When kids are in school during the year, there’s a certain comfort that comes with a sense of routine each week. When summer break comes that routine can quickly unravel, making things like meals, screen time, and sleep get off track fast.
In this blog post, I share my top three tips to help keep a sense of routine in place this summer (which might mean starting new routines!) while your child is not in school.
1. Use a toddler clock to establish when it’s time to get out of bed in the morning.
I don’t know about you, but the way my kids and I start our day directly impacts how the rest of our day goes. One routine we have in place to make mornings go more smoothly is the use of a toddler clock, so my oldest (4.5 years old) knows when she can get out of bed and come to the living room each day.
She knows that if she wakes in the night or in the morning and her light is off, it’s time to sleep (or at least stay in bed quietly). If she wakes and her light is blue, she can hop out of bed and start her day.
Some parents will have the clock turn green in the morning, so their child can remember, “green means go.” Or for kiddos who are afraid of the dark and need a night light on all night, the toddler clock can be on a dim red and they can remember, “red means bed.”
Rather than having to say “it’s still not morning time” over and over again, you can give your child the responsibility and independence over managing that boundary themselves. For more guidance on to how to establish boundaries around bedtime and morning wake times, snag this free resource with printable boundary cards for your little ones.
2. Implement an afternoon quiet time
When toddlers and preschoolers stop napping, it can feel like there’s no time to stop and breathe during the day. I suggest replacing nap time with quiet time. It’s a regular time each day for you and your kiddos to wind down, rest, and do an independent activity. It works best to implement quiet time after lunch, since lunch is a “routine” that happens each day and it breaks the day up nicely. This quiet time could even be a set screen time, or it might end with screen time.
When it comes to screens and sleep my biggest rule of thumb is that screens should be off at least an hour before bedtime. This ensures that our natural melatonin has time to release. A clear guideline for kids to follow is screens off for the night once it’s dinner time.
3. Establish a consistent bedtime and bedtime routine
Although it’s summertime and bedtime can be a bit later if mornings don’t have to be as early, it’s still important to have a consistent bedtime for the sake of your child’s body clock. If their bedtime was 8pm during the school year, you might push bedtime to 8:30pm or even 9pm over the summer, as long as their morning wake up time adjusts along with it (which may take up to two weeks). Whatever bedtime works best for your child and family, try to keep bedtime as consistent as possible during the summer.
It’s also helpful to have a consistent bedtime routine, so your child’s mind and body have time to transition to sleep time. After a long and fun day of playing outside, swimming, hanging out with friends, etc., a bedtime routine is the perfect time to wind down each night and prepare for sleep.
If you’re curious about what an age-appropriate bedtime looks like based on your child’s age, checkout this blog post.
If the idea of your toddler or older child falling asleep independently at bedtime or staying in their own bed all night long until their clock changes sounds impossible to you, it’s not. To learn more about your toddler or older child’s sleep without having a personalized sleep plan, checkout my latest resource, Big Kid Sleep from A to Z. It’s a foundational sleep course for kids between 18 months and 5 years old, without the day-to-day sleep training plan.
If you’re looking for specific one-on-one help to teach your child to sleep in their own bed all night long, checkout my toddler and older child sleep packages. Sleep is possible this summer and I’d love to help you get there!