Living where the sun and warm weather only make their appearance for a few brief months each year, a veritable party breaks out in my home when we’re finally able to say “It’s summer!!” But, as tempting as it can be to get into a pattern of long days and late nights to squeeze every last drop out of summer, hot days loaded with activities mean it’s more important than ever to respect our little one’s sleep needs and help them get the rest they need.
It may seem daunting, but it IS possible to keep sleep on track AND relish the summer. Here are WeeSleep’s top tips for helping your baby or toddler get the Zs they need so your whole family can have a blast this summer:
Honour naps (as often as possible): Summer - for many families - means road trips, barbeques, and late night campfires. This is all fantastic! Car songs, marshmallow roasts, and campfire stories are the stuff family memories are made of. Remember that the more rested your child is, the more he (and YOU!) will be able to enjoy these moments. Honour naps as much as possible, even when you are on the road. If your child is still taking more than one nap, make the first nap of the day in the crib (instead of on-the-go) whenever possible, as this will set the tone for the rest of the day. If your child takes just one mid-day nap and you plan to be travelling, time your travel for naptime so your little one can have a decent sleep in the car and will not miss her daytime sleep entirely.
Don’t make late bedtimes the norm: I savour my little guy’s s’more-covered smile as much as the next parent, but in order to avoid the crankiness of an overtired preschooler, we try to limit his late-night campfires and backyard barbeques to very special occasions. Well-rested children generally won’t have too much difficulty with a later-than-usual bedtime if it happens once-in-awhile; but, if you are going to keep your little one up late, be sure to get him right back on track with a normal bedtime the next night, so that he doesn’t begin to accumulate a sleep debt and really throw off his sleep and his summer!
Avoid the ice cream truck before bed: The sound of that tinkling music is the bane of most parents’ existence when it inevitably rolls down the street just as you were planning to announce “Bedtime!” If you are going to offer sugary, sought-after, summery treats (lemonade, popsicles, slushies, oh my!), make sure they happen in the afternoon, well away from bedtime. Sugar will rev up your already-excited kiddo, and she’ll be bouncing off the walls at bedtime, rather than drifting off to restful, amazing sleep.
Don’t skip routines: Children LOVE routines. Really! While your child may balk at the suggestion of bedtime, he truly will thrive most in situations that feel familiar, safe, and predictable. Even when you are rushing home from late-day summer activities, don’t assume that skipping your child’s routine will help you get him to bed faster. Your wee one is actually much more likely to go to sleep more easily and peacefully if bedtime is preceded by his usual routine (albeit truncated, perhaps!). Do a quick bath, into his PJ’s, read a short bedtime story, and then it’s off to sleep so he can wake up refreshed to take on the next amazing day of summer!
Don’t get stuck in new sleeping arrangements: It can be tough to create separate sleeping quarters when you’re camping, hotel-ing, or staying with friends or relatives during your summer travels. Whenever possible, DO try to create a separate sleep space for your baby or toddler, to avoid getting in the habit of co-sleeping, which can be tough to break once you’re back at home. Whether your child is in a crib or playpen, or on an air mattress or cot, you can set their sleep space up in your room, but pin up a sheet or blanket between your bed and theirs, to create the illusion of separate rooms so that it is more like your situation at home. If separate sleep spaces are simply not an option and you must co-sleep, be sure to get back on track with your usual sleeping arrangements as soon as you get home, so your vacation exceptions don’t become the new norm.
Create familiar sleep environments: If your baby is used to a nice, quiet, dark, peaceful environment at home, recreate this during your travels to help your little one feel more comfortable and familiar in their temporary sleep quarters. Travel with a portable blackout blind (the GRO Anywhere Blind is perfect for this!) to help keep evening light and early morning sun rises from disturbing your child. If the party outside will be going into the wee hours of the morning, pack a sound machine to ensure the noise doesn’t mean multiple night wakes for your babe. And, if your kiddo has a special lovey or a can’t-live-without-it blankie, make sure you pack this (and maybe even a spare!) to help your little one drift off into dreamland feeling comfy and safe.
My team and I provide loads of free sleep advice on our Facebook page. We welcome you to follow our tribe of sleep-passionate (or deprived) parents around the globe as we share tips, stories and the straight goods on sleep at WeeSleep.ca, and follow me on Instagram and Twitter so we can rock this #sleeprevolution together!
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