“The latest discoveries in neuroscience show that there’s much more to sleep than just recovery. For example, scientists have long known that sleeping was critically important to the development of brain functions, such as learning new information and storing long-term memories.”
- Lack of sleep can lead to misdiagnoses of ADHD.
- Sleep debt puts kids at higher risk for obesity and diabetes.
- Sleep debt can make kids more likely to get sick.
Amount of sleep needed:
- Preschoolers= 10 to 13 hours per day
- Ages 6 and 13=nine to 11 hours per day
- Teens= eight to 10 hours
-The Huffington Post,Vinnie Neuberg
By: Ann Matturro Gault
Your clock radio goes off at 6:30 and like a runner out of the starting block, you begin the morning rush. You shower, dress, wake the kids, get them breakfast, fix school lunches, attempt a cup of coffee, find missing homework, pack backpacks, brush a couple bedheads, double-knot your 1st grader’s sneakers and dash out the door. It’s downright alarming how much gets accomplished before the school bell rings. If getting to 8 a.m. feels like an entire day’s work, some simple a.m. strategies may be all that’s necessary to put the “good” back in to your morning.
Anticipate Tomorrow Today
Donna Goldberg, author of The Organized Student, says our success in the morning starts the night before. “No matter how much money you have, you can’t buy more time. But with a little planning, you can save it.” Another key to efficiency, according to family management expert and best-selling author Kathy Peel, is the ability to live in two tenses. “Successful moms are able to function in the present — dealing with demands of the here and now — while also anticipating the needs of the future,” Peel explains.
Lunch: While cooking dinner (or cleaning it up), for example, get a jump on the next day’s lunches. Have the kids clean out their lunch boxes and add water bottles, napkins, whole fruits like apples or oranges and other no-spoil food (boxed raisins, crackers, baggies filled with pretzels or nuts). “Whatever you can cross off your list tonight gains you precious minutes in the morning,” says Goldberg. “Remember, most leftovers put between two pieces of bread make a delicious midday meal. Or, skip the bread and roll deli ham or turkey between cheese slices — you can’t get much quicker and easier than that!”
Clothes: Other nighttime tasks should include readying backpacks (and your coffee pot) and selecting the next day’s attire. Richmond, Virginia-based psychologist and mom of three Debbie Glasser, Ph.D., says it’s easy to make wardrobe selection fun. “Show your kids how to lay clothing on the floor to look like them — shirt on top, pants on the bottom, accessories to match and socks underneath.”
Peel recommends designating an area in the closet for school clothes. “Tie a ribbon to the rod and push to one side of the closet. Explain to your child that everything to the right of the ribbon works for school. Slow dressers are often confused about what to wear.” Stacy DeBroff, mother of two and founder of Momcentral.com, takes the guesswork out of the equation completely. “When doing laundry, I fold coordinating outfits together before I put them away in dresser drawers.”
Calendar: For children ages 7 and up, checking the family calendar should become a nightly ritual. A large, centrally located calendar is vital. Some families code entries by assigning each family member a color. “That way it’s easy for kids to distinguish their schedules from everyone else’s and it gives them a sense that we’re all in this together!” says Peel, who is also the mother of three.
Goldberg believes that consulting the calendar promotes self-reliance. “When Jessica sees ‘ballet’ on the calendar for Thursday, she’ll know to put her leotard and dance shoes in her backpack Wednesday night,” the former school librarian explains. It’s a skill that truly contributes to lifelong success.
Rise to the Occasion
What’s the best way to get sleepyheads out of bed? Children under 7 can’t developmentally understand the concept of time — how to manage it comes even later — but even 1st graders can respond to a bell, buzzer, or favorite song. Encouraging a child to wake up on his own, without a gentle nudge from mom, can be a time-saver. But Glasser doesn’t recommend alarm clocks for all children. “Some kids feel stressed by a buzzer or bell,” she warns. “Others will be eager to take on the responsibility, but talk to them about it first.”
