Well, the season has finally arrived for a bit of festive cheer. Let’s be honest, whether you celebrate Christmas or other festivals, we could all do with a bit of merriment at the end of 2020.
Christmas is a fun, fabulous time for children. Even younger babies are surrounded by a sensory overload of lights, colours, and (up to 6!) family members. This excitement may give way to other overwhelming emotions such as anxiety, sadness, confusion and hyperactivity, all affecting your little one’s ability to calm and rest for their naps or at bedtime.
So, best practice? Most importantly, allow them a little time and space for this to be special. If you’ve had a good routine up to this point it may be a fun couple of days off track, but going back to normal life should be easier once the period is over as the routine helps stabilise the day.
These 10 tips should help!
- If your little one is napping still, build in time for a longer nap-time wind down. Retreat at the first sign their movements are slowing down into their bedroom or a darker, quieter environment for a short story, cuddle or song before their nap.
- Avoid any festive lighting or decoration distractions in the bedroom, keep it a plain, dark and quiet environment to sleep and chill out.
- Keep an eye on what they’re eating close to nap and bedtime, whilst we all like a treat or two, sugary foods like chocolate are stimulants and won’t be helpful for winding down when eaten in excess or close to bedtime.
- Plan lots of active games through the day to burn off the excitement (and extra calories) and quieter family games closer to bedtime and naptime so you don’t have to take them all the way from hero to zero before they climb into bed!
- If they’re old enough, talk through their day (the best bits and bad bits) as you do bath time etc, this helps them process their emotions so they’re not lying there in bed too excited or worrying about anything that’s stopping them from falling asleep.
- Be prepared for an early start for a couple of days with all the excitement! Cortisol levels in the body rise through the early morning hours. If your child wakes then, their melatonin (the sleepy hormone) will be wearing off and it will be harder for them to fall asleep again – especially with all the excitement. If it’s far too early, then go in, be really quiet and hushed and say it’s still night time and leave. When it’s an ok(!) time to rise, you can go in and do a ‘dramatic’ wake up – flinging open the curtains, being really social etc. Just get back on track with the usual wake up time as soon after Christmas as you can.
- Managing overtiredness – act on sleepy signs, that may be a slowing in the child’s behaviour, becoming emotional or fidgety. These may present themselves a lot earlier than usual if there is a lot of excitement.
- Don’t hesitate to bring bedtime forward to an earlier time, or extend their bedtime routine to allow them extra time to settle and calm before bed.
- Remember it takes an average of 20 minutes for a child to fall asleep as they process their thoughts and wind down. That’s for an average day, not an exciting day or the build up to a potential visit from Father Christmas. Allow your child a bit of extra time to drop off at bedtime and for naps.
- The most important thing is to allow your child to have the fun and excitement, but by building in some buffers, such as extending the bedtime routine and modifying activity levels, you will give them the best chance of catching up on sleep over this period.