These clock change tips for kids helped me cope

Worried the clock change will disrupt sleep routines? Here's how to handle it

Clock change tips: a tired woman with her eyes shut holding a digital clock above her head sits up in bed beside a sleeping man
(Image credit: Future)

The clocks go forward this weekend but it doesn’t need to signal disaster for your child’s sleep routine. Here’s how to get through the clock change.

Pre-parenting, the clocks going forward was my favorite weekend of the year. The official start of British Summer Time meant an end, at last, to dark mornings and heralded the season of lazy evenings spent in the pub with friends after work. 

Factor kids into the equation and rather than looking ahead to the clocks going forward, parents everywhere are wincing at the thought of losing an hour of sleep - have we not sacrificed enough, already? We've bought the best baby monitor money can buy, and followed all the guidance on establishing a good sleep routine and now you want to rob us of an hour of kip? Add the general mayhem that ensues when you mess with a child’s sleep routine and it’s no wonder most parents don’t exactly greet the clocks going forward with the glee that we once did.

But it doesn’t have to be like this. There’s no need to dread the clock change. With a few practical steps and a bit of a mindset shift, you can approach the weekend with less worry. Here’s what worked for me…

1. Decide what type of parent you are

Every article you read about how to cope with the clocks going forward will say the same thing. Put your child to bed 10 to 15 minutes later every day for several days in the run-up to the clock change. Et voila, by the time Saturday night is here they'll already be going to bed an hour 'later' but bang on time (sorry...) for the day after the clock change.

And for some parents, this works like a charm. They tend to be the parents who do routine really well. But other parents just aren’t wired like this and it’s as pointless as telling them to try pushing water up a hill. You’ll know which type of parent you are. You’ll either have already worked out when to start your sleep recovery program (and you might even have a spreadsheet for it) or you’ll find yourself scrolling articles like this one on Saturday night while the kids end up going to bed half an hour later anyway. 

If routine suits you and this trick works - brilliant. If it doesn’t - also brilliant. Some parents handle the clocks changing by simply going with the flow and adding an extra bag of coffee to the Tesco order.

2. Resist revenge bedtime procrastination

You’re probably heard of this. It’s when people who get little time to themselves (hello, parents everywhere…) avoid going to bed - even though they may be tired - until the early hours of the morning. Why? Because even though they would benefit from an early night, they’re trying to claw back a little bit of the downtime that parenthood has stolen from them.

It can be especially tempting to fall into revenge bedtime procrastination when you know you’re going to lose an hour of sleep. What’s the point in going to bed at 11 pm, you tell yourself, since it’s going to be midnight in the new time anyway?

Don’t do this. No one ever wakes up after doom scrolling until the wee small hours and thinks ‘that was a brilliant use of my time’. Whereas that feeling when you’ve had a cracking night’s sleep and could take on the world? That’s what you want on Sunday morning when you’re about to spend the day feeling like you're running an hour late for everything.

Mother holding baby boy smiling to camera

(Image credit: Future)

3. Make the most of the lighter mornings

I’m not about to tell you to rise before the rest of the house so you can enjoy a spinach smoothie while practicing yoga in the garden to the sounds of the dawn chorus. (I mean go for it if that’s your thing, Gwyneth.)

But cursing the lighter mornings for waking the kids ever earlier brings no one joy. So ditch that mindset. Instead, invest in a blackout blind and commit to spending 5 minutes outside on those lighter summer mornings. Doesn’t really matter what you do - find something that works for you. Drink your coffee at the back door and think of 5 things you’re grateful for. Take a walk on your lunch break or once you’ve dropped the kids to school. Or just stick your head out of the window and soak up the fact that these mornings are so much better for your soul than the pitch-black ones that will be back all too soon.

Tommee Tippee Gro Blind £34.99 | Amazon

Tommee Tippee Gro Blind £34.99 | Amazon

Don't even try to navigate the clock change without a decent set of blackout blinds. The Gro Anywhere Blind is highly portable, fits all kinds of windows, and can be put in place via suction cups within minutes. 

