The summer holidays are in full swing and, while this might be an endless source of delight to your kids, you may find that your home is suddenly full of little bundles of energy for whom bedtime is never an option. Without the daily stresses of school, children need a little extra activity to tire them out in the summer holidays, to make sure that they get the good night’s sleep that is vital to both their mental and physical wellbeing.

If you’re wondering how on earth to get your little ones from sparky to sleepy, here are some of our favourite activities for tiring out our children, along with some top tips from Zoe Woolnough, Paediatric Sleep Consultant at Anglia Sleep Training.

Why is sleep so important for kids?

Did you know that young children should spend approximately 50% of their day sleeping? Much of children’s growth and development happens during sleep, and the brain needs this all-important time to process the day’s lessons and information. Without the necessary amount of sleep, children can suffer developmentally, as well as having a heightened risk of anxiety and stress.

If you’re not sure how long your little ones should be sleeping, here’s a quick guide. Please note these times are different for every individual and only meant as a rough guideline:

Recommended activities

So what activities can you do with your children to make sure they get the mental and physical stimulation they need to drift off as easily as possible? Here are some of our favourites:

  • Hula Hooping - The best activities to tire out children are ones that work the body and the brain at the same time. Hula hooping is a great hobby to introduce your child to because it requires concentration as well as physical skill.
  • Swimming - We’ve all felt that sleepiness that comes after a good swim. Not only is swimming great physical exercise that works all the muscles without putting strain on the joints, the cool water also makes the body work harder to stay warm, which is why we feel so tired after swimming.
  • Exploring - Much like swimming, a good bout of fresh air can also help us achieve that lovely, heavy, sleepy feeling. Taking your kids on an exploration trail, organising a treasure hunt in the garden or organising an all-day outdoor trip somewhere like the zoo will get little ones out in the fresh air and engage their brains too as they learn about their new environment.
  • Dance - Whether you’re dancing around your living room together or taking your children to regular classes, dancing is a fantastic hobby for young kids to take up. As well as boosting their confidence, resilience, stamina, social skills and fitness, a dance session will also leave them tuckered out at the end of the day.
  • Reading - Not all activities have to be super energetic to tire out kids. Reading a book together before bedtime has been proven to help children sleep as it distracts them from any bedtime battles and takes their mind off any stresses or worries that might keep them from sleeping. Opt for rhyming stories for an extra soothing read.

Top tips from a sleep expert

Zoe Woolnough is a Paediatric Sleep Consultant with Anglia Sleep Training and knows all there is to know about helping little ones get a good night’s sleep.

Her first tip is to keep to a bedtime routine throughout weekdays and weekends, schooldays and holidays. Keeping bedtimes and wake-up times regular will help children to understand what is expected of them, as well as making it more likely that they will start to get sleepy at the right time.

Zoe also advises restricting screen time for at least an hour before bed. The bright lights and blue light that comes from TVs and mobile screens inhibit the production of melatonin – our sleep hormone – and can prevent children from getting to sleep. Instead, give your little one a relaxing warm bath about half an hour before bed to encourage a melatonin boost.

If you’re having real trouble with bedtime battles, Zoe recommends a reward system that will discourage children from getting up once they’ve been put to bed. Explain to your little one that they start every night with three tokens; every time they get up, they have to give one token back. In the morning, any remaining tokens can be exchanged for a treat from a lucky dip bag – the more they get up, the less they get!

Finding the right bed

It may also be worth checking that your child’s bed isn’t causing them any discomfort. Comfortable bedroom furniture is vital to a good night’s sleep, so it might be time to swap out an old bed for a new one if your little one is struggling.

Sleep is incredibly important for children so we hope you’re able to use some of these tips to tire out your kids and help them get the good night’s sleep they need. After all, happy kids mean happy parents!