Building Cooperation at the Playground?

Our young children are exuberant when the summer sunshine fills the air.  Running, shouting, sliding, digging, swimming, jumping . . . cooperating?

Parents remember that rush of freedom when we as children were finally able to spend those lazy days at the playground or the community pool.  We remember the long afternoons of playing together with the neighborhood kids and the thrill of feeling unbridled by responsibilities.  We want our children to have that same sense of summertime freedom, but we also need to temper that with our expectations for appropriate behavior.  If we were able to REALLY look back on the “good old days” we would remember that it wasn’t all just fun and games–we still had chores and routines and bedtimes and the opportunity to experience discipline when we pushed the limits too far.

In the words of one wise woman I know, a child’s summertime experience should be like that of lying in a hammock. The child is able to lay suspended and feel as though he is floating in the summertime breeze of carefree cloud watching.  However, that hammock needs to be suspended between two strong trees.  The trees are what keeps the child secure in his floaty dreaminess and also grounded to the expectations of the world around him.  If the trees that hold the hammock are not strong and tall, the suspension of the child comes crashing down with a rude bump!

How to build cooperation and maintain an expectation of positive behavior throughout these months?  The early childhood staff at Hopkins have access to some helpful hints provided through the Family Information Services organization.  Use these techniques to help your family work together to build cooperation into your lifestyle.

1. When observing a problem, make a simple statement and wait for your child to respond. (They often do!)
Example: “Your crayons are on the floor” or “Your hands are so dirty from playing in the garden.”

2. Use grandma’s rule:  You may _____________ after you ________________.
Example: “You may play outside with your friends after you have cleared your plate from the table.”

3. Give clear instructions. Be more explicit than you would be with an adult.
Example: Rather than “Get ready to go” say “But your sandals on, put your hat on your head, and pick up your beach bag.”

4. Give a choice.  Allow for just two options. Be willing to accept either option.
Example: “Would you like to read a book under that tree or here on the blanket?”

5. Make it brief–limit your request to just a few words.
Example: “Let’s pick up your blocks.” or “We will leave the park after one more slide.”

6. Make something talk–use a funny puppet voice.
Example:  “I’m such a lonely beach shovel, I wish I could sit inside my beach bucket!”

7. When you say it is time to go, mean it.  Offer a warning about the impending departure, and then follow through.
Example: “We will leave the park after I push you on the swing three more times.  3…..2…….1. Time to go. I know it is sad to leave the park.”

8. Ask helpful questions. Children feel competent (and cooperative) when they can demonstrate they know the answer.
Example: “There is spilled lemonade on the table. How will we solve this problem?”

9. Use humor.
Example: Sing a silly song about what you would like the child to do.  Suggest both you and the child “dance” or “hop” or “wiggle” your way through a task

10. Stick to your routine as best you can.  Summer requires flexibility, but children also need to feel a certain amount of consistency throughout their day to feel secure about what to expect.  Feeling better allows children to act better.
Example: “We are having such a great time on our nature walk. We are going inside after we collect one more leaf because it is nap time.”

Enjoy your summer, and help your child to enjoy themselves too by balancing the freedom of this wonderful season with the expectation of cooperation with your family’s limits, rules, and routines.

Summertime Snoozes

It is important for families to protect the sleep of our young children — even during the summer months. It is also difficult to stick to a sleep schedule because of the many temptations of summer. There is so much more sunlight during this season, and it feels like there are so many opportunities to find play. In addition, a child who is able to truly enjoy the outdoor time of summer and revel in the energy and fun of activities is also old enough to fight sleep because she realizes that every time she sleeps other people in her family are surely having fun without her.

