One of the key and most difficult components of a schedule is consistency. After the adults finish their workday and come home, their homework begins. Chores like shopping, cooking, bedtime and preparing for the next day are what keep parents up late at night. We all need nourishment and plenty of rest to help us live full lives. Children need these things too. Often the difficulty comes in when there is not enough time between everyone returning home and going to bed. What I hear mostly from parents are two things: we get home so late but still want to spend time with our children so we keep them up later at night, then our children cannot fall asleep or wake up on time in the morning; or, because our children take naps at school, they are not tired and don’t fall asleep until long past our bedtime.
The first thing to do is establish a bedtime for your children and backtrack from there. Our sleep coach, Christina Gantcher*, tells us that young children do need naps during the day. Additionally, the time they go to bed at night should not be more than five (5) hours from the time they wake from their afternoon nap.
The following chart provides a guide for the appropriate sleep time per age.
Age Night Sleep (hrs.) Daytime Sleep (hrs.) Total (hrs.)
3 months 10 5 (3 naps) 15
12 months 11.25 2.5 (2 naps) 13.75
18 months 11.25 2.25 (1 nap) 13.5
2 years 11 2 hours 13
3 years 10.5 1.5 12
4 years 10.5 1 11.5
If you start with the end goal in mind, 7:30 p.m. bedtime, you can back up everything you need to do in the hours you are home to bedtime. If you get home at 5:30, that gives your family 2 hours to eat, clean, and prepare for bed. The preparation for the next day including packing lunches can happen after the children are in bed.
A bedtime routine should be the same every evening. Dinner, wash up, brush teeth, read books and snuggle, lights out. Children do best when they can predict what comes next in their day. If you usually have time to read 3 books, then set the limit to 3 and stick with it. Your child can choose the 3 books from a group of acceptable books that you make available. This is also a great time for your older child to practice reading skills with you or siblings.
Many organized parents do the following with their children:
• cook meals ahead on the weekend, prepare cut up vegetables for dinners and have plenty of fresh fruit on hand
• include children in the selection of clothing the night before, making sure all choices are good ones (sandals and shorts are not available in winter)
• pack lunches the night before or choose the catered school lunch option
• wake up before children in the morning, shower, dress and have coffee before breakfast with family
• pack backpacks with your child the night before
• turn off all electronics an hour before bedtime
Change and organization are hard. Just chose one item that you want to change and slowly move towards it. It takes about 2 weeks for a change to become part of a routine. Don’t give up. The reward is manageable evenings and more sleep for you!