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6 Back to School Tips for Kids

It never fails. You’re enjoying picnics and vacations and lots of melty popsicles during the lazy days of August…


Image courtesy of samuiblue /

Image courtesy of samuiblue /


And then BAM!

You realize that all of your child’s pants are too short, last Spring’s cleats are too small and there is a large Target cart full of school supplies with your name on it needing to be purchased…

But more importantly, your child’s schedule is way off and he’ll never make it to school on time unless you make some changes!

If your child’s bedtime has wandered later this summer, here are 6 tips to help make the transition from leisurely August to full-steam-ahead September easier:

1. Gradual adjustment

Image courtesy of samarttiw /

Image courtesy of samarttiw / FreeDigitalPhotos.netHopefully school isn’t starting tomorrow, and you have a week or two to prepare.

Hopefully you have a week or two to get things back on track! If your child’s bedtime is off of the normal schedule, start moving it back incrementally (~15-20 min every couple of days).

If you only have a few days, split the difference between the summer bedtime and the school bedtime the first two nights and then get on the right bedtime after that.

2. Work backwards
Unfortunately, many schools start really early, so to make sure your child is getting the recommended number of hours of sleep for his age, you’ll have to work backwards to set his bedtime.

How long does it take shower (if that’s part of the morning routine), get dressed, eat breakfast and collect all of the school “gear”? If he has to catch the bus or be ready for carpool pickup especially, you’ll want to add a few minutes of buffer. Then knowing the number of hours of sleep he should be getting, you can appropriately set bedtime.

3. Build this into the bedtime routine…but don’t make this one mistake!
I know many early elementary kids practice reading skills during the summer and then one day, the light bulb goes off and they just want to read all the time.

So for 1st and 2nd graders and up – reading is often either a requirement for homework or (hopefully!) something your child enjoys to do as part of his bedtime routine. If he’s reading 30 minutes each night, that should be built into the time before he needs to be asleep!

And here’s some bonus advice regarding reading…Harry Potter is NOT a great bedtime book. I had a hard time putting those down when I read them (and I’m a 30-something mom!), and it’s next to impossible to get an elementary aged kid to read only one chapter before bed…so keep that for afternoon reading and choose something a little less exciting for bedtime reading!

4. Set the bedroom up for success
If your child was used to going to bed when it was dark, having a 7 or 7:30pm bedtime, when it’s still light out, will be tough. Your best bet to ease the transition is to get some blackout shades and eliminate the light factor at bedtime. (Last week’s post was on this very topic!)

And while you’re at it, make sure the room is a good temperature too – 68-70° is ideal.

5. Reinstate the bedtime routine
Did the bedtime routine get pushed to the side this summer – or disappear altogether? Did you carry sleeping kids in from the car after a long day at the beach? Time to bring it back!

This is especially important since you’re moving bedtime earlier and your child won’t be so exhausted. He needs time to settle down and get ready for sleep!

6. Use light and food to help the body adjust
To help get back on track with the schedule, make sure to expose your child to bright light first thing in the morning and dim the lights (including limiting technology!) in the evening. This will help stimulate the cortisol production in the morning (to help him wake up) and the melatonin production in the evening (to help him get sleepy).

And use food to help regulate the body too! I recently did a 6 week series on healthy food for kids, so food has been on my mind lately! As I was speaking with a family recently who’s on a 9pm-9am schedule after a month at the beach, it occurred to me that mealtimes will be off 1-2 hours as well when sleep is off schedule. Make sure to move meal times to the times they’ll be eating when school starts.

So whether you’ve got a couple of weeks to prepare for the start of school or – yikes! – it’s tomorrow, once you get back into the routine, it won’t take very long to settle back into the old habit of a having a bedtime routine and earlier bedtime.

Enjoyed this post? I hope you’ll share it!


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