Spring Forward: 5 Tips to Help Kids with Daylight Savings Time

One of the very first blog posts I wrote when I set up Outdoors Mama was about Daylight Savings Time ending; it’s got lots of great hints if you want to check it out here.

When we fall into the depths of winter, the time change can be rough, but we’re in a new season, and moving into spring should be easier.

So what’s different about springing forward and starting Daylight Savings Time? Well, for one, we’re losing an hour. Insert sounds of wailing here. But if you’re kids are anything like mine, sleep changes of any kind cause lost time in bed, so I’m not sure how much of a difference that makes to us! If you have early risers, as I do, the spring forward can actually  be to your advantage, and as there is more daylight and (slightly) better weather, then using the outdoors to leverage a succesful shift to Daylight Savings Time can make a big difference. Here are my top 5 tips to help your kids transition into DST as fast as possible:

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1. Start on the Friday

This is just the same as the time change in the Fall. Get started on this earlier than the actual time change. For us, it usually takes about three or four days to really settle into the new routine, and so if we start on the Friday night, it gives us a head start so we’re not struggling too much by the Monday. The reality of it is trickier, though, because we often let the kids stay up a little later on a Friday night, as there’s no school in the morning. I doubt we could get them to go to bed early on Friday night, but we will probably aim to at least have them go to bed at their weekday time i.e. 7.30 p.m.

2.  Wake up early on Saturday morning

Well, this just feels rude! The main reason we let the kids stay up late on a Friday is that there’s a chance they might sleep in a little the next day. We have ridiculously early risers (6 a.m. is usually the latest either one wakes up) and so the idea of forcing them up before they naturally wake up if they happen to lie in can be hard. You may not want to use the full hour here – for your own sanity, but try to get them up earlier than their usual wake up time if you can. This year we’re in a different situation than the past, as Red is on a ski race team and we need to be up on the mountain ready to race by 9.15am. We’ll be getting the kids up early regardless of the time change. Maybe it will work to our advantage this year!

3. Set the clocks forward as soon as you get up on Saturday

This is the main way we start to adjust. If you still have a napper, try and resist them napping so they are ready for bed early by evening.  We normally try and have lunch an hour earlier than normal,  and then fill the afternoon with heavy outdoor activities to tire them out and prep for an early Saturday night. Again, our specific situation this year makes this pretty easy, as my boys are always tired after a day skiing!

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4. Get Outside!

This is my favorite, obviously! For me, the kids fall asleep easiest (and stay asleep all night) if they have had a lot of running around outside during the day.  We’ll be skiing, but if you try and at least get the kids out playing in the garden, particularly in the late afternoon to tire out their little bodies, you’ll have a head start. As it’s the weekend, consider trying something new or going for a different hike. If you can switch up your routine so that the kids have more to take in around them, that will likely help tire out their brains as well as their bodies.

5. Prepare for the fact it’ll be light at bedtime.

We have black-out curtains, but if you don’t, you should seriously consider investing in them. We’ll also talk to the boys about the fact that it will be sunny at bedtime, but that doesn’t mean they stay up later. Red has already been noticing the slow procession of the sunset (and sunrise, because we are up early enough for that too!) and so this should be easy enough for him to understand. I will let them know that the upside of this is that we can have outdoor time after dinner, which we don’t normally have when it’s cold and dark. Make the most of the fact this is the weekend, and let the kids do this if you can. It will really help with that last burst of energy to tire those bodies out!

I’ve also heard that using electronic devices close to bedtime can make falling asleep harder. Normally the boys don’t watch television after dinner, but sometimes we watch a YouTube video about something we’ve been discussing or have a movie night (and that often happens at the weekend). So I’ll be sure to have lots of other fun non-electronic activities planned. A bath in the dark with glow sticks is one of these activities we keep for special occasions, and that the boys love. Playing with glow sticks in the dark is most definitely an activity my kids associate with bedtime, so hopefully, that will help.

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It’s important to remember it takes anywhere up to a week to fully adjust our body clocks to the time change, so don’t despair if things aren’t going well by Monday. Getting a head start on the process, keeping the routine tight after dinner, and getting outside to play in the afternoon so that everyone is physically ready for sleep by the earlier bedtime, are the keys through the rest of the week. Solidarity, my friends, we’ll make it!

Do you have any tips or tricks you would add? I’d love to know how you handle the time change with your kids, so please share a comment.

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