On Sunday, November 6, clocks will cuckoo back one hour for Daylight savings. Depending on how the body adjusts…its easy for anyone to go cuckoo too. For many adults this added hour of time can sometimes seem like a windfall (more exercising… more organizing…more sleeping… more, more, more!). But kids will also need some preparation to adjust. Whether attempting to have your child hit the hay a little later, wake a little earlier and nap somewhere between, managing a productive sleep schedule can be challenging. Here are some healthy strategies to aid in the adjustment process and help keep your kids bright-eyed and bushy tailed as their internal clocks work to re-calibrate.
Start the Day the Healthy Way
Waking up to darker, colder, mornings may push us to go for comfort foods: high-fat, high-sugar mornings in place of healthier options. When you start with a nutritious breakfast, you’re refueling your body and brain, kick-starting your metabolism and getting the energy needed to embrace the day. Many studies have shown that children who eat a proper breakfast perform better in the classroom and on the playground with better concentration and problem-solving skills. It doesn’t take a long time to prepare a healthy breakfast, whether a whole grain waffle, yogurt-and-fruit or an English-muffin- egg-pizza. It’s easy to fuel up for a big day with little time and planning.
The same is true for packing a healthy lunch. Set some time with your child the night before and plan a brown bag bonanza that might just inspire cafeteria envy. Get creative with veggies (lettuce wraps anyone?) cut out animal shapes on PB&J, bring it on with a black bean burrito or make a take-to-school taco bar complete with healthy-fat guacamole. Work together with your child and think about fun ways to make lunchtime and after-school snacking a favorite past time.
Keep it Moving!
Research shows that kids who exercise sleep better, fall asleep faster, and tend to stay sleeping longer. Any parent who has watched their kid spend an afternoon playing soccer, jumping in a bouncy house, or going for American Ninja Warrior status on an obstacle-like play structure can certainly attest to this. More physical activity = more rest for all. While it may seem hard to get kids out of the house or even exercise indoors when the weather is not as warm, there are many ways to motivate.
Have a “Dance Party” for an effective aerobic workout that can also increase flexibility and improve body confidence…Find FUNctional activities, like joining your kids for some cold-weather yard work or see who can get the car cleanest with a good old-fashion hand wash. Also, encourage kids to do some exercises that will engage their core. Fun animal movements like crab-walking or partner-plank-slaps (getting head-to-head in high-plank position with a friend) can help provide a stable base for finer motor tasks such as sitting at a desk in school – an often challenging task when kids are tired and cranky.
Turn Off Before Tucking In
Ditch the iPad and put down the PlayStation. Avoiding electronics before bedtime is key to any healthy sleep routine, particularly during the time-change process. Screen-time is often heightened during the evening hours as a way to zone out after a long day, especially as we become less mobile in the colder months. But the light from a screen can promote wakefulness, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Kids of all ages should power-off at least two hours before tucking in. Finding other ways to wind down, such as reading, catching up with family time or thinking about productive ways to spend the next day can positively influence the basic sleep requirements essential for growth, learning, mood, creativity and weight control.
Be a Role Model
The best way to raise happy, healthy, and self-confident children is to demonstrate these behaviors in your own actions. Set a good example for your child in all areas of life, and be extra mindful during times of stress, like adjusting to new routines during a seasonal time change — which can be a drain on everyone. When we eat properly and exercise regularly, not only does it improve our own lives, but it sets the example for our children as well. Make a strong effort to stay with your own routines for fitness, healthy eating and regular sleep cycle even during the dark days of winter and you’re sure to bring positive energy and balance to the whole family.