How to prepare children for the clocks going forward

In the UK, clocks go forward by an hour at 1am on Sunday, March 27, which in an act of cruelty, falls on Mother’s Day.

Just what every mother of young kids wants on ‘their’ day – even less sleep.

Designed to give us an extra hour of daylight, the clocks changing can cause problems with a child’s sleep schedule and, understandably, parents can be a little downbeat about it.

The good news is that there are some things that parents can do to make the transition easier to survive the change.

Here’s what to do, starting with some helpful ways to promote good sleep…

Blackout blinds

As the mornings and evenings become lighter, wake-ups and bedtimes can be trickier as young children don’t have the concept of time. This means that they can wake up with the birds and then refuse to sleep at bedtime.

Having blackout blinds and curtains will help stop your child thinking that 4am is a good time to get up and will help them to get off to sleep better in the evenings.

Portable blackouts are good to use as they don’t leave gaps at the side, which let in the sunlight, because they stick directly onto the window or frame, and you can easily take them down in winter months when they are not needed.

Blackouts are also great at keeping the heat out of a room, so in the summer you can keep the room cooler.

A good bedtime routine

Starting in the hour before bed, a bedtime routine helps children prepare for sleep by relaxing and winding down. Children who have a good, consistent routine before bed are often less affected by the clock changes and are more likely to take less time to fall asleep and also sleep for longer.

Think – bath, massage, milk, teeth brushed cuddles and then stories.

Reduce screen time

With kid’s programmes being on 24/7 these days and more children using mobile devices and tablets, it is not unusual for kids to be staring at screens right before bed. Ideally though, there should be no screens in the hour before bed to help your little one ‘switch off’ for bedtime.

Having these things already in place will really help your little one sleep but to ensure they cope with the transition, you can try one of three things, depending on which you feel will suit your child best.

Gradually adjust their bedtime

In the week before, be sneaky and move your child’s bedtime a few minutes earlier each night. This stealth way of tackling the change is a great option if your child is already an early riser. This clock change can be really helpful for breaking an early rising habit too.

You could go for bringing bedtime forward by just 10 minutes each night or, over a few days 15/20 minutes earlier each night. If you feel that a week is not achievable – your child might be in childcare until 6pm a couple of days a week, for instance, then start on the Thursday before, bringing bedtime forward by 20 minutes, then on Friday by 40 minutes and Saturday a whole hour. The night of the clock change should be back to the normal time.

Or do nothing at all

Not all kids are that affected by the change – perhaps only one or two nights, so you can opt to not do anything and put your child to bed at their normal time.

For children who are a little older and children already in a good sleep routine, this option works well.

Split the difference

This is a two-step approach, splitting the time over just two nights. To do this, you simply put your little one to bed 30 minutes earlier on the Saturday night.

Then on the Sunday – the day the clocks have changed, you revert to your usual bedtime, meaning your little one has only really lost 30 minutes rather than an hour.

Days with plenty of physical activity also help children sleep well.

On clock change day, a long walk or bike ride, for instance, will help with them with heading to bed earlier, particularly if you are splitting the difference or not doing anything at all,

But be careful not to overdo the physical activity, as over-tired children are, as strange as it might seem, actually harder to get to sleep.

It is also worth noting that if you are taking a gradual approach or splitting the difference that you will need to adjust mealtimes and daytime naps too, by the same amount of time as bedtime so they end up an hour earlier too.

Don’t worry though if it takes a few days for everyone to fully adjust, you will all be back into a natural routine soon.

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