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By Erin Berg with Terry Smith


With the first day of school around the corner, what is the best way to make sure you and your children are ready? Our Head of Lower School Terry Smith’s three key suggestions are: sleep, routine and building up enthusiasm.


Summertime is for downtime: days may be less structured and bedtime may have been pushed back to enjoy the longer days. Dr. Smith says, if your children have not yet had a chance for downtime this summer, make sure they have some downtime as soon as possible. It’s important to have time for some relaxation before school. After at least a week of downtime, however, you will want to begin thinking about winding back that bedtime!


One of the best things you can do for you children is to begin preparing for the new sleeping schedule. With the sun up longer and a less structured environment, kids are staying up later and getting up later. You do not want to wait until the night before school starts to establish a new bedtime, rather you want to gradually move their bedtime back. In order to begin the transition, determine what time you need to leave the house for school. This will help you figure out what time your children need to be in bed the evening before, letting you do the math based on how many hours your children typically sleep.


Once you know the new wake-up time, you can start moving the bedtime up gradually. Increments of 30 minutes might be a good place to start, but this will depend on your normal bedtime routine. Remember, you’re working to establish a new bedtime that will ultimately allow your children to get enough rest for the normal school year.


Sleep is just the first step. Routine is also key. You want to work structure back into your children’s day. Set up a few activities to do during the day and discuss these plans with them. For example, you might plan to visit the library at 11 am, have lunch around noon and then head to the park around 3 pm. Small, scheduled events are a great way to reintroduce routine into the day. Don’t forget scheduled playdates either! If your children have not been around their normal peer group in a while, call up some parents and plan a playdate. If your children have not yet attended Harley, come by the school and play on the playground—familiarize yourself with the environment. You can plan a no-pressure playdate on the playground with some friends.


It’s also a good idea to start introducing lunch around the same time as school: 11:30-12:15. Since this is a predictable event in the Nursery and Lower School schedule, you will want to help your children be ready to eat at this time. Review the schedule and see which other events are routine, like naptime, and try to begin establishing these as part of your daily expectations.


For Nursery kids specifically: practice letting your children carry their backpack. Don’t do for them what they can do for themselves! This will also inspire confidence in your children, not to mention some well earned pride at his or her independence. For all children, allow them to be involved in the discussions about how to prepare for school each day. Let them pick what to have at school for naptime and what to keep at home. If your children are older and more capable, invite them to help determine what the routine will be for picking out clothes for school, when to pack their backpack, and what time is best for their bath to begin. This will allow you to not only include your children in decision-making, but also help you establish your routine for talking about school.


Help your children set expectations by chatting about what will happen at school. Think about what will be new in their schedule and discuss it with them. Ask what they are most excited about for the new school year. Encourage your children to begin jotting down notes about what they have done this summer, which will give them some ideas for the first assignment (what they did over the summer). Don’t worry about the academics! Focus on helping foster enthusiasm, getting your children rested, and ready for the school routine.


In order for you to be set for a great school year, make sure you have had some well-earned downtime. Then start gradually setting bedtime earlier and earlier. Reintroduce planned events into your day and start establishing your regular routine for the school day. The goal—and our hope —s both you and your children will be ready and excited for the new school year. See you in September!