Technologically savvy preteens may enjoy the challenge of figuring out how to set their cell phone, computer, or wristwatch to wake them. Starting the day with their favorite music may also be a draw. For super sleepyheads, be sure to put the clock, watch, or iPod across the room. This tactic forces kids to get out of bed and get moving.
Silence Stress — Yours and Theirs
Two hours of lead time should be enough to get your family through the morning and out the door on time. But as Glasser points out, mom sets the tone for the day, so you may want to start yours early enough to build in some solo time. “Kids respond to our mood and stress level, so it’s important to be calm and upbeat for them,” she says. Her advice: “Take the time you need to get your act together first! If the family rises at 7, wake up at 6:30. Enjoy a cup of coffee alone, meditate, pray, or shower before everyone else is awake. The best gift you can give your child in the morning is the feeling of being happy to start the day.”
Gentle reminders: Childhood development may be partially to blame for morning stress. “Kids’ brains aren’t the same as ours: they’re still developing. They can’t absorb much more than small bits of information at a time and may be overwhelmed by the amount of information and directives you’re doling out in the a.m.,” says Glasser.
Instead of issuing repeated reminders, Glasser recommends using a visual prompt. List morning tasks (bed-making, dressing, brushing teeth and hair, eating breakfast, etc.) on a piece of brightly colored posterboard that you keep in the kitchen (or try our printable checklist). “Instead of barking orders and hurrying your child along, tell him to check the chart so he knows what still needs to be done. It sure beats nagging.”
You can make the morning chore chart even more playful by using a digital camera. “On the weekend, take photos of your kids hamming it up as they go through their morning routine. Print out the photos and attach to the chart,” Glasser suggests.
Keep it quiet: Television can really add to morning chaos as well. Forbid kids’ programming before school Monday through Thursday. Leaving the house on time can be rewarded on Friday morning with 10 minutes of TV if (and only if) everyone is completely ready to walk out the door for school.
Easy edibles: Another effective way to end dawdling is to insist that no one arrive at the breakfast table in pajamas. Have children get completely dressed for school first. And don’t even think about making anything more complicated than cereal on weekdays. For variety, serve hard boiled eggs (made in advance, of course) and plain yogurt — instead of milk — with cereal. “If kids enjoy pancakes and French toast, make extra on the weekend and freeze them. Then, pop in toaster or microwave for a quick and easy before school breakfast,” says Peel.
- She doesn’t understand the assignment.
- The assignment is vague or touches on a topic she’s not ready for.
- She’s exhausted from a long day of school, gymnastics, and an argument with her best friend.
If you want your child to be a stellar student, don’t limit learning to the walls of his classroom. Although the skills he’s learning there are crucial to his intellectual and social growth, your child needs your help to open up the world of ideas. His renewed joy in discovery will transfer to his schoolwork, so you’ll boost his academic achievement too!
- Fill your child’s world with reading. Take turns reading with your older child, or establish a family reading time when everyone reads her own book. Demonstrate how important reading is to you by filling your home with printed materials: novels, newspapers, even posters and placemats with words on them.
- Encourage him to express his opinion, talk about his feelings, and make choices. He can pick out a side dish to go with dinner and select his own extracurricular activities. Ask for his input on family decisions, and show that you value it.
- Show enthusiasm for your child’s interests and encourage her to explore subjects that fascinate her. If she’s a horse nut, offer her stories about riding or challenge her to find five facts about horses in the encyclopedia.
- Provide him with play opportunities that support different kinds of learning styles — from listening and visual learning to sorting and sequencing. Supplies that encourage open-ended play, such as blocks, will develop your child’s creative expression and problem-solving skills as he builds. He’ll need lots of unstructured play time to explore them.
- Point out the new things you learn with enthusiasm. Discuss the different ways you find new information, whether you’re looking for gardening tips on the Internet or taking a night class in American literature.
