Who wouldn’t get excited with the thought of Santa arriving?! Because of this it can be harder to get your little ones to go to sleep on Christmas Eve. A late night on Christmas Eve isn’t the end of the world but, combined with over excitement, we are often left with grumpy children who are tired on Christmas Day itself. With that in mind, there are some things you can do to help kids settle down to sleep on Christmas Eve so that Santa can fill up their stockings undisturbed.
What should Christmas Eve look like?
If your kids are anything like my boys, tiring them out during the day is a sure way to make sleep come easier. Getting out and about in the day on Xmas Eve, especially in the fresh air if weather allows, gives their little bodies a chance to tire out. There are often Xmas walking trails in the local area; if not, a simple walk around your neighbourhood spotting Xmas decorations is a great activity for younger children. You could even make your own Christmas bingo cards, ticking off when you find a star, make your own Christmas reef, etc. The key is to provide plenty of stimulation and activity so that they are tired at bedtime.
Don’t reduce naps on Christmas Eve in a bid to make them tired at bedtime in the hope of a more smooth bedtime. If your little one is under 2, daytime sleep is essential for a restful night. An overtired baby at bedtime can lead to more upset and a restless night.
Another tip is to avoid Christmas movies before bed (hear me out, I’m not a total Scrooge I promise). We love Christmas films in our house, but they are often high in stimulation. Try and keep them as a pre-dinner activity so the time before bed can be a time to wind down. On that note, try and keep sugar to a minimum too; they will be running on enough natural adrenaline as it is…OK, maybe I am Scrooge!
As much as possible, stick to your normal bedtime routine. Maintaining consistency with bedtime, bath etc. allows you to incorporate some of the fun Christmas traditions with limited disruption. For example, if you read a book before bed, read a Christmas book. If you sing a song, try a carol. But keep the flow of the night the same. There are going to be additional activities on Christmas Eve like leaving out milk for Santa or hanging stockings. To makes sure they know what’s coming next, for older kids, do a countdown to bedtime e.g. 30 minutes until we go up for your bath, 10 minutes until… This gives little ones plenty of notice which reduces anxiety and transitions into bedtime.
Preparing for Santa’s Arrival
Santa is a pro at timing his arrival! But if I was going to offer him some extra tips, it would be to fill stockings at the end of their cot or bed, when little ones are in their deepest sleep. Deep sleep happens in the earlier part of the night – normally up until midnight. Santa has a better chance of getting those stocking filled without disturbing little ones in this first period of the night.
Santa can leave presents anywhere. If your little one is a really light sleeper or is up frequently in the night, leave their stocking somewhere else: by the chimney, under the tree or even outside little one’s bedroom door. Santa doesn’t like to be seen, but he certainly doesn’t want to wake children and then they won’t go back to sleep all night!
Tips for your Christmas Day Routine
Early morning wakings are totally normal – and expected – on Christmas day. Embrace it! However, don’t be afraid of naps on Xmas day itself. Emotions are high and it may be hard to entice children away from their toys, but it can be a long day if they don’t get some rest.
For older children that won’t nap, try and have some quiet time in the day. A Christmas movie is a great way to settle them on the sofa with a warm milk which can be restorative for the rest of the day.
But most importantly, enjoy! Christmas Eve is my Dani’s favourite day of the year as she loves the excitement and anticipation of the big day. Use that natural buzz to keep your kids stimulated all day and sleep will take over in the evening.
Merry Christmas from all of us at The Daddy Sleep Consultant.