This week, we are thinking about getting ready for the cooler weather ahead! Winter is on its way as we head in to November and it is important that as the nights draw in and the evenings become darker, that we prepare our Wellingtonians for the seasonal changes afoot.
As the weather becomes colder, it is important that we have the right clothing, footwear, outerwear and headgear to protect us from the chills. Weather does not prevent us from being outdoors; there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing! Please do check with your class teacher to make sure you are providing everything that your child needs to be fully involved in everything we do here at the setting.
As you know many animals hibernate during the winter months, sleeping through until the snow thaws and spring advances, bringing new life and fresh starts with it. Our pupils cannot hibernate during the winter months, but I’d like to revisit the issue of sleep (adapted from The Good Night Guide for Children provided by the Sleep Council, UK www.sleepcouncil.com), so that we can all consider how best to support the children through the darker months. As you are aware, we do advise that pupils arrive before 08:30 as this is when curriculum time commences and peak learning takes place. However, if pupils arrive at 08:30 tired and grumpy, active learning cannot take place. Instead, we see tantrums, lethargy and a lack of motivation to be involved in activities. As adults, we are in charge of the bedtime routine for our children and I hope you find this useful to ensuring a positive routine is established.
Quality sleep is essential for children’s growth and development
We need to pass on the skill of good sleep to children as early as possible to allow them to get the greatest benefit from an early age. The ‘achievement’ of sleep is a learned skill which will aid health, growth and mental function for life. As far as children are concerned the main benefit of sleep is the release of growth hormone, encouraging normal growth and development. Secondly the brain benefits by aiding the process of concentration – the making sense of the day’s events, the things learned at the setting and the skills being developed as they grow up. Thirdly, healthy brain development and emotional/mental health are encouraged by the ‘de-toxifying’ benefits of good sleep. There’s an increasing body of evidence showing the damaging effect on children and young adults who get less sleep than they need – from weight gain to depression, from poor performance and concentration to reduced creative ability and lower immunity to diseases. Parents need to be aware of the potential long term harm of not getting enough sleep and not developing good sleep habits.
Most younger children respond well to a bedtime routine
This is normally along the lines of dinnertime followed by quiet play, bath, story and then bed with bedtime around the same time each evening. Parents shouldn’t expect children to go to sleep immediately when they are in bed (after all, most adults don’t) and they should be allowed to play quietly or read / look at a book for a little while until they drop off.
How much sleep is normal?
Most toddlers sleep about 12 hours by the age of three. At this age they can have difficulty in falling or staying asleep. They can fight sleep because they don’t like the separation from their parents. They often have a favourite toy, dummy or comforter to help them sleep, while a night light helps those who are afraid of the dark. Children aged four to six tend to sleep between 10½ to 11½ hours at night.
Creating the perfect environment for sleep
Whether for a baby, child, teenager or an adult, a restful room with a comfortable, fresh bed can only help in the achievement of good sleep. Where possible, a child’s bedroom should be the room in which they SLEEP – young children shouldn’t have a TV / computer in their bedroom. Children of all ages should be encouraged to put their things away and keep their room uncluttered and comfortable. Again this approach should help to instil a respect for sleep and its benefits. If possible, divide the room into separate activity and sleep ‘zones’.
Absolute basics are:
- A room away from noise, but within hearing of an adult – quiet is essential for quality rest and sleep
- Suitable curtains which create a decent ‘dark room’ in winter and summer are essential, as exposure to light first thing in the morning ‘resets’ the body clock and can disrupt sleep – especially in the summer
- The room should be well aired before bed time if necessary and should not be too warm – we sleep better in a cooler environment. Ideally room temperature should be between 16-24°C (20°C for babies and young children, who find it harder to regulate body temperature)
- A fresh bed and bedding are essential (washed with detergents), and again well aired
- It is very important that there is no smoking in rooms where children sleep as this can lead to breathing problems and other health issues
- Younger children especially need easy access to a potty or toilet – more importantly, they need to know where to find them!
- Fresh water should be within reach by the bed in a beaker or cup as appropriate
How to make it work for you
Ideally, we want our pupils to arrive at 08:30, ready for a day of exploring and discovering. To make this happen, many families need to be out of the house and on the road by 08:00, therefore breakfast and dressing-time need to start around 07:00. If a child is awake by 06:30 – 07:00, there should be sufficient time for this to take place. If we work backwards, to get the recommended sleep, children should be in bed by 19:00 – 20:00 (depending upon their age). This means that dinner, play, bath and story time needs to start from around 17:00. At such a young age, routines need to be rather regimented, but it is worth it once they are established – trust us, it works.