- Ask about what he’s learning in school, not about his grades or test scores. Have him teach you what he learned in school today — putting the lesson into his own words will help him retain what he learned.
- Help your child organize her school papers and assignments so she feels in control of her work. If her task seems too daunting, she’ll spend more time worrying than learning. Check in with her regularly to make sure she’s not feeling overloaded.
- Celebrate achievements, no matter how small. Completing a book report calls for a special treat; finishing a book allows your child an hour of video games. You’ll offer positive reinforcement that will inspire him to keep learning and challenging himself.
- Focus on strengths, encouraging developing talents. Even if she didn’t ace her math test, she may have written a good poem in English class. In addition to a workbook for math practice, give her a writing journal.
- Turn everyday events into learning opportunities. Encourage him to explore the world around him, asking questions and making connections.
Winter break means a well-deserved reprieve from homework and daily obligations. But before you know it, the holidays will be over and it will be back to the bus stop. To prepare for a smooth re-entry and a successful second semester, don’t let school skills like reading, writing, and math slide completely during winter vacation. Try these family-friendly activities to keep skills sharp:
- Read for pleasure. Winter break provides the perfect opportunity to stash schoolbooks and read for fun. Encourage relatives to give books as holiday gifts or gather in front of the fire (big kids too!) to take turns reading from classic tales.
- Cook up an easy lesson. Invite your child into the kitchen to help you whip up a special dish — from Christmas cookies to potato pancakes. All of those half-tablespoon and quarter-cup measurements are great practice with fractions.
- Write thank-you notes. Penning notes of appreciation to gift-givers teaches gratitude and helps polish writing and spelling skills. Not sure what to say? Check out our thank-you note template for wording. One final tip: a mug of hot cocoa can make this task feel more festive!
- Make the most of car rides. Turn the drive to or from a holiday get-together into an opportunity to practice letters and numbers. You can look for license plates from different states, try to find the alphabet on the license plates, or count the number of red (or white or green) cars you see.
- Maintain reasonable bedtimes. With no school to get up for in the morning, it can be tempting to let kids become night owls. A few days before school starts up again, ease back into the regular bedtime schedule so your child can start the year bright-eyed.
- Ask for grocery list assistance. Have your child help choose what to buy, decide how much you need, check your supplies to see what you’ve already got, write or draw pictures on the list, and sort coupons.
- Let kids help with online shopping. Need a last-minute gift for Grandma or Uncle Joe? Log onto your favorite shopping sites and let your child help you select presents. This helps children work on their computer and research skills.
- Have a family game night. Chances are many of your family’s favorite board and card games reinforce skills such as counting, reading, and drawing. Gather the group to play games you usually don’t have time for on school nights.
- Speak regularly with your child’s teacher, even if things are going well.
- Ask your child about his/her day. Start your conversation with something he/she likes. Once your conversation is going well, then it’s easier to talk about more challenging subjects (and actually have him/her respond!).
- Oversee your child’s homework by sitting near your child and reading while the child is doing homework, occasionally walking past your child and patting him or her on the back, and/or looking over the homework with your child.
- Volunteer at your child’s school. Parent involvement improves children’s school performance.
Establish a Routine
- Have a regular morning, afternoon and bedtime routine.
- Arrange after-school childcare.
- Make sure your child eats breakfast.
- Establish a designated place and time for homework.
- Provide a quiet and non-chaotic environment during homework time.
- Read together each day. Reading is a proven factor for school success.
Learning is fun and not just for school!
- Let your children see you reading, paying bills, or watching an educational program. This shows children that learning happens not just in school and that some of the things they are learning WILL help them later in life!
- Have your children measure out ingredients for recipes; plan healthy meals together, collect different leaves from the neighborhood; any activities where they see learning can be fun.
- Get a library card for you and your child. Public libraries have a variety of resources and activities for young (and young-at-heart) minds!
- Have a positive attitude about school and learning. It’s contagious and your child will catch it!
(Families are Magic, FAM Richmond.org)