Get the Kids in Bed: 6 Tips to Stop Sleeping in with a School Sleep Schedule

get kids on a sleep scheduleI don’t know about the rest of you, but at my house, bed time becomes slightly more flexible in the summer months. Then as a new school year begins we see a rise in early-morning zombie children. While I’ll applaud those parents that actually manage to keep their kids on a school sleep schedule all year long, for the rest of us that first week is often a battle to get kids to go to sleep, stay asleep, and then wake up all at the right times. The question then becomes: is there an easier way to deal with kids that won’t go to sleep for back-to-school? Maybe, I do have a tip or few that might help.

Start early.

Ideally, you should start trying to regain that school sleep schedule before school actually starts. If you slowly move bedtime back to an earlier hour and give wake-up calls earlier as well, the transition goes much smoother– less whining, less grumpy, more sanity. I’ve found shifting an hour each week works well. This also gives you an idea how soon you should start. Simply count how many hours you need to adjust bed time for school, and that’s the number of weeks lead you need.

Know how much sleep your child needs.

Not all kids need the same amount of sleep. If you’re trying to make your child sleep for too long, of course he or she will wake up earlier than necessary and then likely feel tired before bed time and nap– which messes everything up. Here are the average sleep requirements for school-aged children compliments of the National Sleep Foundation:

how much sleep kids need

Also consider your child’s typical sleep habits previously in the summer if they were unregulated. Between the two, you should get a good idea of where to set bed times and wake-up times.

Be consistent.

Next, don’t allow a drastically different weekend sleep routine. While many parents let their kids stay up a bit later on the weekends, try to avoid all-nighters followed by mid-day snooze fests– unless there is a super awesome Doctor Who marathon or something, I mean who could deny a child that joy? A good rule of thumb is not to allow more than 4 hours bed time variance on the weekends.

Prepare your kids for sleep.

There are a few things that can make falling asleep harder on children, including:

-large meals
-snacks high in carbs or sugar
-high-energy activities

…pretty much all the stuff most kids love to sneak. Be sure that your daily schedule sets dinner time well before bed time, avoid desserts too close to bed time, and end the day in a relaxing, calm way. Younger kids really benefit from a routine of sorts as well. Keep it simple. Something like, we brush our teeth, read a book, go to bed. Elaborate routines of any kind are generally an epic fail because they are harder to keep up on. Letting your kiddo have some input on what your bed time routine consists of can also help encourage them to stick to it.

Use the light.

The brain relies on light to gauge when to go to bed and when to wake up, use that to your advantage. Start lowering light levels close to bedtime, eliminate as much light at bed time, and then provide bright light in the morning. On the dark side, black out curtains and low-light lamps or dim-able bulbs are a great start. For the sunshine, switch out your overhead lighting to daylight bulbs (this is also great for plants and beating the winter-time blues) and open those curtains up before your child wakes. Placing your child’s bed in a spot where when curtains are open, light lands on the bed (but not necessarily in their face) is also recommended.

Go to bed yourself.

You certainly don’t have to actually go to sleep, you can just hide in your room with a bottle of wine and your cookie stash if you want, but if there are people about the house being active, your child is less likely to go to sleep. Younger kids in particular worry they are missing something after they go to bed. It can be helpful to retreat to your room with the door shut, so it’s “bed time” for everyone, until your child falls asleep. This is less important of, of course, in older kids.

Have any tips on getting kids on a sleep schedule we missed? Something work well at your house? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

You might also find these helpful tips for achieving an easier wake-up call helpful.

6 Tips to Help Kids Wake Up in the Morning

Who knows who decided stuff like school and work needed to start so freakin’ early, but the do. This means no matter how you’ve chosen to educate your kids, chances are you have to wake them up in the morning. The stereotypical vision of a parent with pots and pans being ignored by a blanket covered kid is not so far from the truth—a squirt gun works well too but brings on some screaming. The truth of this stereotype is many kids are indeed pretty hard to pry from slumber land.

If your child is one of the many, here’s a few ideas that might be a little less fun than a squirt gun, but are also quieter.

tips to help kids wake up

Get them on a decent sleep schedule.

If your kids aren’t getting sufficient sleep, it’s pretty logical they aren’t going to want to wake up in the morning. The single most helpful thing you can do to avoid wake-up battles, is to get your kids to bed on time with a decent sleep schedule. I have some tips on just how to do that you can read as well.

Hide the alarm.

Don’t have your child’s alarm right next to the bed where they can just slam it off and go back to snoozing. Put their alarm across the room, under the bed– anywhere out of reach. Bonus points if you change the location of said alarm every night. They even make alarms that will run away from your kids these days. This eliminates snooze buttons, breaking alarms, and redirects the I-don’t-want-to-be-up grumpiness to the alarm and off of you.

Breakfast in bed.

While not all parents have time to make a steaming pile of fruit-laced waffles every morning, having some sort of food ready when your child wakes up can really help them wake up, especially if its accompanied by a c ice-cold drink. High-carb options such as juice give kids some extra, well, juice in the form of a quick blood sugar rise and resulting energy boost, but milk, water– any drink will do. Just make it cold. If your kid can just wake up and kind of sit around when they first wake up they’ll stay groggy and grumpy longer. Eating unlike showers or getting dressed is often something children want to do, so it doesn’t create one more battle, it just gets a morning necessity out of the way earlier.

Play with the heat.