It is tempting to let some of the naps slide, or push bedtime back a bit to accommodate the rest of the family’s schedule. These moments of flexibility are necessary for all of us sometimes, but it is important to not let the flexibility overwhelm the routine. Young children and babies need a regular schedule for sleep. Sleep is what consolidates their learning (and when children are young everything they do involves learning because it is all so new to them), and rejuvenates them for the next thing. In addition, sleep begets sleep. This means that skipping a nap does not often result in a longer night time sleep–it is much more likely that skipping a nap will result in your child having a harder time falling asleep and sleeping for a shorter period of time. Children often depend on the routine of the day to help them regulate their own bodies. If they can count on nap time coming every day after lunch time, their bodies begin to anticipate the shift. If they can’t predict when a nap time will come, then their minds and bodies aren’t in the habit of settling down and they struggle to calm their bodies when we ask them to.

Sometimes the hardest person to convince of the necessity of a good nap is the child herself.  She will resist and moan and cry and often roar at the indignity of being asked to slow down. As a parent, however, we can see that an overtired baby or young child can not be in charge of deciding for herself when she needs a rest time. Some of the following hints may help baby to calm down and rest her body and mind:

1. Catch a child before she is over-tired. Look for signs of sleepiness and get baby to a quiet place to rest at that time. Once she is over-tired, she will ramp up her energy and be physically unable to calm herself for a long time.

2. Ensure that the place your child sleeps is boring and quiet. Remove all the reminders that there is a fun world out there, and make her sleeping place soothing and tranquil.

3. Create a brief routine to help your child slow down. Lower the lights, read a book or two, cuddle or rock or sing a song. The routine should last 5-15 minutes.

4. Some children need a long time to calm their bodies down. The hour before sleeping, engage in quiet games or reading.  A child who has been running around wildly for the past hour will often really struggle to fall asleep.

5. Create an environment that feels secure for your child. You will know what your child most needs. Some children prefer the hall light on; some children prefer a night light or “lovey” (stuffed animal or blanket); some children prefer the door to their room wide open; some children prefer a visit from you for another quick hug five minutes after they have laid down to rest.

6. Remember to get rest yourself during their nap-time or bedtime. It takes a lot of energy to keep up with young children, and we won’t have that energy if we don’t take care of ourselves.

Childhood in Spring

Everyone is hoping that spring is finally here to stay. The desire to be outside and running around seems to be a physical pull in all of us. Our children, most of all, look forward to the warmer breeze, the greener grass, and the longer bouts of sunshine. Childhood in the springtime is a true joy.  As parents we can remember how important it was to us to have days full of playing in the water or the sandbox. Feeling quiet and calm as we lay on the grass and watch clouds drift by. We saved worms from rain showers and splashed in the puddles.

Spring also brings registration for next year’s school adventures. Deadlines around preschool and kindergarten, the rush to get on the list for the coveted summer camp our kids would love. That sense of relaxation can sometimes be whisked away by the pressure we now feel as parents to keep our children busy. To be sure, the experiences that are available to our young children are fantastic and we should take advantage of new experiences that are available for them. Yet, have a goal to balance it all with a protection of childhood; expect that our young children will enjoy their days of spring and summer, they will join activities for the fun of them, and the learning will naturally develop and be enhanced because they are having fun. Provide developmentally appropriate experiences for your preschooler, and watch with joy as they get involved in messes, play with the hose, create sidewalk chalk art, and shout with glee.  This is the sort of spring we remember, the sort of childhood we hoped we could watch them enjoy.

In the series “This I Believe: On Motherhood” the author Marla Rose said it best:

The Essential Gift of Childhood

Marla Rose – Oak Park, Illinois
Entered on October 28, 2005

I believe in my three-year-old son, who is not in the 95th percentile of anything, who did not know his alphabet by his first birthday, who is struggling mightily with shoes and the potty and most social graces. He is truly mournful when leaves fall off the trees in autumn, and he is as gentle and weird and kind as I’d dreamed my child would be. He does not know a second language yet, but he has a magical belly laugh. I believe if I could play a recording of it to warring nations, he would be heralded as an international peacekeeper.

When I was a child in the 1970s, children were woefully unfashionable. Yet, in retrospect, that decade may have been the last time children were allowed some breathing space. We didn’t have to dwell so much on adult preoccupations of trends, fashion, and getting ahead. We could just be children.

I’m not romanticizing my own childhood, because it could be such a brutal, scary time. In my youth, I learned about alcoholism, about mothers who cried themselves to sleep, and about the everyday cruelties classmates inflict on some of us. I do not see childhood in a sepia-toned, idealized way.

This is why I so fiercely guard my son’s youth. In the years before we had hundreds of cable channels, and parents thought their newborns should be baby geniuses, negotiating the often pretty rugged terrain of childhood was our chief concern. I understand that the push for achievement and the pressures we face as parents can be overwhelming. But I believe that I would be robbing my child of an essential gift if I didn’t nurture and protect his youth. The world of playtime and the outdoors is the best laboratory available to my son.

Last week, we were at the playground when I heard a freckled girl in pull-ups call out to her mother from the top of the slide, asking for juice. “Ask me again in French,” said her mother. The girl complied with an impatient eye-roll. At that moment, all I could feel was worry for my child, who is still just getting his feet wet in English, scared that he’d be left behind.

But then I heard my son laughing. He was watching two squirrels chase each other up and down and around a maple tree. “Squirrels are silly,” he said.

Motherhood is a state of always being vulnerable to our expectations and worries about our children. I know that at his core, my son is a happy, free-spirited boy having the childhood he deserves. When I am at my best, I know that there is absolutely nothing to worry about. So at that moment, I forgot about his French-speaking peer and picked my son up, nuzzling those delicious, satiny cheeks, and said “Yes, squirrels are silly.”

I believe in the silliness of squirrels, I believe in my son, and I believe in his childhood.

Marla Rose is a freelance writer and aspiring novelist living with her family in Oak Park, Illinois.

Come On Over and Sit Right Down

Parents who have been to a Hopkins ECFE class will recognize the words to our gathering song for circle time.  In fact, parents who have spent time in ECFE classes can often be heard absent-mindedly singing the tunes for a great many of the songs that we sing during our group time (teachers are often heard humming as well!). Each class — infants through five-year olds — incorporates a special group time with parents; we get a chance to sit together, sing, play simple games and enjoy the closeness of each other’s company.

There are many reasons for gathering in a group and creating a bit of structure in the midst of the joys of free play. The early childhood staff thought we would share some of these reasons with you to give a sense of the academic and social benefits of this experience.  We couldn’t resist sharing some photos of the smiles, interest and excitement that happens during this time as well!

Circle time creates a natural break in the class where free time shifts to down time. Parents have the opportunity to focus in on their child in a way that incorporates a kind of play and interaction that children learn best from–engaging in activities together with a relaxed sort of teaching stemming from the songs.

What are the songs teaching? This shifts throughout the years. Infants learn to recognize the significance of their own name, learn to hear words as separate entities that have meaning, build muscle control through the bumping, popping, shifting and rocking that accompany the songs. In addition, infants get much needed and much delighted in face time with parents–one of the best ways to teach socialization is to socialize. Babies get to study a parent’s face, listen to the beloved parent’s gentle voice, and thrill in the touch of cuddling and hugging.

As children get older, they are gaining different things from song time, even though they may be hearing some of the same songs over the years. They begin to use the songs to learn the names of the other children in their class, they begin to develop a sense of how rhymes work (which sounds like a basic skill, but it is hugely important to literacy) and they begin to see that the teacher is the central figure and authority in the class–she is, after all, the one leading the songs and reading the books. In addition, the repetition and routine that accompany circle time helps the child to gain a sense of control over the process. Children learn best through repetition (although it can sometimes drive their parents crazy), and knowing what movements go along with each song allows the children to get a sense of mastery in this activity. In addition, the fact that the teachers create the same routine around circle time allows the children to get comfortable with the flow of class. They learn that song time comes before snack time, or before the parents separate, and they can relax into that routine and concentrate their energies on learning through play.

Our oldest ECFE classes find the children learning that the structured time has expectations for behavior. This is what will lead them to success in preschool, kindergarten and beyond. They are asked to sit in the circle for circle time, they are asked to take turns and delay gratification (they may see the delightful scarves and want to throw them in the air, but they need to wait until the teacher hands them out–they can not just run en mass and grab them).

Individual children may be working on specific skills within the context of circle time. Teachers are always most concerned with ensuring the safety of all the children–no middle of the circle crashes–but in addition teachers may be working with families to encourage more focused attention, or body awareness and personal space awareness, or even comfort in separation at a certain level from a parent. For this reason, in the older classes, you may see more focused attention on certain skills. If you have a question about why things are operating in a particular way with circle time, be sure to ask your teacher. They are happy to share their reasoning with you.

Parents often learn to love circle time because there is an opportunity to learn songs that engage their children. Often the time between being a child yourself and having your own children is just long enough to forget the words to many of the favorite songs children love. Parents also learn that the method of singing can have a significant effect on the way their children learn. Practicing songs in a slow, paced manner will help children attune to the song and the words. Learning the songs, the finger plays, and methods of soothing activities can help parents when they are looking for play experiences that are genuine, beneficial, social and relaxing. The children recognize the songs and games outside of class and love the experience of re-playing them in their own homes.

There is often an opportunity to gain insight into child development as well as your individual’s personality through circle time. In the early years we notice that some children tend to sit comfortably with a parent and never dream of moving–they may or may not be singing, but they are certainly sitting still. Other children enjoy getting to move in and out of the circle.  They are listening and attending to the songs even if they aren’t sitting in the circle, but they aren’t yet interested in sitting through it all. Teachers see both of these approaches as typical. Parents can gain an understanding of how their child engages with the world by watching their activity level during circle time. Often, the best approach for parents is to remain in the circle and continue to take part in the activities. The child will, in time, realize that the special time with the parent is worth staying in the circle.

Circle time is a delight for all the participants in an ECFE class. It is a special time for parents and children, as well as a purposefully crafted learning experience by teachers. Most of all, circle time should be FUN, so enjoy this special time during class with your child!

What is the “Best” Preschool?

As shocking as it might seem to those of us just trying to slog through the winter months, it is time to jump into action and plan for the preschool year next September.

The process of choosing a preschool for your child can seem overwhelming, as it is the first time for many parents that they are asked to delve into the details of their child’s academic future. What parents remember doing in school as children does not always correspond to how schools are engaged in teaching now. In addition, preschool memories are at best murky for parents, and sometimes we overlay how we learned in elementary school onto what we expect out of a preschool. As parents it is important for us to remember that the needs and development of a three-year-old are vastly different from the academic needs of a third or fourth grader.

It is overwhelming to start learning about all of this just at the time when you are expected to meet registration deadlines. It is, after all, winter. We should all be snug under a blanket reading a good book to our children rather than working so hard to plan for something months and months away. This is why the early childhood staff of Hopkins offers this list of advice and criteria to help you make the best judgment as to which preschool system would suit your child’s and your family’s needs.

When deciding how to best judge a preschool, the early childhood staff suggests assessing the following areas. Pay careful attention to the details in each of these areas, and then decide what provides the best environment for your child. Remember, there are a wide variety of preschools in our community, and they offer a wide variety of programs. Schools sometimes market perks to parents which may not match what your child needs from a preschool. Look carefully at each program and see how it will work best for your own individual child, rather than deciding beforehand what is “best” based on marketing materials.

The first way to assess a program is by looking at the building itself and understanding the program details. This includes understanding how the preschool operates, and how this will affect you as a parent. Understand the communication system used by the school and the teachers. How will you know what went on during the day? How will your questions or concerns be addressed during the course of the school year? In addition, find out how you can be involved in the classroom activities. Are there volunteer opportunities that you can take advantage of? Are there activities within the classroom that you will be invited to join? Another program detail to address is whether or not there is an advisory board for the school. Do parents have a formal opportunity to provide insight, work with the teachers, and help to meet the goals of the program? It is also helpful to find out if parents arrange play dates for the classmates outside of class time. This can build deeper connections between the students.

Look to see the level of diversity within the classes. A wide variety of cultures, socio-economic backgrounds and worldly experiences in the classroom provide a rich experience for the children. When assessing this aspect of the program, it is important to understand how the school celebrates holidays and yearly rituals. In what ways are families invited to share their traditions and experiences? A parent needs to be comfortable with the way the teachers will be celebrating and talking about these sorts of events throughout the year.  So much of a young child’s “work” is learning the social graces of getting along with others. Building a strong foundation of respect for all people based on day-to-day familiarity is a fantastic way to teach children how to get along with others.

When looking at the classroom, examine what is being displayed on the walls. The artwork, pictures, and posters used to decorate the room can provide clear insight into the daily activities of the classroom. Assess what the teachers are using to represent their methods of teaching and the outcomes of their lessons.

Get to know the staff. Minnesota state law requires that the ratio of children to adults in a preschool program is 10:1. Remember, the staff of a program are much more important than what a simple ratio tells you. The teacher is your child’s first introduction to the joy of school. Therefore, it is beneficial to know as much as you can about this person. For instance, what is the expected education level of the teachers in the school? What is the process for teacher development and staff training? How many years of experience has the teacher had with preschool children? It is helpful to understand the teacher turnover rate within a program. Teachers who have stayed with a program for a length of time often have a genuine love of what is going on within that program.

Interaction between children and staff is important to watch. Does the teacher make an effort most of the time to get on the child’s level to communicate? Are the teacher’s words developmentally appropriate and easily understood by the children? Does the teacher model the sorts of behaviors expected of the children? These sorts of interactions provide the environment that your child will be entering every day, so make sure you are comfortable with what you see.

It is helpful to get a sense of what we as parents expect of a preschool, but it is also important to have an understanding of what the program will expect of your child. Often preschool programs require that your child be potty trained. Some children have a difficult time meeting this expectation. Remember that the preschool program is asking that the children who enter their program are potty trained, they are not expecting that all children who are between the ages of 2 ½ and 3 ½ be potty trained. If your child is not yet potty trained, do not feel pressure to “catch up” to others. Pressuring a child to perform in this area in order to meet a deadline for school could cause many difficulties around potty training. Preschool registration can happen whenever your child has reached this milestone.

It is important to understand what self-help skills will be required of your child throughout the day. Are there things that you are currently doing for your child that they will be asked to do for themselves during the school day? Can your child manage with clothes and outerwear (for instance jacket, mittens, hat)? Will the students be expected to pour milk or water from a small pitcher? When the teachers sing the “clean up song”, what will the children be expected to help with? What will the teachers be asking of your child, and how can you practice these skills now to create success in preschool?

Teachers expect that children will be learning many skills during the preschool years. Some of these are the academic foundations for later learning, but much of preschool is geared toward helping children learn to get along with each other, learn to follow rules in a group, learn to adjust to the demands of a school day. This is a very difficult shift for children, and requires a lot of energy from them. Throughout the school year it is likely that all children will have some sort of difficulty with meeting these expectations. Teachers expect that there will be challenging behaviors from children and between children. It is important for a parent to understand what the behavior expectations of the students are, and how the staff will handle the situation when expectations are not being met. Parents need to feel comfortable with the system of discipline used within the preschool system.

The teachers should also expect children to be excited and lively and engaged in the activities that are provided for them. When observing the classroom, check to see that the day-to-day environment provides a place for children to explore and enjoy their surroundings. Children learn best when they are immersed in something that interests them greatly, surrounded by people who care about their well-being and encouraged to “dive in” to activities that are developmentally appropriate. Teachers should expect children to do just that within the classroom.

Preschool curriculum. A quality preschool curriculum is, as often as possible, open-ended and play based. This means that activities for learning do not have a definite “right” or “wrong” answer, but that the materials encourage exploration and understanding through play. The preschool program should not have all the children doing the same thing at the same time in the same way.

It is important to note, however, that most preschool programs have a certain amount of time set aside for “group time”. In this instance, all the children are expected to do the same thing at the same time. This group time generally includes story time, songs, calendar activities and special seasonal events. This portion of the school day usually lasts about as long as a three-year-old’s attention span — somewhere between 10-20 minutes.

The preschool should be set up to incorporate a variety of activities. For instance, it is important to understand how the large motor needs of your child will be addressed. Is there a large play space or gym? What is the school’s policy for playing outside? In addition to training the small motor skills of your child through art work and more detail-oriented activities, the large motor movements of your child should be daily addressed.

A portion of the classroom should encourage dramatic play—the acting out of the roles that children come into contact with every day. For instance, a “house” area is usually a favorite of children in preschool. Other ideas that the teacher might have throughout the year are “store” , “bakery”, or “fire house”. These role-playing activities are beneficial for your child’s social / emotional health as well as the development of their “world view”. Preschools often avoid popular culture toys and play items. Items that are already “labeled” (by already having a name, such as Sponge Bob, or Dora) tend to be played with in prescriptive ways. Often preschools will avoid these sorts of character toys and use more generic items, which allow children to explore different ways to play with them. Other play areas to look for in the classroom are: a library area that is soft and comfortable and invites students to page through books at their own pace for enjoyment, an arts area that invites open-ended projects, a sand/water table that encourages sensory experiences, separate and distinct areas of the classroom that allow free movement from one activity to another.

Assessing progress throughout the year. What does a “successful” year in preschool mean to the school, and how will they show that your child has accomplished this? What formal and informal tools are they using to understand what your child is learning throughout the year? It is important that a parent is comfortable with the curriculum goals of the school, and comfortable with how those goals are being assessed in the student.

Another piece of sage advice to heed is to make sure the school will be a good match to your own individual child. When observing, find a child in the classroom who has the same characteristics as your child. For instance, is your child shy around groups of people? Is your child active and have the need to burn lots of energy? Do you have a child who tends to concentrate for long periods on one activity? Find a child in the classroom who best matches your own child and see how the staff interacts with that child. Find out how the staff and the environment meet that child’s needs. In this way you will have an idea of how your own child might flourish in this environment.

Ultimately, understanding how your preschool of choice operates and what their goals are will help you to feel confident it is the right place for your child. As a parent you will make the most informed decision because you know best what your child needs. Take the time to assess the schools you are interested in, and then feel comfortable that the decision you make for your child will begin a wonderful school career!

Family Mealtime Frustration

This time of year families tend to focus on feasting. We eat to celebrate, we share a meal when we get together with family and friends, and sometimes we eat just because we are so cold!

With all of this eating happening around us, it can be troubling to have a toddler who is in the habit of refusing to eat! However, it is common during the toddler years to become more selective and opinionated about food. What can a parent do? The early childhood staff of Hopkins Public Schools would like to share some tips and ideas to help your family meal-times feel fun – not frustrated.

It is helpful to remember that toddler behavior is often erratic, so it isn’t surprising that your young child will like a food one day and decide she doesn’t like it the next. The power struggle that erupts around food is often due to the toddler’s desire to assert her independence, not because she has any real or lasting opinion about the food on the table. The more we see their whims as being permanent, the more we reinforce their selective behavior. For this reason, keep family meals as stress-free as you can manage. Don’t let your child think that her eating is more important to you than it is to her.

  • Make meal time enjoyable – sit with your child and eat with her. Your toddler loves your company, it makes every activity more enjoyable and longer lasting.
  • Allow your child to experience her food fully – even though it creates a mess. Children are sensory creatures – then need to really “get into” food to enjoy it. A mess-free meal will be a future goal, but for now the mess is leading to a joy around food.
  • Have a place and time for eating established in your routine. When it is time to eat a meal or snack, sit down at the table and make space for doing so. Allow your child to eat as much or as little as she wants. Keep meal times and snack times short to respect their natural attention span. Ten to 20 minutes is enough time to eat. If your child is dropping food or playing more than eating, then she is telling you she is finished even if it hasn’t been the full mealtime.
  • Three meals and two snacks will allow your child the opportunity to eat every 2-3 hours. Between these times, don’t offer food – only water. If your child is not eating between the scheduled times to eat, her body will naturally grow hungry and ready for the next scheduled meal.
  • If your child refuses to eat at the scheduled time, honor her assertion that she is not hungry. Children need to eat a lot less than adults to feel full. We all know how uncomfortable it is to over-eat, and children have much smaller stomachs than we do. Your child will certainly survive a skipped meal or snack –especially if you and she both know there is another eating opportunity within the next 2 hours.
  • A child may need to see or experience a food 10-20 times before he is comfortable trying it. This does not make him a picky eater – simply cautious about trying new things. This is a great strategy for young children – if they jumped into new things constantly they would be in grave danger most of the time.
  • When you serve a new food that might be challenging for your child, be sure to have something that you know your child usually likes. Then allow your child to decide when he picks up the new food. If he refuses or doesn’t seem interested the first 19 times, don’t pressure. Remember, this is very typical behavior for toddlers.
  • Parents often have an influence on their child’s eating that they don’t even realize. If you have been referring to your toddler as a “picky eater”, she will believe that is what she is. Even if your toddler is going through a phase of refusing food, avoid talking about it with her or to others as a permanent situation; it won’t be. In addition, be mindful of how you present food to your toddler. If you are making a face when serving a healthy vegetable, your daughter will understand quickly that you don’t like the food. If you don’t like it, there is no reason for her to try it!
  • The more matter of fact we can be around food during the toddler and preschool years, the less likely your toddler will be to engage in a power struggle. To be sure – every toddler will attempt to engage in a power struggle, but if his parent simply doesn’t engage then there is no “game” to play over food. The fact that he ends up hungry and waiting for the next meal only creates more of an incentive for him to get to the business of eating the next time your family sits down to the table.

Daylight Savings and Your Toddler

Sleep is rarely easy in households with very young children. Just when a pattern seems to develop and the family routine includes a longer stretch of sleep, something happens that upends our restless nights.

The one hour adjustment for Daylight Savings can make a significant difference in the sleep patterns of many young children. Their rhythms for waking and sleeping are fragile at best, and this time adjustment can be hard for them to adjust to.

The staff at Harley Hopkins wanted to offer some strategies for helping your family smooth the transition to this hourly change.

  • A week before the change, begin adjusting your child’s bedtime by 10-15 minute increments.  Every other day of the week, move her bedtime up by this small among of time. When the official change happens, her inner clock won’t sense such a big difference.
  • It can take up to a week for the change to fully be incorporated into your child’s inner rhythm. Be patient with them as they wake earlier or resist sleep in the evening.
  • If you regularly wake your child in the morning, continue to wake them at the time you normally do, according to the adjusted clock. Morning waking has an effect on night-time sleeping.
  • Have a bright, sunny, and active morning each day of the week after the daylight savings change happens. Being active in the morning helps a child to develop a sense of the flow of the day. An active morning encourages a regular pattern of active / rest /active /rest throughout the day.
  • Keep a routine throughout your day for meals, naps and activity. Feed your child at regular intervals, and have a nap or rest time at regular times. Your child will be able to count on their biological needs being attended to at regular intervals, and their body will begin to internalize the schedule.

Daylight savings time is often difficult for us all – but especially difficult for families with young children. Use these strategies to successfully navigate the change this year.