I am a FIRM believer in early bed times for kids. This wasn't a decision that I made...it just sort of happened. When my first baby was born I tried to pay attention to his natural sleep rhythm. I noticed after a few months that he got cranky and tired at around the same time each night. As the months went by he got cranky and ready for bed earlier and earlier. By 7 or 8 months old he was going to bed at 7pm and sleeping until 6am. Well...after 5 kids I can say that he was a really good sleeper to be sleeping through the night so early, but even with my babies that haven't slept through the night until much later they have all been ready for bed around 7pm.
I have heard many people say, "My kids just aren't ready for bed that early..." Well...I bet they would be if your bed time routine started earlier. During the fall and winter months where it is dark earlier we start our bedtime routine around 6:30pm. This helps them wind down at the end of the day. Their bodies start to slow down and the natural result is that they are sleepy and ready for bed. If your family is busy busy busy until later in the evening they will naturally be up longer. Sometimes starting our routine so early can be hard when my husband doesn't get home from work until 5:45 or 6pm.
Babies and kids need almost 12-14 hours of sleep each night. Especially once they start school.
Another reason that I LOVE the early bed time is that my husband and I then have a few hours at a decent time of night to spent together before we go to bed. I cherish this even more now that we have 5 little ones. We need time to connect and still get to bed at a decent hour ourselves.