4. … and of the evenings

When you’ve got little kids, summer evenings can be torture. My teenagers still bemoan the days when I used to send them to bed at 8 pm while the rest of the street was allowed to play out until it got dark. Yeah, I was that mum. But they’re great sleepers now (too good, really...) and I built a freelance career around regular bedtimes so I don't hear them complaining anymore.

I’m not suggesting you let the bedtime routine slide just cos the evenings are lighter for longer. But consider taking even half an hour to enjoy the outdoors with the kids before bedtime. It doesn’t have to be a daily thing - just an effort to get everyone some fresh air during the half of the year when it’s not dark by 4 pm. And trust me when I say that those evenings when you unexpectedly take everyone out for ice cream before bed are the kinds of moments that kids never forget. Make hay while the sun shines. Literally.

Oh, and an evening run around the park or kickabout in the garden can help make the bedtime routine a doddle. 

5. Prep a morning game plan

If all goes according to plan, you’ll end up with the kids waking up an hour later than normal once the clocks change. Yes, yes, it’s technically the *same* time, but at least those 5 am brutes who can’t be coaxed back to sleep will suddenly seem cuter when they’re not actually waking you until 6 am. But if it all goes awry and you somehow end up with little ones waking even earlier than before? Be sure to have a strategy to buy you some time before you have to be fully awake and operational in the morning.

For babies, a cot mobile is a godsend for giving you a few moments where you can pretend you’re having a lie-in while they watch the mobile in wonder and maybe - if you’re really lucky - drift back to sleep.

Tiny Love Meadow Days Soothe and Groove Mobile £51.99 | John Lewis

Tiny Love Meadow Days Soothe and Groove Mobile £51.99 | John Lewis

Hands down the best piece of baby gear I've ever owned. This will buy you some exblissful moments of shut-eye because your baby won't be able to resist its charms. 

For toddlers, I recommend a morning play box. In our house, this was a little suitcase of morning-friendly toys (strictly nothing with batteries permitted) that the kiddos were allowed to play with only when they were awake before official getting up time. A favorite book, an educational toy, or a problem-solving item like a puzzle would absorb them in play for a short time were all hits - and meant that I could work towards opening my eyes slowly while the children played quietly(ish).

6. Adjust your routine in the days that follow

Everyone shares that move-bedtime-earlier-day-by-day trick but few people point out that eating schedules are thrown off for kids in the days after the clocks change too. Suddenly meals are being served an hour later than normal and we’re all wondering why the children are out of sorts. If lunch is normally at 1 pm, for example, factor in that it’s ‘really’ 2 pm by then once the clock change has happened, and start dishing up at midday instead.

7. Try not to stress about it. It'll right itself

I look back with horror at how stressed out I got, when my children were younger, about things like how the clock change might disrupt sleep routines. I realize now it was less about how detrimental it would be if their sleep patterns ran amok. It was really about how I felt about my parenting skills. So much felt out of control in the early years of motherhood - my body, mind, relationship, and career were all out of kilter - so when 'small' things like sleep schedules felt on track, the idea of anything threatening that was overwhelming. Just me? I doubt it.

So let me gently say that years from now you’ll look back on these days and have no real recollection of how the clock change impacted your kids’ sleep routine. (Spoiler: the sleep thing all works out in the end.) You might even miss the days when they went to bed instead of staying up later than you, and you’ll definitely remember the night feeds and crack-of-dawn cuddles with a weird fondness that you can’t possibly imagine right now.

How to survive the clocks going forward? Above all, know that this too shall pass. And get that early night in anticipation of the disruption - it truly makes all the difference.

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Heidi Scrimgeour
Deputy Editor

As a parenting specialist for more than 15 years, Heidi has written for most national newspapers and for a wide range of consumer magazines, including Mother & Baby where she was the Shopping Editor for six years, looking after regular consumer features including buying guides and gift roundups.