Young Children, Schedules and Sleep

January 24, 2013

Call me old fashioned, inflexible or just plain judgemental, but when I was in a mall recently at 9:35 pm, there were children in strollers everywhere.

I am talking about children in the infant to three year old age range. Is this now the new norm? What happened to the dinner at 5-6 pm, bath, stories and bed anywhere from 7-8 schedule?

Of course there are always exceptions for special occasions, travel and illness. But for shopping late at a mall or a grocery store? As I observed these little ones, amazed, I noted that many ware crying , agitated or eating treats. Really? Sugar at 9:30?

Brain theory tells us that getting enough sleep is important for a young child for many reasons, from restoring energy to building brain connections. As well, science is showing that sleep also fuels physical growth. 

Four and five year olds need about 10 to 12 1/2 hours of sleep per night (with naps declining and eventually disappearing around age 5), and older elementary age kids need 9 1/2 to 11 1/2 hours a night. So where does this put the sleep needs for those younger children hanging out at the malls until they close?

One of the most satisfying times of the day for me was always when the kids had eaten a good dinner, had some degree of tidy-up and were tucked safely in their beds.

More than a little quiet time for me, this schedule provided my children with the sleep needed to learn, grow and enjoy life fully. Call me old fashioned-it worked!