As a kid, summer was the time when adventures were had, late nights were the norm and soaking in every last bit of the warm, sunny days and evenings was what I lived for. As an adult and a parent, the joy I have for summer is pretty much the same but now I get to experience it through my boys’ eyes which is magical in itself. However, I must admit that I don’t mind if my kids stay home for summer a little longer… but it’s about time for them to return to school! For some parts of the country, school has been in full swing for over a week but if you still have a few weeks left, I have some tips for the first day of school.

Start Sooner Than Later

Waiting until the day before school to start to implement your school night routine is just asking for a rough night and possibly a rough first day of school since your kiddos will likely be overtired. Ideally, start bringing back your routine at least 1-2 weeks before the start of the school year.

If your little one has been going to bed an hour or more later than what their school bedtime is, start by moving their bedtime earlier by 15 minutes every 3-4 days until you have returned to their desired bedtime. If your child has a clock in their bedroom and knows how to tell time, adjust the clock every four days by 15 minuter to help them visually see “the time.” Yes, this is a little deceiving but it’s a means to an end.

Bring Back Your Routine

For most families (mine included!) we have been up later than normal and have allowed more screen time than we do during the school year. We have also become much more relaxed in our bedtime routine and only hit the key points like potty, teeth brushing, and a book. (See, even a sleep consultant doesn’t follow her advice!) But it’s time to bring back the bedtime routine. The familiarity of a structured bedtime routine sets the tone for how the rest of the evening will go. Not only does it cue your child’s brain and body to associate baths, stories, brushing teeth, and putting on PJs to bedtime but it helps increase the production of melatonin when their body knows what is coming.

Times Up

If you have a child that likes to ask for “Five more minutes” in the bathtub or “One more book” before bed, consider using a timer to redirect the pressure from you and put it on the “timer” instead. Toddlers are much more willing to accept a transition when they have a visual and audible alert to tell them when the time’s up rather than you. I love this simple timer that works for all sorts of things but I love it for toddlers when I know that a transition may be hard but I can point to the timer and say, “The timer says bathtime is over. “

Decrease Screentime

You know you’ve heard it before but screens do impact the quality of sleep and a child’s ability to “turn off their brain.” Phones, TVs, computers, or tablets emit a massive amount of blue light and our brain associates blue light with sunshine. If possible, avoid screentime 1-2 hours before bedtime.

Black It Out

Let’s not forget the importance of a dark room for sleep. If you haven’t already heard me preach about how a dark room is necessary for a good night’s sleep (adults included!), I’ll say it again. Just like blue light from a device, sunlight (even the smallest amount) can delay a child’s ability to fall asleep within 5-20 minutes of being put to bed. In the northern areas of the world, the sun can be out until nearly midnight and the sun starts to rise at 4 am. If you haven’t considered a set of blackout curtains for your bedrooms, you may be surprised how helpful they are in falling asleep and staying asleep longer. Blackout curtains can be as simple as an adhesive window covering or large black garbage taped to the window or blackout curtains purchased from a retailer. I use SLEEPOUT and I recommend this brand to my clients. Not only are they 100% light resistant, but their quality and ease of use are also hard to beat. (Code: NEWLEAF for a discount!).

I hope everyone had a wonderful summer, creating special memories with your children! As the new school year begins, I wish for a seamless transition for your little ones. Use these tips as a guide to getting back into the school year and maybe even getting your evenings back to yourself! Wishing you all a Happy First Day of School!