Dave Gibson


Clocks change

How to help children with the Autumn clock change

British Summertime officially ends on Sunday 30th October. With it comes brighter mornings and shorter evenings as the Clocks ‘fall back’. 

Essentially, the fallback gives us an extra hour as we sleep on Saturday night. Not such a bad thing if you are living on your own and fancy an extra hour in bed on Sunday morning.  

However, for families with babies and toddlers, an hour’s adjustment to their carefully planned routines is not as easy to manage. 

For young children too, an hour change in sleep and mealtimes is a big step to take in one go.  

With families in mind, I have created my simple three-step ‘clock change plan’    

1. Baby steps are best

Our body clock is designed to move by about 2 minutes each day. Hence all sleep specialist stress that we all need to maintain as consistent sleep and wake time as possible. Whilst the adult body clock can adjust by up to one hour if needed, babies and small toddlers are much more sensitive to change.

If you have a baby or a ‘pre school toddler‘ I recommend tweaking the nap and bed times by 10 minutes each day. This means you gently move them backwards towards the eventual change on Sunday 25th October. The first step, for example, would take a 7 p.m. bedtime to 7.10 p.m.

Ideally this adjustment would be in 6 small baby steps. To line up being in the new Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) by next Sunday you would start this Monday 24th October. 

If you miss these start times and have fewer days to play with, change the length of the steps accordingly. For example, if you have four days split the hour down into fifteen-minute steps.

If your child is at school, or nursery school the change of schedule will need to wait until later in the week. Start their change on Thursday night, and set their bedtimes, and bedtime routine backwards by 20 minutes on Thursday, Friday and Saturday so that on Sunday morning they are in sync with the new time zone.

Adjusting nap times at home should also be done in the same baby steps. If your child has a nap at nursery school you could also encourage them to change their Friday nap time.

The aim of all of this is to make sure you have an easy a week as possible. But more importantly, you start work next Monday morning with a minimum of stress.

Equally, toddlers who are asked to spend the extra hour often just don’t understand why things have changed so suddenly.

2. Move mealtimes too

Mealtimes are a key part of our daily routine. They also help to set our body clock. As you move bedtime routines and sleep times backwards adjust all your baby’s and toddler’s meal times, bath time and nap times by the same amount of time too.

3. Explain what’s going on

Whilst most children will welcome the extra time with you at night it’s always best to tell them what is going on and why you are tweaking their meal and sleep times.

Ideally toddlers who are asked to spend time in bed in the morning should understand why they are being asked to do this.

I like using clocks with a sun and a moon to explain what’s going on. The fun here is that your child is asked to stay in bed when the moon is out and to get up with the sun. This makes far more sense to them than GMT.

Finally, if you end up with the ‘one hour in bed next Sunday’ it’s important to not worry. Your child and baby will soon adjust to the new routine.

Your main challenge here, however, is that your toddler may well stop you from having your extra hour in bed! 

Hope these tips help