Bedtime in a family home should be a quiet and nurturing time, an enjoyable time for both parents and kids as the little ones wind down from their busy day and get ready for the Land of Nod. However, not all families will enjoy this civilized, picture book style of bedtime and many of us will be familiar with the pleading and whining that accompany bedtime, especially during these long summer nights when it gets dark later. The kids will argue “How can I go to sleep when it’s still sunny?” or “But look, it’s not night yet, it’s still light outside – why must I sleep in the daytime?” Explaining the movements of the sun and the earth and why the days are longer in the summer will get you nowhere with little ones. It’s a concept that they can’t yet understand and anyway, kids don’t operate on concepts, they operate on how they feel.
There are no hard and fast rules on what time should be bedtime. The best time for bedtime depends on a variety of factors:
· The age of the child
· Whether or not the child still has a daytime nap
· The lifestyle of the family
The Age of the Child
The amount of sleep needed reduces as a child grows older; however, up to the age of 10, all kids need at least 10 hours of sleep per 24 hours. How the relevant number of hours will fit into your lifestyle is something for you to decide. The NHS has published a handy guide for how much sleep children need at different ages.
The Daytime Nap
If your child is still having a daytime nap, you may find that this affects when he/she’s ready to go to bed at the end of the day. One of the most difficult times is when you’re actually trying to ‘wean’ your little one off this daytime nap. If your little one hasn’t had a nap in the afternoon, he might start drooping around teatime and we all know that having half an hour of shuteye this late in the day will keep a toddler zooming round the house until quite late at night. It’s just a matter of persistence – keep your little one awake for an extra couple of hours until bedtime and you may even find that bedtime becomes a little earlier, leaving you free to enjoy a relaxed and kid-free evening.
An increasing number of families these days have both parents working, meaning full time day care for little ones. Some day care centres will even bath your little one and get him ready for bed before you collect him on the way home. If you feel that most of your family time with your little one seems to be when he’s asleep, then why not consider a longer daytime nap and a later bedtime? This will give you the precious family time you need to enjoy your little one and build great baby/parent relationships that will benefit your family for years to come.