Here's the secret though: don't make the mistake of assuming a "school routine" will come naturally to your child. Summertime is inherently full of looser schedules and somewhat slippery sleep habits. With so much daylight and so many fun activities to enjoy, very few families stick to a strict sleep schedule during the summer. And that's fine! Summer is fun and lazy and busy all at the same time. Baths get missed, travel disrupts sleep patterns, screen time sneaks into your days more and more; this is all normal.
But now we are just a few weeks away from school starting, and it is time to get back to a proper sleep pattern for the whole family. We CANNOT stress enough how critical it is for you to begin this process now. Poor sleep habits are, by far, one of the most significant difficulties our students face. Within a week or two of school, we can usually tell which children are getting proper, consistent, healthy sleep. Those who are not getting the right amount of sound sleep often struggle with:
- Arriving late at school
- Learning difficulties
- Trouble connecting with peers
- Start now. As our returning Little Lambs parents will tell you, we make this plea every single August. Now is the time to get summer habits changed into school-year habits. Children in the 3-5-year-old range need 10-13 hours of sleep each day. This can be all at night or a combination of nap and nighttime sleep. Figure out what time you need your child to wake up to be at school on time (arrival is between 8:45 am and 9:00 am...if you arrive after 9:00, you will need to delay entering the classroom until 9:30). Back up at least 10 hours, preferably more, and that is your target SLEEP time, not the time to start the bedtime routine. If your child is consistently staying up til 9:00 pm or later, you need to start working that back to a more appropriate time. Shift your bedtime routine back 15 minutes every two or three days until your child is falling asleep at the right time.
- Be consistent. Consistency is probably one of the most frequently cited parenting needs, in all areas of parenting. Sleep habits and routines are no different. Having consistent, clear expectations and plans is very important, especially for younger children. Pediatric sleep consultant, Brittney Stefanic, says, "Creating a bedtime routine to keep our minds and bodies happy is very important in getting back to school and back to routine. Children always like to know what’s coming next! It doesn’t matter if your child is going into preschool or will be a freshman in high school, a good sleep routine is essential. It’s not just about getting them physically ready for bed. A bedtime routine signals their brain that bedtime is approaching, and the brain starts shutting down in preparation for sleep."
- Prepare your child's bedroom. Just as the Montessori philosophy teaches us to prepare the child's learning environment for her, we also need to prepare her sleeping environment. Help your child to tidy up her room (well before bedtime...no need to add a battle when everyone is at their most tired) so that it feels restful in there. Keep the room dark and cool for sleeping. All of this will signal the body that it is time to rest.
- Stop the screen time. Again, if you've been around Little Lambs at all, you know how adamant we are about the importance of limiting screen time. When it comes to good sleep habits, limited screen time is critical. Ms. Stefanic notes that research shows that the blue light emitted from screens stops our body from producing melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone that helps us sleep. She recommends shutting down all screen time for the night before dinner, so your child's body (and yours) has a chance to realize it is almost time to sleep. You can expect to hear more from us on this topic in the future!
Today is the time to get those habits started. When school starts in September, you will be so thankful that this part of your routine is already in place. And the teachers will be thankful too!