When it comes to summer, the sun is out and there’s endless fun! Barbeques, beach days, camping, fairs, fireworks… you name it! But parents often feel like they have to pick between helping their kids have good sleep or have fun at different events, not both, but that’s far from the truth! Here’s a few tips to help you party-on while respecting your little one’s sleep!
Still try to respect your little ones sleep needs as much as possible. Their little bodies still need sleep to be able to function properly, including to be their happy-self so do try to make some sleep happen, even if it’s not perfect. Anything is better than nothing! If you aren’t sure what your child’s sleep needs are, check out the Month-to-Month Sleep Guide here for average wake windows, daily totals, average number of naps and max day sleep.
It's best if you can "sandwich" sleep if your child needs to skip a nap, has a short nap or is going to bed late. Try to ensure you are offering ideal sleep before and after an off sleep to help your them catch up on their zzz's. Even if it's a whole day where sleep is disrupted, try to ensure that the day before and after follow an ideal sleep timing, environment and routine.
Sleep on the go:
If you’re trying to help your child sleep while out and about, there’s a few things that you can do to help your little ones.
Practice beforehand- set up a pack-n-play and a Slumberpod if you have access to one in different parts of your house every once in a while, or have a sleepover at another house (you can be there too!) to get your little one used to sleeping in different places than what they’re used to before you NEED them to sleep in a new place.
Be prepared – have all of the stuff that you need and regularly use when it comes to sleep; their swaddle or sleep sack, a portable sound machine (or headphones to block out sound), loveys (if over a year), pj’s, a book for their routine…etc.
Try for the best *possible* sleep environment- if you have access, use portable blackout solution like Sleepout, Snoozeshade or Slumberpod to make for the ideal sleep environment. Another factor that often comes into play in the summer is heat, ideally you can have them in an air-conditioned environment if it’s hot but if not, remember that fans (set up safely) and dressing them in lighter clothing and lower TOG sleep sacks and swaddles may be necessary (read this blog post on choosing the right sleep sack). Also remember that it’s ok if they are even in just a diaper if it’s hot enough!
Complete your regular routine- Even if you’re not in your regular environment, routines are so effective at helping us feel comfortable. In order to fall asleep, our children need to feel comfortable and safe so routines can really help promote sleep, even if they seem tedious. If you’re running tight on time, try to keep all of the same elements but speed up the routine as much as possible by doing things like switching the bath with a sink bath or a wipe-down with a cloth or reading a few pages of a book or only one book rather than two…etc.
Transfer them- Put your little ones down at the place you’re visiting after their regular routine (or a condensed version) and when you’re ready to go home, just transfer them. It’s likely that they’ll wake up, that’s okay! Try to minimize how much you’re stimulating them when they wake up, get the car and everything packed up before you try to transfer them and just lay them down when you get home! If they’re too stimulated when you get home, just redo the second part of the routine before laying them down.
If you know that you’re going to be keeping them up late, try to adjust their daytime sleep to help them handle staying up a bit longer. This could look like letting them nap a bit longer of all of their naps or adding in another nap ie. having 4 naps rather than 3.
Try to prepare your children for what’s going to happen, especially for toddlers, explaining that they’re going to be staying up later, they’re going to fall asleep at the friends place and that you’ll wake them up and bring them home with you when you go or that you’ll be doing a short version of the routine. Helping them understand that even though what you’re doing isn’t their usual, it’s planned can help them stay comfortable.
If it’s a long night – it’s okay to let them sleep in the next morning (if they will). If you do this though, try not to let them sleep in too much, only about a half an hour. This will help prevent a cycle of disrupted sleep from starting, especially if your child is a sensitive sleeper.
Be aware though, it’s possible that they’ll wake up early. If that does happen, and if they’re old enough that they’re on 2 naps (around 6+ months), try not to put them down for their nap early as it’ll promote continued early wake ups -even if it means they’re overtired for their first nap, it’s the lesser of the two evils!
The biggest thing to remember is to have realistic expectations. Don't expect perfection, it's okay if things aren't as smooth as they are at home. Once you get home and back into regular routines, you can get things back on track. I always preach the 80/20 rule, try to keep your little one’s sleep on track for about 80% of the time and don’t stress about straying from sleep hygiene for the other 20% of the time.
Hopefully some of these tips help you get out and enjoy the summer!
Your Sleep Coach