For some families, summertime often means new routines (or lack thereof), hours at the pool, new adventures or vacations, and a later bedtime, all of which are so fun! They can also lead to quite a rude awakening when daycare or school start back up again at the end of the summer.
As a former elementary teacher and now sleep consultant I know parents of school-aged children often struggle to re-establish routines as the school year begins, as do parents sending their babies or toddlers back to or to daycare for the first time.
A large part of re-establishing those routines is connected to sleep. So let’s walk through three tips for getting your little one not only back into routine at the beginning of the school year, but also ensuring those routines will support their sleep.
1. Set an Age-Appropriate Bedtime. Determining your baby or child’s bedtime once daycare or school starts can feel daunting, but it doesn’t have to be!
To determine an age-appropriate bedtime for your child first figure out what time your child has to be out the door each morning and what time they have to wake up in order to make that happen.
Once you’ve figured out what time your child has to be awake it’s time to think about how much nighttime sleep your child needs. Checkout this article from the National Sleep Foundation to see how much nighttime sleep your baby or child needs based on their age.
Now take what time they need to be awake each morning and backtrack the hours of sleep they should ideally get each night – there’s bedtime! For example, most school-aged kiddos need around 9-11 hours of nighttime sleep. If a second grader needs to be up every day at 6:30 am, 8:30 pm is the latest that child should be going to bed. Likewise, a nine month old should be getting 11-12 hours of sleep each night, so if he/she has to be awake by 7 am each morning, bedtime should be around 7 or 7:30 pm!
If you’re having a tough time figuring out how to structure your baby or toddler’s day around naps and bedtime, go snag this free Ultimate Guide to Sleep Schedules!
We want our kiddos to wake up refreshed and ready for the day. The goal is that your baby or child will wake naturally most mornings rather than you having to wake them up. This often starts with having an appropriate bedtime.
2. Establish a Consistent Bedtime Routine. Not only is ensuring your baby or child has an appropriate bedtime important, but also having a consistent bedtime routine is helpful in preparing kids’ bodies and minds for sleep.
If your family’s bedtime routines were inconsistent this summer, or you’ve never really established a bedtime routine for your child, checkout this blog post for examples of bedtime routines for babies, toddlers, and school-aged children.
It’s important to turn screens off at least one hour before your child’s bedtime (two hours is ideal) to ensure their natural sleepy hormone, melatonin, can release on time and in turn help them get to sleep. A good rule of thumb is to turn screens off once it’s time for dinner and keep them off the rest of the night.
3. Establish a Morning Routine. We don’t usually think about morning routines as helpful when it comes to sleep,
but they are.
What is an ideal morning routine for babies and kids before school or daycare? First, let’s start with what’s NOT an ideal way to start the day. Within the first 10-15 minutes of your child waking up, try to avoid:
- Pulling your little one into bed with you for some extra cuddles.
- Feeding them milk or breakfast right away.
- Giving your child screen time.
I call the above activities “unintentional rewards.” Doing any of those things within the first 10-15 minutes of waking up can cause kids to regularly start their day extra early because they’re excited for the “reward” that awaits them. No one loves an unnecessarily early morning, am I right?
So here’s an example of what your child’s morning routine could look like:
- Wake up
- Change diaper or go to the bathroom
- Brush teeth and hair
- Get dressed
- Milk or breakfast
- Clean up, play time, reading time, or screen time
Back to school season does not have to mean frantic evenings and rushed mornings. There can be predictability and consistency. If you’re struggling to find sleep patterns and habits that work well for your baby, toddler, or school-aged child, know that you don’t have to navigate this alone. Don’t hesitate to set up a free discovery call with me to share more about what sleep currently looks like in your house and what your goals are. I would love to share more about how I can help.