Welcome to our weekly online series on parenting advice with local expert Dr. Deborah Wood.
No TV in child’s bedroom
Dear Dr. Debbie,
I have a three-year-old who attends a child care home on weekdays. She’s doing well other than her childcare provider says she seems sleepy all morning and can barely stay awake until naptime. On weekends we don’t often have naps, but I do think she’s very cranky. I put her to bed at a decent time, but I notice that when I go up to bed she has the television on (it’s off when she goes to bed), so I don’t know when she actually falls asleep.
How much sleep does she need?
The average three-year-old needs twelve hours of sleep – typically ten hours at night and two hours in the early afternoon. It is also advisable to keep a daily routine for naps such that the weekend schedule is similar to weekdays for her. Adequate sleep is essential for growth, fighting germs, physical energy to play, processing what she has learned during the day, and as you have observed, a good mood. If she is tired on weekday mornings, and suffers from “crankiness” on weekends, it appears her sleep schedule needs a little adjustment.
Please take the television out of her bedroom. It’s fine to have a little tv time as part of winding down for the evening, but after her show, the television is turned off and she goes to her quiet bedroom. There you can sing to her or play some lulling recorded music. Book reading is another nice activity for calming down and heading off to dreamland. This can either be done with the two of you in a cozy chair, or with her already tucked into her bed and you alongside her. When she is older – six or seven or eight – the routine can be adjusted again such that she reads to you and eventually to herself.
Some families work out going-to-bed routines that leave the child on her own to drift off to sleep. But if leaving her alone tempts her to find stimulating activities without your knowledge (as your daughter has done with the television), she needs you to stay with her until she is asleep.
You can both look forward to the bedtime routine – stories, songs, back rub, review of today and plans for tomorrow, listing all the people who love her, etc. – and once she’s taking those slow and steady breaths of deep sleep you can tiptoe away knowing you have accomplished your last parenting task of the day.
Investing in a half hour of 100% positive attention in a cozy bedtime routine, and sticking to her afternoon nap schedule will pay off for you both. I predict you will find your daughter’s mood on weekends much improved. If you think you’re too busy or are too tired to do what your daughter requires for her sleep needs (I mean this in kindest way), you are a good example of someone who needs a better schedule yourself!
Wishing you both the rest you need,
Dr. Deborah Wood is a child development specialist in Annapolis. She holds a doctorate in Human Development from the University of Maryland at College Park and is founding director of the Chesapeake Children’s Museum. Long time fans and new readers can find many of her “Understanding Children” columns archived on the Chesapeake Family Magazine website. You can find her online at drdebbiewood.com
What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments or submit a question to Dr. Debbie at [email protected]