Lucy Shrimpton: Author, speaker and founder of The Sleep Nanny®
When it comes to starting school or returning after the summer break, children often find the days very tiring.
Why? Perhaps their routine has been more flexible over the summer break. Maybe they have had plenty of down time at home and suddenly they’re into full days with lots of other children.
For a lot of children, even those who have been at nursery or pre-school full time, starting school is tiring in a different way.
It’s not so much about the length of the day. It is more to do with the change of environment and the level of mental energy that is required – Being brave, making new friends, listening to teachers…
To help you through the first term of school, here are 7 tips to help your 3-6 year old get the sleep they need:
1. Bedtime Routine
Be on the ball with getting the bedtime routine started and completed at the same time each evening. Do the same steps in the same order every night, allowing your child to naturally unwind and get ready for sleep.
Early nights are a wise idea for the first term. Aiming for your child to be asleep for about 7pm is ideal.
2. Night wakings
If your child wakes in the night, respond consistently to these wake-ups. Decide what is and is not allowed and stick to your guns! If coming into your bed is okay at 5am then it is okay anytime in the eyes of a child, so be clear with your boundaries.
3. Rise and shine
Start the day purposefully with an immediate change to the dark and sleepy environment. Open the curtains, turn on the lights and bring some energy to clearly define that night time is over and it is now okay to start the day.
This will come into its own if you slip into the realms of over-tiredness and early rising. Clearly defining when it’s time to be asleep and when it’s okay to get up will be a great foundation to lay.
4. The warning sign
If your usually good sleeper starts having difficulty settling, disturbed nights or waking early around 5am, these are sure signs of over tiredness. As your school child won’t be napping in the daytime, the best fix is to bring bedtime earlier by anything up to one hour. Remember, be consistent with that bedtime.
5. Weekend rest
If your little one falls asleep in the car or needs a nap at the weekend, it’s simply a sign that the extra sleep is needed so let him have it. It won’t ruin the night sleep. Just don’t allow too much, too late in the day.
6. Limit after school activities
It’s important not to overload our kiddos with too many activities after school. There is plenty of time to work these in later in the school year. Give your child a chance to adjust to the school day and routine first and build some stamina.
7. Chill out time after school
If there is reading or homework to be done, the organised mum likes to get this out of the way as soon as possible. However, a tired child needs a break and bit of down time after school. Perhaps try reading after tea time.
This little trick turned daily tantrums and battles with my 5 year old, into blissful tea times and more focussed reading as she’d enjoyed some time to relax first. A simple tweak to the routine can make the world of difference!
For more tips and advice for your little one’s sleep, visit The Sleep Nanny® blog: www.sleepnanny.co.uk/blog