Some kids seem to wake up better if the house is nice and toasty, because there’s nothing appealing about a freezing house. While others find a cold house invigorating—even if it’s against their will. Experiment with different morning temperature levels and you may find one works better than the other. A programmable thermostat can be a great way to crank the heat down while everyone is warm and cozy in bed, then turn it up or keep it down in the morning hands free. These can also help reduce your utility bills.

Turn up the lights.

Light helps the brain signal sleep and wake times. High light, especially sunlight, as a result helps kids wake up in the morning (though directly in their eyes is usually a bad play). Opt for sunlight bulbs in your home, open curtains in the morning, and consider moving your child’s bed to a position where light from said open curtains hits their bed.

Make it worth it.

Finally, you need to find some sort of incentive for your kids to get up in a timely manner. For my kids, it’s the first one up and ready gets first seat pick in the car and  hot-water usage in the shower. For your family, you might consider adding it to your chore list or behavior chart, if you have one, which offers some reward for completion. If not, find some natural enticement like the one I mentioned above that you can just point out to your child. Your goal either way is to make getting up more appealing than sleeping.

How do you get your kids up in the morning?

Picky Eater: Preventing Picky Kids and Getting Picky Eaters to Eat

It’s too spicy! It’s too bland! I don’t like ketchup, and I’d prefer ham! It seems the pickiest eaters in the world are kids. Those undeveloped kid taste buds change their minds daily, and it can be very frustrating. Thankfully there are some simple steps you can take to help prevent your child from becoming a picky eater and likewise eat if they already have.

Preventing picky eaters:

The try-it-rule for picky kids:

My kids, like most, will turn their nose up at almost anything that looks different, whether they’ve eaten it before cooked in another way or not. For this reason, we have a try-it-rule. If my kids want dessert, which thanks to my sweet-tooth is never missed, they must try at least one bite of whatever is on their plate. They also must eat an acceptable portion of the overall food on their plate. If they don’t like one item after trying it, and eat the other two for example, that’s OK. If they don’t eat, they aren’t hungry enough for dessert and don’t get it. It’s especially important not to reward not eating. We apply the try-it rule to every meal, it doesn’t matter if they’ve tried it before, because I’ve found even if they didn’t like it the first five times they tried it, they may the sixth.

Eliminating outside influence on picky eaters:

Next, I may hate seafood, nut chunks in my bread, and extremely spicy food myself, but you will never hear me say that in front of my kids. Many picky eaters picked up their ideas about certain foods from comments they heard adults say. Be careful not to express your own dislike for certain foods or cooking techniques. I’ll go as far as to eat things I don’t like and pretend I do, just so my kids have a bias-free opinion on food. It’s also important to offer healthy foods from birth, so you’re not trying to drop something like brussel sprouts on an unexpecting kid. If they’ve always had it, they’re more likely to eat it.

It stays on the table:

Even when my kids refuse to eat, the food sits right where it was set. We long ago realized trying to force them to eat and sit at the table only resulted in a fit, but found when they got hungry, they would come back and eat. We don’t offer any snacks unless meals were eaten. If they weren’t, I direct my kids to their sitting plate for snack. Granted it’s not an you-eat-it-or-starve situation, the plates are switched when a new meal is served, but not offering alternative food options often eliminates picky eating.

How to get a picky eater to eat:

Peek-a-Boo I don’t see you:

I saw my sister cooking spaghetti once. She had a blender and was pureeing vegetables. Carrots, celery, onion, you name it, it was becoming goo. I naturally said, “What in gods name are you doing?” She was blending the vegetables because her picky eater disliked chunks, and the vegetables he liked changed daily. By making them unseen the kids ate that spaghetti damn near without a fork, nutritional veggies and all. So trick number 1 to get a picky kid to eat? Hide it. Later on you can slowly make those hidden foods more visible, and use, “You’ve been eating it all along” as a defense.

Come on over here Baby:

The second best way to get a picky eater to eat, which may make a mess in the mix, is to get them involved. Research shows kids that help prepare what they eat are far more likely to eat it, whether they like the ingredients or not. Your picky eater is never too young to help either, just pick age appropriate tasks. For example, younger kids could simply pick fruit at the grocery store or wash it at home. An older picky eater could stir the soup or crack the eggs. Another tip for picky kids is to let them make their own plate. By allowing them this independence, you make them feel as if they chose to eat what you’re giving them, which eliminates the fight for dominance so many toddlers and kids go through.

You can also consider a home garden. Kids that grew the vegetables you’re trying to make them to eat are more likely to eat them out of pride. If you don’t have space consider and upside down garden to double the fun and cut the space.

Let’s play a game:

I know most parents’ don’t have time to make every single meal time fun, but turning meal time into a game or engaging educational experience is another way to trick a picky eater to eat. Even if meal time doesn’t become a game, numerous studies show that families that eat together not only have more fun, but their children are less prone to obesity and eat healthier. Just sitting down with you child every meal time will help them eat.

Monkey see, Monkey eat:

My final tip for getting a picky kid to eat is to eat it yourself, and be happy about it. Even if you don’t like something if you expect your kid to eat it, you need to eat it and not show that you don’t like it. Chances are if you take a bite of green beans twist your face in agony and say, “ewwwww!” your picky eater is not going to pick green beans for dinner.

I hope this has helped you win the meal time war with your picky eater. Good luck, and mind the dog, he’s a traitor.