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When to start bedtime routines for school

A mother and daughter reading a book in bed as part of the bedtime routine

The summer holidays are every kid’s dream. Every day isn’t a school day and is instead jam-packed with fun activities, exciting day trips, noisy play centres and even trips abroad. But when the holidays come to an end, it’s a good idea to get back into a school and bedtime routine. Doing so can help your children with the transition back to school, making it as easy as possible.

In this guide, we explore the importance of bedtime routines, offering insights into when and how to start them. Additionally, we look at the elements of a successful bedtime routine, emphasising the calming rituals that can prepare children for a restful night's sleep.

When to start a bedtime routine for school

The lighter evenings in summer mean the days feel longer and often result in bedtimes being pushed later. Unfortunately (for the kids), September rolls around quickly and before you know it, they won’t go to bed until 9pm.

Getting used to waking up pre-7am will likely be a shock to the system, and will only result in tired, cranky children at school. This is why it’s recommended that you start a school bedtime routine a couple of weeks before the new term starts.

We’ve all heard the “But it’s still light outside!” complaint, however, by gradually making their bedtime a little earlier, they’ll also wake earlier and will get enough sleep to see them through the school day.

For children that are starting school for the first time, we recommend getting them into a routine a few days before. Even if they aren’t starting school, but nursery or pre-school, a routine is always a good idea, and it will help them transition when they enter reception.

How to establish a good bedtime routine

Children love routine. In fact, they thrive off them. A routine simply repeats the same tasks and habits at a set point in the day, so you can create an effective bedtime routine by completing the same actions in the evening with your child. Over time, they will learn that it’s the end of the day and that they need to wind down for bed.

What should a bedtime routine include?

When thinking about creating a bedtime routine, aim for a calm and relaxing environment ‒ now isn’t the time for stimulating television or exciting games. Below, you can find some of the actions you might want to include in your children’s bedtime routine.

  • Bath. Adults use a hot bath to relax, so why can’t the same be said for children? Baths are a great way to wind down for the evening, even when tub time means play time.
  • Milk. Depending on the age of your child, a warm glass of milk might not go amiss.
  • Brush their teeth. You should aim to brush your children’s teeth twice a day (once in the morning and once at night) so get them in the habit of brushing before bed.
  • Read a book together. Reading has so many benefits for children, but it’s also a nice relaxing, bonding task you can do together. Re-read a favourite, pick something new or start where you left off last time. Dim the lights for this part of bedtime.

Doing the same things in the same order will bring some comfort and expectation of what comes next, which may help them to settle sooner.

As well as your general bedtime routine, you might want to introduce a specific school routine.

When creating a pre-school bedtime routine, consider which habits are needed. Some days, you may need to think about packing their PE kit, or a musical instrument, so be sure to get these things ready so they aren’t forgotten.

Before they go to bed, you can help your children get their uniform ready for the following day and pack their backpack with all the right things (pencil case, books, homework, etc). Their school shoes can be put out by the front door, as well as any outerwear. Eventually, they may get used to doing these things themselves, fostering a sense of independence, but also preparing them for the day ahead.