The clocks are going forward on Sunday, March 27th at 1 am, which means that when you wake up in the morning, it will already be light outside instead of still dark, and when you get home from work it will be light outside instead of still dark again!
This can be confusing to your toddler who has spent the last year getting used to the opposite schedule. Those 60 extra minutes of slumber may not seem like much, but a toddler or a school-aged child can take a while to adjust to a new sleep routine. Luckily, there are things you can do to minimize the impact on your family’s schedule.
Here are 7 ways to prepare your toddler or baby for daylight saving time so they won’t be as confused by the change in schedule and sleep pattern.
1) Let them know when it will happen
Getting your kids ready for Daylight Saving Time can be confusing—not only do they have to know about it, but you have to figure out how much of a heads up they need. Do you tell them on Saturday night? Sunday morning? It’s up to you!
We would suggest starting to discuss it with them now as we are already seeing lighter evenings, let them know what is happening with the weather and why the clocks will be changing in a few weeks and how it will have a positive effect on the upcoming months.
2) Acknowledge their feelings about it
First, you have to acknowledge that they might not be happy about it (I remember hating going to bed when it was still light outside). You can start by asking them what they think about daylight saving time (if they understand) and go from there but we hope our suggestions below can support your family.
3) Start the bedtime routine earlier to prepare
If you have a toddler who is used to being put down for bed when it is dark outside, talk with them about what will change during DST.
By starting their bedtime routine a little earlier than usual, you can help get them settled and in the mood for sleep a little earlier, perhaps they have a longer bath, or you read them an extra story, if you can start the bedtime routine earlier it will support a better transition to the lighter evenings.
4) Adjust Early Risers
If your child is waking up too early, make sure that they understand that this is not a time you want them to be awake. Try to encourage them back to sleep or snoozing, but if they really want to be awake, allow them to stay in their bedroom playing but encourage him to keep it calm and quiet.
5) Talk about how fun it is going to be to get longer days back again
When daylight saving time starts, we gain about an hour of sunlight. Because children have a difficult time understanding why it’s light when it was dark just moments before, it can be tough to prepare your toddler for daylight saving time. How will you make it fun? How will you help him understand that he won’t be able to play outside when his brother is still allowed to (if you have a large age gap). The best way to handle these issues is with direct explanations and plenty of advance notice—so get ready!
What we have done with our children: We have always given the boys the same bedtime and stuck to it, whether they are 18 months apart or 9 years, everyone goes to bed at 7.30 pm so no one feels left out.
6) Invest in blackout curtains or blinds
If you do want to make your toddler’s room dark enough to support their sleep transition, we suggest investing in blackout curtains or blinds.
7) Encourage good sleep hygiene
Establishing a healthy sleep routine throughout the year will help ensure that your child recovers quickly from a sudden change in sleep schedule.
Follow these sleep hygiene tips year-round as far as routine goes, make sure your child is going to bed and waking up at the same time every day.
Your child should go to bed and get up at a similar time every day. A regular routine is very important. On weekends or days off, try not to extend his waking hours too much.
Adopt a pre-bed routine. Prior to going to bed, you can develop a routine consisting of things like taking a bath, brushing your teeth, and putting on pyjamas. Have a goodnight kiss and a bedtime story. Any activities before going to bed should be of a calming nature.
Your child should, not only for a good night's sleep, engage in daily physical activity. Just don't push them to perform heavy physical activity for about two hours before going to bed.
Optimise your child’s sleeping environment by ensuring his room has a cooler temperature, is dark (you can always use a night light if your child is afraid of the dark) and is quiet.
Your child shouldn’t go to bed hungry; a light snack will help but don’t put him to bed if he has had a heavy meal within two hours of sleep.
Firmly discourage the consumption of energy drinks, which contain dangerously high amounts of caffeine and too much sugar.
Disclaimer - We are not child sleep experts, we are two mums giving advice on what has worked (and not worked) for us raising 6 boys.