How to create a successful kids’ bedtime routine

Shopping for school supplies, completing school physicals, meeting new teachers, figuring out transportation are all part of the back-to-school excitement. But, for many families, one of the biggest challenges is getting back to a regular bedtime routine.

Summer break often means more relaxed bedtime and wake-up schedules. Kids ages 6 to 13 need 10 hours of sleep each night, on average, to feel rested and ready for the school day.

One way to get younger kids back on track is to create a visual bedtime schedule. Visual schedules come in many varieties and are a proven positive parenting technique. The basic concept is to engage kids in identifying and completing the activities that lead up to bedtime. Kids respond better when they can see simple instructions. They are more likely to follow instructions when they help create the tool.

How to make a visual bedtime schedule

Step 1. Take photos of your child or children completing activities leading up to bedtime.

Step 2. Print photos and arrange in order.

Step 3. Decorate your board as a family.

Step 4. Decide on a place for the board and refer to it each night.

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Have your child help make the bedtime routine

Work together with your child to decide on key bedtime activities, such as putting away toys, taking a bath, brushing teeth and reading a book. Take photos of your child completing these steps (or print photos from the internet). Together with your child, decide on the order in which these images should be arranged. Use poster board, markers and stickers to decorate the step-by-step routine.

When your visual schedule is ready, place it in a common area and encourage your child to refer to it as he/she completes each step leading to bedtime. If one activity takes too long, it may be appropriate to skip a step in order to make it to bed on time.

Older kids and teens also need support to make sure they are back into a sleep routine. Have a family talk to decide on a bedtime that includes 8 to 9 hours of sleep. Discuss ways to limit use of electronics, especially in the hours leading up to bedtime.


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