Getting kids ready for the back-to-school, early wake-up call

Just one more game. Just 10 more minutes. Just another drink of water. The ploys for prolonging fun and postponing sleep are pretty predictable. Unfortunately, another thing to count on is how tired kids will be during the first days of a new school year if they haven’t readjusted their “inner clocks.” Now is the time to make sure they are inching toward their M-F, September-June schedule.

The National Sleep Foundation notes that “a child will spend 40 percent of his or her childhood asleep. Sleep is especially important for children as it directly impacts mental and physical development.” The Foundation offers sleep tips for kids of every age, beginning with infants. For school-aged kids 6 to 13, they say, “there is an increasing demand on their time from school (e.g., homework), sports and other extracurricular and social activities. In addition, school-aged children become more interested in TV, computers, the media and Internet as well as caffeine products – all of which can lead to difficulty falling asleep, nightmares and disruptions to their sleep. In particular, watching TV close to bedtime has been associated with bedtime resistance, difficulty falling asleep, anxiety around sleep and sleeping fewer hours.”

SleepDr.com, though keyed to holiday breaks vs. summertime, in an article titled “Returning to School Night Bedtimes,” offers great tips for resuming an early to bed, early to rise routine, as well as average sleep requirements by age, for example, suggesting that kids age 3 to 3 need 10 to 12 hours of sleep each day, including naps, and those 7-12, tend to get 10 to 11 hours.

Explain to little ones that all critters need sleep. The Sleep Education for School website, hosted by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, offers a bar graph titled, “Animals and Sleep: How Many Hours?” It compares the average number of hours each day that a variety of animals sleep. No cat owner will be surprised to see cats spend half their days sleeping, but who knew that brown bats are awake for only 4 hours out of every 24? Conversely, ask your child to guess what horses do during the 21 hours they spend awake each day. Remind your child that baby animals of every species need extra sleep.

Just like adults, kids can sleep fine most of the time and then suddenly encounter challenges going to sleep, sometimes due to a specific worry, fear, or concern, or simply from a change in routine or activity level. If you see a sudden aversion to bedtime, try and get your child to talk about it. Also be sure his or her bedroom is conducive to shut-eye—quiet, dark (save for maybe a night light), and a comfortable temperature.

Music can also add to a mellow environment. Babies enjoy soothing lullabies, and older kids can also benefit from being lulled to sleep with gentle tunes. For example, “Hug Bug,” a song inspired by the whimsical story with the same name from the Start to Read! series, playfully teaches colors and describing words, by way of comparison to bug world. Plus, it becomes a sweet song between a dad and his daughter, and the chorus is all love: “You’re my favorite cuddle bug. You keep me very warm and snug, you like to give a big bear hug, you’re my Hug Bug.”

The Peter’s Dream MP3 album, also titled after a Start to Read! book of the same name, is a delightful collection of children’s songs that focus on dreamy, fantastical adventures. From the rollicking “Mighty Pirates” to “Samba in My Sleep,” virtually guaranteed to make eyelids heavy, the album is great for whisking little ones off to dreamland.

Another idea for making bedtime sound like a great idea would be put Bedtime Alphabet Night-Time Learning Interactive Flash Cards into play. Use the handy, mini flashlight included in the package to shine light through the cutouts, and then watch uppercase letters and shapes dance on floors, walls, and ceilings.

On a similar note, some moms and dads report that watching a Charlie & Company episode as bedtime nears, is a great way to send little ones off to dreamland, especially while hugging a companion plush toy of one of the series characters!

But for all of us, a big key to waking up on time is going to bed on time. That, and actually sleeping!