Tuesday 15 May 2012

What time should primary school kids go to bed?

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What time should primary school kids go to bed? It’s a question I often have cause to ponder as the walls of my house are thin enough to clearly hear much of the noise of family life produced by the young family which lives next door.

The children who live next door are primary-school age and every evening there seems to be a loud chorus of protest at around 9:30 each evening – the time I guess they are sent to bed. Perhaps I’m just getting old but it does seem like this is quite a late bedtime for children who must, I reckon, be six and eight-years-old.

When I was at primary school I cannot remember exactly what time I went to bed but I do remember that the opening bar of the Coronation Street theme tune was often the signal for me to get changed into my pyjamas. So judging by this primitive method of keeping time I must have gone to bed at 7:30. (Even today, the Coronation Street theme tune still produces a powerful feeling of weariness in me whenever I hear it.)

I also remember that when I was at primary school a girl in my class called Eleanor McCarney (the name has been changed) boasted that she went to bed at 9:30; news which when relayed to my parents at the dinner table produced much muttering and the mention of the word ‘degenerate’ from my father.

So is it right to send your primary school son or daughter to bed at 7:30 or have my next-door neighbours, and Eleanor McCarthy’s parents, got the right approach?

A quick look at internet blog forums led to more confusion. Over at netmums, a blogger called Leandra S. fretted that her seven-year-old’s 8:30pm bedtime is “too early”. On another site, an American mother taunted her British counterparts with the message: “Why do you Brits send your kids to bed so early?” I’m sure someone could come up with a witty put-down response to this.

Moving away from the parenting forums, I decided to seek clarity by turning to an oracle of parenting wisdom…

The Supernanny website recommends that bedtime should be:
• Between 7pm and 7:30pm for children up to age of four or five
• Between 8pm and 9pm for children between the age of five to 12

Annoyingly, while Supernanny recommends a going-to-bed time she doesn’t recommend a getting-out-of-bed time; someone really should point out this flaw to her!

However, recent research from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine website reveals that school-age kids should have ten to eleven hours’ sleep per night. Combining the American Academy research with Supernanny’s advice suggests that primary school age kids should go to bed between 8pm and 9pm and get up at between 6am and 8am.

So it seems like my next door neighbours, by allowing a 9:30 pm bedtime for their children, are definitely along the right lines. And my parents weren’t far out when they sent me to bed at 7:30. Even if it did mean missing out on years of Coronation Street!

James Christie writes for Yellow Moon craft supplies shop. Check out Yellow Moon’s extensive range of arts and craft ideas for kids.