Parents know that during the holidays it’s not always easy to get our little ones to rest easy with “visions of sugar plums” dancing in their over-tired, sleep-deprived, celebration maxed-out heads. While adults can easily recover from an increased on-the-go holiday schedule, it’s not as simple for our children to wind down from holiday parties or vacation travel. However, with a little bit of pre-planning, we can prevent our kids from being tired and cranky during the “most wonderful time of the year.”
Refer to routine. If you know you will be traveling during nighttime hours or that a party will keep you past your child’s bedtime, bring your child’s pajamas. Also, his toothbrush, blankie, or anything else that makes it feel like bedtime for him. We have even bathed our kids at parties so they would feel ready for bed by settling down. That way, if they fall asleep at the party or en route home, they might be more likely to stay asleep (fingers crossed).
Favor familiarity. If you will be sleeping at relatives’ homes or in hotels, bring some of your child’s favorite night time items – stuffed animals, pillows, music CDs, the book you’ve read a gajillion times, maybe even a night light. Surrounding your child with familiar items may lead to easier sleep and less night time waking.
Plan for the preventable. Every parent knows that it kind of sucks to have to haul a ton of stuff with us whenever we travel, but having a back-up plan can also be a life – or in this case, sleep – saver. Bring multiple pajamas in case the room is too hot or too cold or in case your child has an accident or gets sick on one pair. Bring extra pull-ups, diapers, and blankies. Not being able to wash jammies or blankies on a trip sucks even more than bringing multiple pairs.
Try for tired. If your children will be in a car or on an airplane all day long, they won’t be tired when night comes. Take lots of breaks where everyone can get out and stretch their legs. Walk around the airport terminal instead of sitting and waiting. Take a short dip in the hotel pool before bed. Detour to a park or indoor mall play area where kids can run and jump and, well, get tired.
Accept exceptions. Making children miss part of the holiday fun because it’s bedtime is likely to lead to meltdowns. Make exceptions that you know both you and your children can accept. Make a deal to push their bedtime back 30 to 60 minutes. Any more than that and they may get overtired and wound up. Don’t ever totally disregard bedtime because your child’s routine – and yours – may be thrown out of whack for the rest of the holidays.
Plan for being pooped. It’s always tempting to let everyone sleep in after a night of holiday partying; but even adults know that doesn’t always work. Let your child sleep in maybe a half hour longer and accept that she will be tired most of the day. Keep the day following a party low-key, and put your child to bed the next night at her regular time or even a half hour earlier.
There’s no reason for anyone – adults or kids – to miss out on all the fun that holidays have to offer. With a little planning, forethought, and attention to detail, everyone can have fun and stay well rested!