Get your kids ready for the first day of school not just with a shopping trip to the office supply store and to the mall for new school clothes, but also with a gradual adjustment from their summertime lifestyle. Those unstructured days of sleeping late and having little if any responsibility are coming to an end, and kids will be better prepared for their new school schedules if you ease them into it, starting at least two weeks before school starts.
Here are the top ways to transition your kids from the lazy days of summer to the more organized, streamlined and productive schedule of school.
--Get them more sleep time. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, preschoolers (3- to 5-year-olds) need 11 to 13 hours of sleep every night, and school-age children (5- to 10-year-olds) need 10 to 11 hours every night. If your kids have been staying up late and then rising early to attend summertime day camp or sports, the end of these activities allows more time for healthy sleep. In 15-minute increments each night, gradually move their bedtime earlier so that they adjust to getting more sleep.
--Slowly adjust their wakeup time. The experts at Procter & Gamble acknowledge that kids may not be "morning people," but that "one way to get your kids excited about waking up early is to give them something they can look forward to." It may be a healthy pancake breakfast or a special morning story-and-snuggle time. Save these treats for the weeks leading up to the start of school to make them more of an enticement. And point out to kids that waking up early means more hours of sunlight, giving them extra playtime outside. At least three days before the start of school, kids should be waking up at their weekday morning time. To help with kids' sleep, Procter & Gamble experts advise setting a "no gadgets" rule for sleep hours to cut down on distraction and stimulation, as well as adjusting the window coverings in children's rooms to ensure a darker, more sleep-conducive bedroom environment.
--Create a bedtime routine. It could be a bedtime story or hugging family members (including pets) goodnight. A bedtime ritual prepares children for the onset of sleep and creates a familiar pattern that will help them wind down on school nights.
--Reduce television viewing. Everyone has their favorite shows, but when the school year approaches, inform kids that shows airing at 9 p.m. and later will go to DVR beginning on a set date -- or 8 p.m. for very young kids. The choice of time is up to you. Encourage older kids to use their new free time before bed to read or listen to music.
--Focus on summer reading assignments. If your child's school requires the completion of summer reading assignments, and if your child isn't the sort to complete them early, now is the time to get them into a homework mindset by setting a 30- to 45-minute block of time during the evenings to tackle those reading lists.
--Introduce kids to your scheduling system. Whether you use Google Calendar to organize the family schedule or a chart on the refrigerator, introduce kids to the system. Point out the colors that refer to their school activities, or ask them to choose their own color to give them a sense of involvement.
--Involve kids in any school forms needed before the first day of school. Transition kids into a responsibility mindset by involving them in any forms you need to fill out. As you fill them out, ask your children to provide some easy, basic answers, which can help little ones adjust to the question-answer element of education.
On the night before the first day of school, prepare your kids by selecting outfits, packing book bags and backpacks and doing a last-minute run over things like what time the school bus will arrive and what your child can expect during the school day.
And it's a wonderful idea to mark the start of school with a special dinner at home, at a restaurant or even with a family party that conveys a sense of excitement about the new school year.