, and getting children back into a routine to ensure they get enough sleep, spend enough time at school to learn, and also have time to play in a day can be a battle at the start of the school year.
Unarguably, the best time to start easing kids back into a school sleep routine is two weeks prior to the start of the school year. When children sleep late in the mornings and evenings during the holidays, it’s important to slowly ease them into a routine of getting up earlier and going to bed earlier, too. Eating habits and establishing routines around relaxing, playing, and eventually going back to school are also something to take into consideration to make sure that when that first day back at school arrives, your children will get up feeling ready and alert for the year that lies ahead.
Slow and steady wins the race
When easing kids back into a routine, it’s not always the best idea to drastically change up the time they wake up or eat. Rather wake them up 15 minutes earlier each morning, and put them to bed 15 minutes earlier every evening. This is especially important in children who spent their school holidays staying up late at night and sleeping in during the day. Routine is an amble through the park, not the ripping off of a Band-Aid.
Consistency is key
A routine will be better established in an environment where a schedule is followed consistently. Try to keep the routine as consistent as possible, especially over weekends, to ensure that kids’ internal clocks reset and respond to the new routine.
Bed time is relax time
Whether this means getting your children bathed and into pyjamas, settled in bed and comfortable with a gentle chat or bedtime story, getting your kids relaxed and comfy before bed is the best way to let their bodies understand that it’s time to switch off and rest. Switching off unnecessary lights, creating a comfortable temperature, and even dropping lavender essence on your child’s pillow are all ways to create a calm, sleep-friendly environment.
Keep screen time to a minimum
Try to limit the amount of electronics exposure an hour or longer before bedtime. This means turning the TV off, putting tablets and laptops down, and keeping cell phones far away from the bedroom. Allowing electronics into their bedrooms create a misperception of what that room is for – sleep and switching off! Further, studies show that the blue light emitted by screens can trick our systems into staying awake, making it harder for our bodies to relax and actually fall asleep.
Limit sugary snacks, drinks, and large meals before bedtime
Try to keep your child away from soda, caffeine, sugary foods, and heavy meals before bed time. An uncomfortably full tummy can make your child feel ill, and too much sugar in their system will prevent their brains from relaxing. Avoid sugar and caffeine six hours before bed, and rather have a light, but satisfying meal in the evenings.
Stay active and exercise
Many children tend to tire out well and fall asleep much easier when they spent some time playing during the day. Try not to let them play too much closer to bed time, though, as their bodies may still feel awake from playing and they will struggle to fall asleep. Activities after school like sport, as well as playing with friends or at Playalot, are good ways to engage children in exercise.
One more thing to keep in mind is the recommended amount of sleep for a child depending on age. This is subjective of course, as every child’s sleep needs may differ, but using these hours as a general guideline will help when planning a routine for your kids:
4 – 12 months old: 12 – 16 hours per day, including naps
1 – 2 years old: 11 – 14 hours per day, including naps
3 – 5 years old: 10 – 13 hours per day, including naps
6 – 12 years old: 9 – 12 hours per day
13 – 18 years old: 8 – 10 hours per day
Getting kids back into a school routine doesn’t have to be a struggle – starting early and keeping to a consistent routine is all it takes to have happy kiddies every morning.