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Reviewed by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School

Frequently Asked Questions: 8 Years

My child wants to stay up late every night, playing video games or watching television, but I think he should go to bed earlier. How much sleep does he need?

The actual amount of sleep a child needs generally depends on how old he is. The younger a child is, the more sleep he needs. For example, a newborn infant tends to sleep about 16 hours each day while an older teen-ager probably should have somewhere between eight and nine hours of sleep each night. A 2-year-old needs about 12 hours each day, while a 10-year-old requires less (only 10 hours).

Although sleep is important, most children want to stay up late doing things they think are more important. They frequently will remind you that they are not tired and can stay up late like the adults in the family. However, you don't want your son staying up so late that he won't be well rested. In addition, too little sleep can affect his health and how well he grows.

It's always best for a child to establish a routine and be on a regular schedule so he gets enough sleep each night. Staying up late in the summertime usually is not a problem since most children can also sleep late on those mornings. However, when school starts, children should go to bed early enough, so they can easily get up on time (perhaps even on their own) and are not too tired during the day. Explain to your child that if he is continually tired, it makes it hard to pay attention and learn in school. Moreover, too little sleep can make him sick and may keep him from growing as tall as he otherwise would.

How can I get my child to eat breakfast?

Since breakfast is probably the most important meal of the day, every child should eat a good breakfast every day. To get your child to do this, it may help to know why he chooses to skip breakfast. He may feel he does not have enough time in the morning, does not like traditional breakfast foods, or just does not feel like eating that early in the morning. Fortunately, he can make time for breakfast, can eat nontraditional breakfast foods and even can eat breakfast a little later in the morning.

Since mornings can be busy times, do some of your usual morning chores (for example, choosing and putting out his school clothes) the night before, so there is enough time for breakfast.

Although cereals, pancakes and waffles are traditional breakfast foods, any food can be eaten for breakfast, including last night's dinner. Just plan ahead.

If your child says he is not hungry in the morning, try getting him up 10 minutes earlier to give his appetite time to "wake up." He might even eat part of his breakfast a bit later, perhaps in the car while you're driving him to school.

When can I take my child out of his booster seat and use the regular car seat belt?

Booster seats are made for children who have grown out of their car seat, but are not yet ready for the regular seat belt in the car. Once a child weighs at least 40 pounds and is tall enough so that his ears reach the top of his car seat, typically around 4 years old, he is ready for a booster seat. Various types of booster seats are available to work with the different types of car seat belts (lap/shoulder belts, shoulder belts).

Although in some states older children are not required by law to ride in car seats, it is safest for children to use a booster seat until the car's seat belt fits properly. For most children, this is not until they are at least 8 years old or over 4 feet 9 inches tall.

Remember, car seats do save lives! Be sure you and your child are always buckled up for every ride, no matter how short. For more information on choosing a car seat for your school-aged child, see Car Seats.

Last updated February 11, 2011




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