It’s summertime and the livin’ is easy… in theory. As much as we love the lazier, more relaxed days of summer, those days can end up being more stressful for parents of babies and toddlers. Trying to find activities to keep their kids occupied and (not always successfully!) managing sleep schedules and routines when things are a little more lackadaisical isn’t always easy. Do kids need solid sleep routines and schedules for everyone’s sanity? Yes. Is it harder to stick to those when the sun is out for longer, you’re traveling or are trying to pack as much fun into the next three months as possible? Also yes. Luckily for parents of littles staring summer dead in the face right now: there’s a middle ground. You can have a sleep routine in summer for babies and toddlers and still make the most of the season! More importantly, you can do so without sacrificing plans, fun, or anyone’s sanity.
Summerize your baby’s room
Hands down, one of the hardest things about maintaining a good sleep routine over the summer is the fact that the sun is ALSO up and ready to party, much later than the rest of the year. Babies and toddlers can’t tell time, so the sun’s position and times often dictate their circadian rhythm and make them understand when it’s time to wind it down. Hard to do that when it’s still light out at 9pm, amiright? When you can’t beat ‘em, trick ‘em! The sun may be shining bright like a diamond long after bedtime, but making a few small changes in your kiddo’s room can make it feel like nighttime (and bedtime) before it’s actually dark out. Adding a pair of blackout curtains or shades over any windows in the room can help create a more optimal sleep sitch, and help ‘trick’ their brains and bodies into their bedtime routine. Keeping their room cool during those wicked hot summer months can also help, so adding a quiet fan or portable AC unit is always a good option.
Tire them out
If you want your baby or toddler to crash hard come (manufactured) bedtime, then make sure that they are getting allllllll of their wiggles and giggles out during the day. Lots of time outside playing in the sun (with sunscreen and protection, of course) will prime them for knocking out from sheer exhaustion when you want them to – bonus points for swimming and other water play! Nothing tires a kid out faster. More than the physical tiredness, staying active, engaged and entertained is equally exhausting on their little minds. Tired body + tired brain = snoring before the end of the first bedtime story.
Adjust naps during the day
If you’re hoping to take advantage of lazy mornings and summer nights and shift your little one’s bedtime later (in the hopes they sleep in a little), make sure that you are also making adjustments to their daytime nap schedule. If your babe is hitting the hay an hour or two later than usual in the summer and letting you sleep past dawn, you may need to push their nap out a bit to ensure they get a solid snooze in the afternoon and prevent crash-and-burn later in the evening. These types of changes to their sleep schedule won’t happen overnight, so you may need to gradually shift in increments while they adjust.
Work smarter, not harder when it comes to travel and outings
Planning to take some trips this summer? Going on a lot of fun excursions with the kids? Love that for you. But, as with most kid-related stuff, timing is everything. Try to time road trips so that you’re on the road before nap time (gotta love a good car nap). If you’re staying overnight somewhere, plan ahead so that you can give your kids optimal sleeping arrangements – bring their blankets and/or pillows, sound machines, whatever you need to limit disruptions at bedtime. Try to arrive at your destination at least an hour or two before bedtime, so the kids have time to unwind and acclimate, and you have time for your bedtime routine. Don’t forget, if you’ll be flying and changing time zones, start transitioning them to an earlier/later bedtime at least a week in advance so it’s not a shock to their system.
Sleep is super important for little ones, but we also understand not wanting to miss out or limit your summertime potential because you’re shackled to a strict bedtime schedule or routine. It’s totally OK to loosen up a bit over the summer and make some changes so that you’re able to do everything you want as a family without sending your overtired kids completely off the rails. Just remember: what is done likely needs to be undone come fall, so try to keep changes to your baby or toddler’s sleep routine easy to revert when the time comes.