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Summer Sunset: Getting Back to School-Year Bedtime

Got summer sleepyheads? Start now and they'll be ready for the alarm clock.

It’s coming: the first day of school. There’s so much to do — picking out the first day attire, buying school supplies, and scheduling activities. However, one of the most important things on your back-to-school to-do list is the bedtime routine. Expecting your child to go to bed at a reasonable hour and wake up well-rested and happy isn’t going to just happen overnight.

Start a school night routine in early to mid-August. This will give you plenty of time to adjust schedules and see what works best for everyone. Here are a few ways you can get your children back on a school night bedtime schedule. That way you can have them well-adjusted before the big day arrives.

Pick a Bedtime and Stick With It

Starting a week or two before the first day of school, have your children in bed 15 minutes earlier than usual each night. For example, send them to bed at 8:45 pm on the first night, 8:30 pm the next, and 8:15 pm after that. Continue until you reach your desired school-year bedtime. In addition to these 15-minute evening increments, do the same each morning. If your child usually sleeps until 9 am during the summer, wake them up at 8:45 am, and then 8:30 am, and so on, until you reach the school year wake-up time.

Get Back To a Routine

Going from a carefree summer to sitting at a desk all day can be a hard adjustment. Start getting your children to spend an hour or two a day sitting at the table reading, drawing, or helping with small tabletop chores. Getting their bodies used to sitting still again will also be helpful when the time comes to wind down for bedtime.

Stick to a certain dinner time, too and have everyone sit down for the meal at the dinner table. Schedule dinner about two hours before bedtime.

Establish the regular “night before” routine again: bath, brushing teeth, picking out what to wear the next day. If your children still get bedtime stories, get back in the habit of reading to them now. If they are a little older, give them time to relax in bed with a book or magazine once the electronics are turned off.

Morning routines are important, too, so get those back on track as well: breakfast, a shower, brushing teeth, getting dressed. Older children will understand that they need to be well-rested and awake to handle these tasks before heading off to school.

Power Down Well Before Bedtime

Turn off all electronics an hour prior to that night’s bedtime. Giving kids the extra time to calm down away from screens makes it easier for them to fall asleep quicker.

Not Working? Start Earlier

If you have to drag your children out of bed in the morning or give them a wake-up call more than once, try choosing an earlier bedtime. Try for an hour or half-hour earlier bedtime the following night and see what happens.

For more tips to prepare your family for the upcoming school year, check out the Main Line Parent Back-to-School Guide.

Photograph via Canva. Edited by Beth Gilbert-Crowell.