The holidays are around the corner (yippee!). I hope that you’ve already decided what you are going to make for Christmas pudding. One other thing that needs a little planning is travelling with young kids. Nothing can spoil a holiday quite as quickly as a cranky, overtired kid!
4 tips for keeping children’s sleep in check:
Troubleshooting scenarios in your head can help you be more prepared for them. If you have to get on a plane at 8pm, but your baby usually sleeps from 6pm, how will you handle this? The sleep sling is an amazing option by the way, and will keep your hands free as you rush through the airport). If you are heading into a new time zone, adapt to this time zone as soon as possible.
Cues such as light and feeding times work wonders to readjust your child’s internal clock. If you have a toddler or an older child, talk to them continuously before the expected activity/time change. Prepare them for what the sleep environment will be like. What will be the same as at home, and what will be different? If they need to sleep on the plane, then talk them through the steps so that they know what to expect.
You want to retain as much consistency as you can with regard to sleep, but this is not always possible. Decide beforehand what would be the non-negotiables for you, and what you’re prepared to compromise. Maybe getting your child into bed at 8pm is a non-negotiable, while a more flexible schedule would be okay.
“When you’re on vacation, have a general plan for the order of your day rather than a rigid schedule.”
Maybe sitting with your child to fall asleep in an unfamiliar environment is okay, but giving your child a bottle of milk to fall asleep is not. Decide beforehand and stick to your guns. It is normal for children to test the boundaries a little when they’re in a new environment, and if you do not nip it in the bud at the beginning of the holiday these habits will regress further every night. If you’ve recently gone through the process of working hard on changing sleep habits, try your best not to throw it all out of the window!
3. Creating security
Depending on your child’s temperament, “change” might not be their favourite word. For this reason, recreate the security from home as much as you possibly can – take with you their bedding, blankets, white noise, a comfort item, etc. If your child is a little older, walk them through the hallways and the new environment so that they can grow accustomed to it.
Also, allow for more “downtime” before bedtime to give your child that extra bit of help settling down. Most children will need extra attention, comfort and assistance in order to fall asleep in a strange or new environment. Be sure to take the extra time to comfort them and assure them that you’re nearby during this time.
4. The basics
Remember the basics. A consistent bedtime routine is still important, so try and work that into your schedule. Things like screen time should be limited before bedtime (bad news if you are stuck in a hotel room). Exposure to natural light and a healthy diet will still go a long way to preserve good sleep habits. Also, don’t expect your child to fall asleep peacefully after eating candy and sweet treats the whole day.
When you’re travelling with kids you have to be a little bit more flexible. When you’re on vacation, have a general plan for the order of your day rather than a rigid schedule. Try to find the balance between still making sure your child gets adequate sleep, but also being flexible enough if sleep is not always in the same place, or for the same length of time. And if all else fails, make sure you get back on track as soon as you are home!