Late Nights on Holiday for Kids? Bad Idea!

We all know about the importance of routine with kids.

A set pattern will help a young child understand boundaries and expectations. It will also provide a sense of security and stability. A rock steady foundation rather than not knowing what is due to happen or what is expected of them. It helps them to understand how things work and how they fit into everything. (I’m talking about my 4 and 5 year olds here. This doesn’t really apply so much to older kids.)

As parents, it’s up to us to ensure that there is a routine in place. It’s our role to get them into a pattern of getting up -> having breakfast -> getting ready for school, and also the getting ready for bed routine is a very important one.

For a child, it’s easier to end the day as a wind down rather than as an abrupt end. You can’t go from 60 to zero. You have to work your way down through the gears. (That’s what we use bedtime stories for, a bit of quiet before bed.)

I’m not saying kids should be automatons and we should all robotically ensure every day is the same. That would be bonkers. I’m merely pointing out that a child will have a better idea of the expectations placed upon them (ie, going to bed) if he’s following a familiar path.


Holidays are a problem. We slip into a mind-set of thinking that it will be okay to let them have a late night because it’s the holidays. We believed that it wouldn’t matter if their bedtime was put back for a couple of hours while they are off school.

Nope. Mistake.

Holidays – such as the Christmas break we’ve just had – are a hyperactive time of constant excitement and energy. Kids have so much extra stimulus with new toys, going out to places, doing things which are different to normal. School / nursery, complete with discipline & routine, are distant memories. The kids go at 100 miles per hour, the consequence of which is that they burn out.

A late night adds to the imbalance of proceedings. It’s magnified by the fact that a late night by no means results in a lie in the next day. They’re still up at 6.45am, and that period of rest is just lost.

I don’t need to tell you what tiredness means to a young kid. We’ve all seen arguments, tears, tantrums and countless other behavioural traits that we can directly link to a lack of sleep.

Late nights

Even if a child does sleep in, then it means that you’ve lost the school day routine – the normal routine. Imagine that. You’ve worked hard to get your darling offspring into a pattern where they are able to get up in the morning, function, and get them breakfast, dressed and to school on time. Then you’ve allowed a holiday to disrupt that precious routine.

Back to School

So, what happens on the first day back at school? A battle. All the familiarity of routine is gone. You’re left with a lack of direction and a shapelessness that means that the child needs to be cajoled at every turn because they aren’t running on an established path.

This is what makes the first day back at school so stressful. We all know it. They’re still in holiday mode and it’s up to you to fill the discipline gap that the lack of routine has created. suggests that kids aged 3 – 5 need 10 to 13 hours sleep a night. We aim for 12 hours per night (7pm to 7am). It makes sense for us, as parents, to stick to that during holidays too. They’re still developing, even if they’re not at school. You don’t want your child’s return to education to be side-tracked. The first few days can be long enough after a holiday without the sleep disruption factor being thrown in too.

So, stick to your guns! Cherish the benefits that a good night’s sleep brings to your child.

Plus, and I’ll say this because we’re all thinking it, if they’re in bed, it means that more of your break / holiday is for you. It’s your holiday too! It’s not selfish parenting. It’s good parenting with a bonus!


  1. 13 January 2017

    My children have so much homework (even at 6!) that I could never get them in bed by 7pm. We all eat together when my husband gets home which apparently is a very strange thing to do but I think this time together is very important. I do give warning about how long it is until bedtime but we do a lot of reading before they get into their beds.

  2. 13 January 2017

    Totally agree. I have a four year old, and it is simply awful if he gets to stay up beyond his usual routine. We all suffer!

  3. 13 January 2017

    I sort of agree, but sometimes it’s just not doable, especially if you are visiting friends over times like the festive period and taking your kiddies with you. We try and stick to a routine for little ones and you’re right that they do need it. I think, as with all things, a balance is what we all strive for.

  4. 14 January 2017

    Mine go to bed at 7 on school nights by we do give them an extra half an hour on the weekend and holidays. we cherish our time with out them too – it gets harder as they get older though

  5. 14 January 2017

    Mine are 9 and 7 but we still make sure they stick to a routine. On the rare occasion they have a late night they’re a nightmare the next day but at least at this age they can make the correlation between lack of sleep and their grumpiness. Even now if we think they’re shattered we have an enforced “family nap”!

  6. 14 January 2017

    Oh I so agree! My girls are 21 and 15 now so I don’t have to worry about it anymore but I always tried to stick to a regular routine. They would get up early no matter what time they went to bed and would just end up so cranky and out of sorts if for some reason they ended up not getting to bed on time.

  7. 14 January 2017

    We went on a month long holiday recently and we still put our little one to bed the same time every night and used her normal routine. It worked wonders in settling her into new places. I think the odd occasion of being up late is fine, but we always tell her its special and she understands. She normally lies in later the next day. x

  8. 15 January 2017

    Have to totally agree with you, but getting the kids to bed ‘on time’ when they’re a bit older is much tougher. Some of my friends now go to bed earlier than their kids…I’m making the most of getting some ‘me time’ in the evening before that happens!

  9. I try to get the kids to stick to their routine or we all suffer at our house.

  10. 2 February 2017

    I agree! The second her routine is broken i have a completely different child

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *