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Daylight Saving Time Tips for Parents: Everything Parents Need to Know

Daylight Saving Time Tips for Parents: Everything Parents Need to Know

We spend so much energy and time instilling a healthy sleep foundation for our little ones. When you finally think you have figured out your child and have a solid bedtime routine, BAM!—a change occurs. Be it a sleep regression, a change in family dynamic—such as a new sibling or a new pet—or Daylight Saving Time, it seems like we are always playing catch up. Fun Fact: Did you know that it’s Daylight Saving Time, no ‘s’ at the end of saving? This is because we are ‘saving daylight.’ The term “daylight savings time” is so commonly used instead of "daylight saving time," especially in Australia, Canada, and the U.S. because the term “savings” is used in everyday contexts, such as “savings account".

Why is Daylight Saving Time so important if it screws up our sleep? The main purpose of Daylight Saving Time is to make better use of daylight. Primarily during the summer months so we don’t “waste” sunlight. Though Arizona and Hawaii don’t observe Daylight Saving Time.

In the spring, Daylight Saving Time is to add an hour forward, hence the term "Spring Forward," and in the fall, we subtract an hour, hence the term "Fall Back." This year, Daylight Saving Time starts March 14 and ends Nov. 7.

Now that you know why, let’s get down with the how.

Daylight Saving Time Tips for Parents

Adjust your child’s bedtime over a few days prior to the time change.

In the spring, having your child go to bed 15 minutes earlier each night over the next few nights will help them adjust, suggests Lisa J. Meltzer, Ph.D., Professor of Pediatrics at National Jewish Health and Professor of Family Medicine at University of Colorado School of Medicine. 

And in the fall, begin a week before by shifting mealtime and bedtime 15 minutes later than usual accompanied with your solid bedtime routine, suggests Carolina Romanyuk, certified expert in Family Sleep and Maternity, and a member of The American Association for Drugless Practitioners and International Association of Child Sleep Consultants. This will reset your child’s clock in time for DST.

Create the perfect sleeping environment for your child.

Bedrooms should be cool, dark, and comfortable, says Dr. Meltzer, who co-authored Pediatric Sleep Problems: A Clinician’s Guide to Behavioral Interventions. “And now that it is going to be lighter a little bit later in the day, that dark part is really important,” she says. 

Consider installing blackout shades/curtains on the bedroom windows, and try to limit technology in the bedroom (especially with older kids and teens). “Not only is technology very engaging, it also emits a lot of light and makes sleep onset harder, Dr. Meltzer adds. White noise machines will help keep out any sounds that may startle or awaken your little one, and a toddler clock will help your toddler know when it’s time to wake-up, Romanyuk suggests.

Control the light in your home. 

Keep your family from getting tired too early by bringing more light into the house in the evening hours in the fall and limiting light during evening hours in the spring. Experts suggest choosing bulbs based on color temperature, with 4100 Kelvin being the ideal. Our body’s sleep system (circadian rhythm) works off of light and dark. When our environment is lit up, it keeps us awake, and when it’s dim or dark, we get relaxed and ready for sleeping, Romanyuk says.

Stick with your typical routines. 

Continue to have your children’s meals, snacks, and naps at the same time as usual. Even if they get up at the crack of dawn and demand breakfast ASAP, make them wait. 

5 Ways to Take Advantage of Extra Daylight in the Spring

While Hawaii and Arizona have long ago opted out of Daylight Saving Time (and a handful of other states are trying to eliminate the biannual changing of clocks), New Yorkers will make the shift and gain an extra hour of sunlight. So why not take advantage of it?

Burn Off Extra Energy at the Playground

Undoubtedly after the seemingly long winter (doesn’t it always feel like the warm weather is slow to come?!) of the kids being cooped up inside, they’re eager to get outside and run around without having to layer and bundle up. Take your children to the local playground to burn off that pent-up energy.

Eat a Picnic Dinner

There’s nothing better than dining al fresco, whether it’s at a restaurant that has outdoor seating, in a backyard (if you’re lucky enough to have one), or on a building’s rooftop terrace. I really love spreading out a blanket and dining among nature (and other picnickers) at the local park. Make sure to check this list of favorite picnicking spots to see if there’s one where you haven’t dined. Stumped on what to pack for dinner? I love hummus and veggies, fresh fruit, sandwiches or kid-friendly sushi, and cheese and crackers.

Enjoy a Family Bike Ride

Another way to burn off your kids’ excess energy that comes with warmer weather is to go for a bike ride. Heck, you could even ride your bike to your favorite picnicking spot for an extra-hour double-whammy! Just make sure to buy a helmet that fits properly, learn your state’s bicycle laws, and keep everyone safe on the bike ride.

Germinate Seeds and Work in the Garden

I have fond memories of helping my dad start seeds and then plant them in the garden after school and on the weekends. And eating the vine-ripened tomatoes—there are no words for how scrumptious they are—trust me. Early spring is when gardeners typically start seeds indoors for a summer garden, and ‘springing forward’ means it’s time to get planting. When it’s finally time to transplant the seedlings, take advantage of the time after work and school and get your kids to play in the dirt.

Become a Guerilla Gardener

If you don’t have a green thumb, or the space to garden, a fun option is to make seed grenades with your kids to help beautify the neighborhood—just make sure you use seeds for native wildflowers!

Want to be really wild? Ride your bikes to a playground and enjoy a picnic dinner with veggies you grew in your garden and leave a few seed grenades behind.

Tips for Staying Healthy and Safe When Daylight Saving Time Ends

Navigating can be harder when the sun sets, and once the time change occurs, it will start getting dark around 4:45pm. In fact, pedestrians walking around at dusk are nearly three times more likely to be struck and killed by cars in the days following the end of Daylight Saving Time than just before the time change.

Make sure everyone gets home safe by:

  • Reviewing the route. If your child walks home or to nearby transportation, be sure to go over those common routes when the sun sets to ensure they know where they’re going.

  • Utilizing mini flashlights. Buy a small flashlight that can be easily hooked onto a keychain or backpack.

  • Attaching reflectors. Not only should all bikes and scooters have them, but pedestrians should also wear them on clothing. 

The colder (and darker) months can wreak havoc on everyone’s health. Not only is it cold and flu season, but there’s also a higher likelihood of developing seasonal affective disorder.

Keep the whole family healthy by:

  • Moving together. Take advantage of that extra hour of daylight with a brisk early morning walk—the whole family can do it together. Don’t want to bundle up? Do some yoga or an exercise DVD in the comfort of your own home. Exercising during the day can help boost everyone’s mood and help your family sleep soundly later on.

  • Getting some vitamin D. The decrease in sunlight means less exposure to ultraviolet B (UVB) rays and less vitamin D, which is needed for a healthy immune system. Eat vitamin D-rich foods like fatty fishes and fish oils such as salmon, mackerel, and cod liver oil. You can also get vitamin D through egg yolks, vitamin D-fortified milk, and other dairy products. Consider talking to your own doctor, as well as your child’s pediatrician, about a daily multivitamin or vitamin D supplement that contains the recommended 600 IU of vitamin D (for ages 1 and older).

  • Buying in-season veggies. The end of summer doesn’t mean the end of fresh produce. Beets, broccoli, sweet potatoes, carrots, eggplants, and kale are just a few of the vegetables that are better in the fall—and are super-healthy for your family.

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