I can tell you first off that I’ve read just about every baby and child sleep book on the market. Several times in fact. Everything from “leave your baby to scream itself into a coma” to “lay with your child until their freshman year of college”. Want your kid to sleep in? Put them to bed early, or so the books say. Want your kid to sleep through the night? Put them to bed early, because otherwise they are overtired and won’t sleep well. Start healthy bedtime routines from day 1!
You may have been hearing a lot lately from all the mama’s who put their kids to bed by 7:00 pm, going on and on about how great it is to spend their evenings with their husbands, that children today are terribly sleep deprived, that by suppertime they are tired and deserve a break from mothering, and how your marriage really just needs you to drop those precious little babes of yours off into La-La Land in order to thrive.
And at one period of time in my parenting, yes, I was sure to always put my kids to bed by around 7 o’clock. But at this stage of our family life, with kids ranging in age from 1-8 years, it just doesn’t meet our needs or lifestyle anymore. Take a look at the 8 reasons I don’t put my kids to bed at 7pm and make sure to pin this for later!
1. It doesn’t make them sleep later.
I know plenty of books say that this is true, but it is highly unlikely. You can check out the sleep charts and see the average sleep requirement for your child’s age — if it is say, 11 hours, and you put your kid to bed at 6:30 in the evening, you can’t be terribly surprised when they wake up at 5:30 in the morning bright eyed and ready to go for the day! My current toddler seems to require only about 9 hours per night (plus 1 1.5-3 hour nap) — so I try not to put her to bed before 8pm, because getting up before 5am is crazy making.
2. We don’t have to get up early
As homeschoolers, there is no place we have to be in the morning. While this is not why we homeschool, it is definitely one of the perks! I know some families have to get up and out of the house early for work, daycare, and school, but our kids are able to sleep until they’re done sleeping.
3. Time with Daddy
My husband often doesn’t get home from work until 5:30-6:00 pm. It just doesn’t make sense to me to cram supper and Daddy time into an hour. After dinner is also my toddler’s best time of the day — she is just so happy and easy going in the evenings, it would be a pity to put her to bed and have him miss out on this happy time with her.
4. Flexible evenings
Between church meetings, kids activities, and piano lessons, we are out of the house several evenings a week. After their Kids Club for example, we don’t get home until after 8:30pm – if they were used to and dependent on a 7pm bedtime, this would be so much harder for them to handle.
5. Relaxed family dinners
On the evenings that we aren’t busy with outside activities, we like to take our time with dinner. There is plenty of time to eat slowly, chat with each other about our days, and clean up together.
6. After dinner family time
At least weekly, we enjoy a family night together (and stay up even later than usual, horrors!) with either a movie or games. In the summertime, we like to go outside after dinner to play at the park or in our yard when the heat of the day is over.
7. Afternoon naps
I do not phase out naps for toddlers in favour of earlier bedtime routines — afternoon naps are very important to this homeschooling mama! I need an afternoon break for my own sanity, as well as time for clean-up and homeschooling related activities, more so than I do in the evening. Sure, I’m tired at the end of the day, but that’s when Daddy arrives home to share the load!
8. It works for us!
This is the bottom line though, isn’t it? Each family has to chose for themselves what works best for their household while meeting the needs of its members. My “older” kids are put to bed at a reasonable hour (in my opinion!), allowed to read by lamplight, AND get as much sleep as their little bodies need — all without missing out on evening activities and time with their father. So when I hear about all the other parents who are putting their kids to bed by 7:00, I’m not jealous. This is what works for us, and we like it!