Bedtime Routines for School-Aged Children
For school-aged children, a quick tidy-up is part of the bedtime routine: putting books and toys back on shelves and clothes in drawers and closets. Their room doesn’t have to be perfect, but it’s more pleasant to rest and read or listen to music and stories in a tidy environment, and mornings go more smoothly if needed objects are where they belong and thus easy to find.
By the middle-school years, the weekend routine is a bit less regimented than the one for school nights, and weekend bedtimes can be later. Lights can go out at different times for different children in the family, depending on how much sleep they need. However, while your child may sleep late the next morning, try to keep weekend wake-ups within an hour or so of the usual time, especially if your child is not a creature of habit by nature. Left to sleep too long, in only a few days a vulnerable child can shift his sleep phase (periods of waking and sleeping) in such a way that he has trouble getting back on his usual schedule. School performance may suffer because he is drowsy when awoken on school days.
Keep Bedtime Routines Manageable
Unless carefully managed, bedtime routines can be drawn out almost indefinitely, thus defeating the purpose for which they’re intended. A child quickly learns that by taking charge of the show, he can significantly delay the time of going to bed. For example, he may have to repeatedly switch his stuffed animals because he can’t find quite the right combination to make him sleepy on a particular night. Or he may desperately need the answers to questions that will keep him awake if he has to wait until morning.
Allow your child flexibility within the routine, but keep things under your control by limiting the choices available. For example, let him choose different stuffed animals for bed each night, but keep him to a fixed number. Let him choose a story and a song, but not a whole book or CD. Try to keep the bedtime routine to no longer than 30 minutes.
As your child gets older, you should gradually begin to step back and let him become more in charge of his bedtime routine. Providing these opportunities during his daily routine is also a way to help him become more self-reliant.