How the Holidays impact children's sleep
In general, the Holidays represent a break, the opportunity to relax and spend time with family. Despite the best intentions, the Holidays often end up rhyming with a lack of routine, disrupted sleep patterns, and little or no naps for little ones. Let's be honest. Setting our regular schedule aside can be good for both children and adults. It is however highly possible that after this welcome pause, children will return to daycare somewhat disorganized and cranky due to their lack of sleep.
Lack of sleep can be manifested in a variety of ways: irritability, aggressive behavior, frequent tantrums, crying, weakened immune system, etc. These manifestations may be present when children come back to daycare. After one or two weeks during which a regular routine was far from a priority, children's sleep patterns will be affected.
Here are a few tricks that can make children's return to daycare much smoother if they seem to require more sleep than usual.
Request parents' help before Christmas vacation. Although you have very little to say about what goes on in their home, you can ask parents to reinforce a more regular routine a few days before their child returns to daycare to limit the impacts a lack of sleep can have on daycare life. Ask them to slowly increase their child's naptime and the presence of regular routines as Christmas vacation winds down. They can also try to put their child to bed and wake him/her up at regular times. All these strategies can make a big difference.
Promptly get back to your regular routine. As soon as children return to daycare, go back to your regular routines. It is very likely that the last days before Christmas vacation were filled with festivities and special activities. A return to strict routines will help you get back on track. However, you can try to be somewhat lenient to give children the chance to get back into the groove of daycare life. Offer many periods of free play and hold off on highly organized and demanding activities for a few days.
Be understanding and give children time to get back into the swing of things. Things may take awhile to get back to normal. Give yourself a few days, or even a few weeks to get back on track and give children a chance to make up for their lack of sleep during the Holidays.
Extend naptime. Adding 15 minutes to naptime can be beneficial for all. However, naptime should never end after 3:00 p.m. Otherwise, it could interfere with bedtime at home.
Offer more relaxing activities. Extending relaxation periods and providing more calm activities can help children make up for their loss of sleep during Christmas vacation.
Take advantage of the Holidays and appreciate every magical moment. They are what Christmastime is all about...
Maude Dubé, Specialized educator