toddler sleep at christmas

5 Toddler Sleep Tips for Christmas Eve

Oh toddlerhood, the time in a child’s life where boundary-pushing is an everyday matter. Toddlers are trying to take in, learn and explore as much as possible. Trying to discover who they are as a person and their place in this world seems to be based quite heavily in challenging pretty much everything their parents try doing or saying. It is exhausting for parents even though we know we are acting in our toddlers’ best interests. As a Sleep Consultant, I talk to toddler parents every day about boundary-pushing, because obviously, this boundary-pushing applies to sleep as well as pretty much any other activity through the day.

So, when you take this boundary pushing and add in the excitement of Christmas, an excitement that is often unmatched with any other excitement all year, you get the recipe for a very explosive cocktail. 

The songs, the decorations, the lights, the anticipation of seeing what Santa will bring add this to the ever-challenging attitude of a toddler and parents can be in store for a pretty formidable bedtime. I highly doubt there is a toddler parent anywhere that wants bedtime battles, extra toddler stalling tactics or a battle of wills, so here are my top five tips to help your toddler sleep better on Christmas Eve – so you can enjoy a relaxing celebration too!

1. Do a Special Christmas Activity during the day.

Christmas comes only once a year. Making it special is can be one of the highlights for parents. Honoring your toddler’s sleep needs during this time can make it all the more enjoyable because you don’t have the mood swings of a cranky, overtired toddler derailing your special plans. Getting your toddler active and outside during the day is key to helping them be tired and ready for sleep at bedtime. The exposure to sunlight also helps regulate their body clock, making their job of falling asleep easier at night. Going ice skating, on a search for reindeer at your local park or open space, enjoying some sledding and hot cocoa with friends and family or whatever special Christmas Eve activity you chose, ideally, it should take place in the morning or early afternoon. It’s better to use the afternoon and evening to wind down with some calmer activities.

2. Cut sugar intake.

There is already enough excitement on the days leading up to Christmas, especially on Christmas Eve, so adding any extra stimulation isn’t going to help anyone.   The refined sugar contained in candy and cookies is a stimulant, and chocolate contains both refined sugar and caffeine. So, these sweets really make winding down before bed more difficult. I’m not trying to take all the fun away but be cognizant of the amount of sugar your kiddos are having, especially in the afternoon to help avoid bedtime battles and a long, perhaps frustrating, falling asleep process.

3. Watch those holiday movies early.

Electronics (TV, tablets, phones) emit blue light which negatively impacts our bodies’ release of melatonin, the hormone that signals to our body it’s time to go to sleep. So, finish watching those holiday movies (and other screen time) at least 2 hours before bedtime. This will help your toddler more easily be able to fall asleep with their body’s release of adequate melatonin at bedtime. 

4. Use ‘Santa time’ to set your toddler’s ok-to-wake clock.

One of the joys of Christmas to many little ones is getting up SUPER early to see what Santa brought them. However, to parents this super early wake up may not be as joyous. Using an ok-to-wake clock (here’s one of my favorites) with your toddler can be a great way to keep them in bed longer. It can also be a helpful way to compromise on the wake-up time Christmas morning. Set your toddler’s ok-to-wake clock to signal it is okay to get up a bit earlier aka ‘Santa time’. Then your toddler can get up a bit earlier to see what exciting things Santa brought them, and you don’t have to change your rules around sleep and getting up in the morning.  

5. Add a unique holiday tweak to your bedtime routine.

For a bedtime routine to be effective, it needs to include the same steps in the same order every night. This way, your toddler can predict when it’s time to go to sleep and go down calm and happy. Add a special holiday tweak to the routine by reading a special Christmas story or singing a Christmas song. Help motivate your toddler by making sure that the story or song reminds them that Santa is coming to bring presents, but only to kids who are asleep! 

Happy Holidays and Cheers to Healthy, Happy Sleep for you and your family! 

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