Get more sleep | 3 Easy Tips for Surviving the Fall Time Change with Kids

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I’ll never forget the morning I found myself walk-running through a dimly, and unfamiliar school hallway, frantically looking into each classroom, desperate for a sign of life.

“My darlings, are you here for Sunday school?” the nun asked, gliding across the freshly polished floor.

“Yes! Yes!” I shouted, relieved to be in the right place.

“I’m so sorry, you’re a bit early…We don’t start for another hour and a half. You must have forgotten about daylight savings time.”

I must’ve. Cue the wide-eyed deer in headlights stare.

“Are you (expletive) kidding me?” I thought, looking down at the three little people standing at my feet.

As the babysitter home from college for a well paying weekend gig, I had just survived two personalized pre-dawn toddler greetings/wake up calls and singlehandedly clothed, fed and strapped the 3, 5 and 6-year-olds into the Suburban by 7:30am. It’s also important to note, I drove in from Indiana- a state that didn’t participate in DST at the time, so NO ONE was talking about it. And it was pre-social media- so unless you were really watching the news or had a fancy phone- you had to KNOW it was happening or at least be prepared.

I was blind-sighted.

And exhausted.

We all piled back into the car and spent the next 90-painstaking-minutes at Bread Co. eating our bread-sliced cinnamon crunch bagels. The trip may or may not have included losing the three-year old’s winter coat.

Every year around this time, I get a good chuckle, remembering the “Fallback Fiasco of 2006”, and now I make certain I’m well prepared for Daylight Savings Time. Because as a parent with two under three, times are different. Literally and figuratively.

Remember that time, before kids, when that extra hour of sleep or stay out an hour longer (when daylight savings time ends) was one of the most glorious days of the year? As the leaves begin to change, little ones often have the hardest time adapting to their changing schedule.

While adults love the idea of getting an extra hour of sleep, baby is ready to go to sleep an hour BEFORE bedtime, giving the #bewitchinghour a whole new meaning.

So today I’m sharing my top 3 tips for surviving the fall time change with kids.

3 Easy Tips for Surviving the Time Change with KidsPerson holding red clock on a teal background

When kids are in the mix, you’ve got three options when it comes time to “fall back”:

  1. Do nothing. Some kids won’t even notice the change, but if you’re little is under 5 chances are he/she will. (Even this technically this counts as a plan, I don’t recommend it with small kids- they’ll most likely wake up an hour before you want them to after the change- and no one wants that.)
  2. 3-4 days before: Start shifting all naps and bedtime 15 minutes LATER (not earlier) every 3 days until you reach one hour later. 
  3. Two weeks before the time change: Start shifting all naps and bedtime 5-10 minutes LATER (not earlier) every night until you reach one hour later.

Even though the clock “says” it is actually an hour later than normal bedtime before the time change, once Daylight Savings Time Ends (when we fall back an hour) you’ll be right where you need to be. While this definitely takes more planning and forethought, it can be much easier on little ones. 

More Time Change Sleep Tips

As parents, while the extra hour of sleep may be long gone, try my other favorite tips to surviving the fall time change with kids.

  • I’ve found with little ones under 5 it helps to, as my husband says, “assign the blame” to the clock when it’s bedtime.
    • You can say something like: “Henry, the clock says it is 7 pm. That means that it’s bedtime”
    • Key point: The clock is the bad guy, not you, the parent!
  • Know that it may take more than 4 nights to adjust to the new time change.
  • Keep your bedtime routine consistent
    • A routine can be as simple as a bath, storytime then bed
  • In the morning, open the shades so baby can see daylight (which helps reset his internal clock)
  • In a sleep-deprived stupor, it’s surprisingly easy to still mix up the time change if little ones are around, even in the digital age. For some reason, #mombrain always has a way of causing me to second guess myself when I see two clocks with two different times (which one is right???)
    • To be sure you’re on the right time after the change, suggest keeping at least one device you need to manually change yourself. Maybe this is the Type A personality really coming through, or a mental exercise I need to do to transition to the new time, but it helps me stay sane.
    • Yes, most cell phones and cable boxes fall back automatically, but on occasion, they need to be re-booted to adjust (which is problematic!). Microwave and analog watches are good options.

It’s inevitable. Come November, we’re all going to fall. Let’s just hope it’s not on our face.

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Lauren, a Saint Louis native, is a Newborn Sleep Consultant and mother of two, constantly learning how to embrace the chaos and change motherhood brings. She changed jobs, moved twice, married her high school sweetheart and had twin boys in the same calendar year! Originally trained to design, build and fit prosthetic limbs, Lauren now channels her energy to educate, empower, and equip mamas to overcome the overwhelm during the newborn season of parenting. Lauren taught her newborn twins to sleep twelve hours a night by the time they were twelve weeks old and created a business and sleep consulting service, the TinyTracker, to help parents do the same. She’s just the right mix of “got-her-ship-together” and “totally winging it” with equal parts advice, encouragement, and raw transparency. She’s always on the hunt for the best gluten free pizza in town and lives for dark chocolate, exercise, her family and lazy days at the beach.