For many families, summertime is a time of carefree fun as well as a time to lounge and rest. It is a time of lax. Lax structure, lax schedule, lax routine. While a schedule that is full of fun and relaxation sounds great in theory, it is challenging in practice as children LOVE structure. They crave it and STRIVE with it. So just how do you shift from a laced schedule to a structured schedule to help prepare them for back to school? Keep reading to find out!
Tip #1: Schedule
Adding a bit of structure to your days can help your child prepare for their intensely structured school days. It’s best to add 1 structured activity a day to your child’s schedule starting 4 weeks before the first day of school. It can be something as simple as “We are going to the park after lunch” or something more planning intensive as “We are going to a children’s museum for the day.” Adding 1 structured activity per day will help you and your kiddos prepare for more structure in the days to come. Start small, and add more structured activities throughout the day when you feel ready for it.
Tip #2: Bedtime Routine
Perhaps you had a great bedtime routine before summer started, but with fireworks, catching lightning bugs, and drive-in movie marathons that great routine went out the window. No worries though as you can get it back! Again, 4 weeks before the first day of school, start implementing your little one’s bedtime routine. Know that it will take some time to become what it used to be, but with consistency, it will get there. My favorite bedtime routine is the 4 B’s Bedtime Routine. You would start the routine with a Bath. Next would be Brush (hair and face). Followed by a Book, then off to Bed.
Tip #3: Routine Charts
Kids are visual creatures so what’s better than a visual routine chart to help them do all the things and stay on track? I have seen the power of routine charts in action as I’ve used them with many clients as well as my own child. Whether your kid sings into their toothbrush or uses it as a sword, having a visual reminder of what they are supposed to do and when they are supposed to do it can make all the difference in making bedtime super smooth! You can use a routine chart for other challenging times throughout the day as well. Kids are notorious for struggling with transitions (Can’t find their shoes in the morning, anyone?). A routine chart will help them to remember what to do during a transition. Common transition times are as follows: leaving the house, returning to the house, stopping play time to eat a meal, the end of meal time, getting in the car, getting out of the car, etc.
Tip #4: Sticker Charts
Sticker charts work hand in hand with routine charts. Whenever your child completes a task, they get a sticker placed on their sticker chart. They will feel so proud when they see their chart is filled up by the end of the week! You could also use a stamper or a simple check mark with their favorite colored marker. Make it as personal as possible to help your child take ownership of it. If your child loves monster trucks then why not add some to their sticker chart? You could do the same for a princess-loving girl instead.
Tip #5: Screen Time
I know the dangers of screen time all too well. It can be so nice as a worn-out parent to just plop your whiny kid down in front of a glowing screen so you can get some peace. I’m guilty of this. What you intended to be “just a little bit” of screen time has now turned into an entire afternoon of animated entertainment with lots of highly stimulating blue light. This means your child’s brain will be too geared up at bedtime making it very challenging for him/her to get to sleep. It’s best to limit screen time and keep it far away from the evening hours. Start small. If your little one normally watches 2 hours a day, then cut back to 1.5 hours for 3 days, then to 1 hour, then 30 minutes, etc. Or perhaps it would work better if your little one watched in the morning and only in the morning for just an hour. No matter how you chose to cut back or work it into your schedule, just be sure that your little one doesn’t have any screen time within an hour before nap and within an hour before bed.
Tip #6: Foods and Drinks
Summer means music festivals, county fairs, camping, and beach going. All of these things come with sweet treats such as funnel cake, candy apples, s’mores, and ice cream. While there is certainly nothing wrong with enjoying these tasty foods, enjoying them can easily get out of hand when your little one can’t seem to go a day without asking (or whining) for them. These treats can wreak havoc on sleep as they contain large amounts of sugar and sugar is a stimulant (much like coffee). My best advice to you is to simply reign it in a bit. If your child can have as many popsicles as he wants on a hot afternoon, then limit it to 3 for a few days, then 2, then 1. Also, make a firm rule that no sweets are allowed within that hour before nap/bed to foster only the very best sleep.
Tip #7: Practice
“Practice makes perfect!” so they say, so take some time to practice your back-to-school routine as many times as you can before your child is officially back to school. One to two weeks before school is back in session, pretend it’s the first day of school. Pick out your child’s clothes the night before, put your child to bed at the time they would go to bed throughout the school year (Remember, school-aged children, needs 11-12 hours of sleep a night!), and implement your bedtime routine and sticker chart, wake them up with enough time to get dressed, make their bed, brush their hair, eat breakfast and catch the bus. It might feel silly to do this, but it can make a big difference in helping you (and your child) feel prepared for back to school. It might also help dispel any first-day jitters as well.
Well, there you have it! These are my 7 lucky tips for back-to-school sleep success. I sincerely hope these tips help you and your little one prepare for the upcoming school year. Sending you sleep dust and best wishes for a wonderful year of school! Also, fingers crossed that ‘first-day jitters’ stay at bay and your kiddo feels more excitement than apprehension for the upcoming school year.
Thanks for reading and sleep-well!