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Let's face it, 2020 has been a crazy year. One like no other! Our children have been out of school for nearly 6 months and for most of us routine has gone well and truly out the window. So many parents are juggling working from home & keeping their children entertained. So you haven’t had the time, focus, or energy to think about getting back into routine ahead of school starting. Sure, you barely got the uniforms organised and the books labelled in between Zoom calls!

Top Tips for getting back to Routine for School
If children are not sleeping well at home then we all know that keeping their attention in school and parenting at home will be more difficult. If there are tired, grumpy, and unable to keep their attention on things then they are more likely to get upset and feel more anxious.

Anxiety is going to be a factor for so many parents with the return to school. When we lie down at night we can start thinking as it often can be the only quiet time in our day. The same comes true for children. When they are facing a situation that they know will be different but they can’t visualise what it will be like, they can get anxious and as a result, their sleep could be disrupted.

Top Tips for getting back to Routine for School
Support your child by talking to them positively about what the return to school will look like from the reopening plan that you have received from your school. Keep any negative or anxious conversations between adults out of earshot of your little ones and limit their exposure to news and conversations around school operations for a period of time.

Coupled with this, focus back on the routine! Routine can often be a dirty word in the world of parenting. Our personalities may not like it but our bodies thrive on it. Routine helps children to feel safe and secure as they know what to expect from their day at each stage of it. You may not have had time to think about returning to routine prior to school starting back so here are a few of my key tips to help you and your little ones enter your new normal this September.

  1. Determine how much sleep your child needs. A child of 6 will need 10-11 hours at night. Older children of 10+ will require 8-10 hours.
  2. Scale bedtime back gradually by 15 mins every 2-3 days until you have reached the desired school bedtime. By adjusting it marginally you will adjust your little ones' body clocks and avoid them being under tired going down to the bed and taking ages to settle. However, if they have already started school you may find that you can work through this a little quicker as their minds and bodies will be tired after their day of learning and interacting with their pals.
  3. It is important to stick to a set bedtime at weekends as well – particularly for primary school children. In doing this you are regulating their bodies to expect sleep and are more likely to have consistent settled sleep in your household as a result.
  4. Set a consistent wake-up time and stick to it. This does mean actively waking a sleeping child however it will assist them in shifting their body clocks back to term time mode. You could do this gradually by using the same technique I have outlined above but if you have already started back to school you will probably have to jump straight into a set wake-up time. I suggest opening curtains and blinds first to flood the room with light to assist with gentle waking which may result in them being less lethargic.
  5. Layout everything the night before. Set the table for breakfast. Leave uniforms ready and available so as to remove the scramble to do things first thing. This will remove a layer that can bring frustration to a household during the morning rush.
  6. Turn off all screens including TVs 1 hour before bed. Blue light from these inhibits melatonin production, the sleepy hormone, and as such will impact your child's ability to settle to sleep easily. Encourage reading, colouring, or quiet floor games instead. I do encourage screen-free bedrooms by using a technology box for all members of the family to put their devices into at a certain time each evening – including the adults!
  7. Ensure that your child's room is as dark as possible at bedtime. Dark evenings have not yet set in, thank goodness, so ensuring that your child's room is dark sends the right signals for sleep. It will support their melatonin production which will help them to get to sleep and stay asleep for longer.
  8. Encourage exercise & outdoor play at every opportunity. Our body clocks are linked to light so getting out in sunlight helps the body to regulate and know when night time is coming.
  9. Start regular nutritious mealtimes again. The evening family meal is a great way to reconnect after a busy day. However, it is an extra layer that perhaps falls to one family member. Batch cooking and the use of a slow cooker can really help to remove the stress out of evening meals.
  10. Hydrate. Water is key to body & brain function. A hydrated child will sleep better at night & perform better at school.
Top Tips for getting back to Routine for School
By following these tips and making a sleep a priority in your home you are going a long way to satisfying your child's sleep needs and supporting them in their return to school this year.

My Family Staycation Top Tips!

I have been holidaying in Ireland with my family for years. So, the idea of staycation as the new vacation is not new to me or my little family! In the past, we have taken a house in lovely Rosslare, Co Wexford, which we loved! However, this year we decided to try something new and booked a cosy holiday cottage in Dunmore East, Co Waterford.

My Family Staycation Top Tips

So, what are my top tips for a good staycation experience in Ireland?

1. Think about your accommodation

I am all about self-catering for a family holiday. This allows us to have a little space for the sleeping arrangements, more on that later, and hang out! I like coming up from the beach, getting everyone showered & hanging out for the night with a movie in the living room after dinner. However, that is another person’s idea of hell! Whatever you choose – hotel, mobile home, caravan or holiday cottage – make sure that it ticks the boxes of what your needs are for your holiday.
My Family Staycation Top Tips

For me, the idea of being hold up with 3 children and my husband in a hotel room gives me nightmares! So, a holiday house and self-catering is always my number 1 choice.

2. Don’t mind the Weather

My Family Staycation Top Tips

Ireland is Ireland and you must plan for hail, rain & shine! And that’s the thing about holidays in Ireland, you have to get out and about despite the weather. There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing choices! Pack your raincoats, wellies, swimming togs & factor 50.

Investing in wet suits for children is a must. You don’t have the spend the earth – Aldi, Lidl, Decathlon and Home Store & More had great options. I have found that once they are comfortable on the beach, whatever the weather, then the fun will roll.

By anticipating that the weather will be mixed you will be prepared to still get out and about despite it.

3. Get off the Beaten Track

Go & explore! We are so lucky to live in a digital age and with a quick google search, we can find new and interesting locations to explore. Follow local bloggers on social media. Check in with the Discover Ireland top places to visit for that area.

Living side by side with COVID is something that we are all aware of. We all need to do our part in terms of social distancing, hand hygiene & mask-wearing. I find that on fine weather days the main, better known, tourist spots & beaches were too busy for us. However, only 10 minutes away were beautiful deserted coves for us to explore.

These smaller lesser-known beaches allowed us to see the rugged beauty of Co Waterford on our trip, which was simply stunning.

4. Plan some Activities & Excursions

Before you travel, look at what activities and experiences are open to you in the area. My friend organised for us to go to Sea Kayaking one morning. This was something I had never done before and it was a simply amazing experience. For one week my children attended a water sports camp and tried out activities that they had never experienced before. We cycled a section of the Waterford Greenway and tired out pier jumping for the first time. A simple google search for ‘Things to do in Waterford’ brought up so many options. Doing this in advance will help you to build an itinerary of your time away, and make the most of it.

My Family Staycation Top Tips
As a family, due to COVID-19, we made the decision to limit how much we ate out in restaurants. Instead, we opted for cooking our own meals and take away options. This worked well for us as we had self-catering accommodation. However, from what I could see the restaurants are doing all they can to adhere to the guidelines being provided to them. My feeling on it is that if you are going to eat out as a family while on staycation check out the options that are open to you in your area and make decisions regarding your comfort with their COVID policies.

If you asked my children though what meal they enjoyed the most on holiday – it would be eating fish & chips out of a paper bag on the beach in their wet suits hands down!

6. Sleeping arrangements

Before you book your accommodation think about what your wish list is around the sleeping arrangements depending on your family’s needs. We are a family of 5, 2 adults and 3 children. I ideally like 2 children to share and one child to sleep solo. That’s what works for me so a 3-bed house is what I wanted at a minimum.

When booking the accommodation ask questions around what they provide and what they don’t. That way you will know in advance what you need to bring. Do they provide cots? Do they provide bed linen? How many does each bedroom sleep etc? That way before you even get to your accommodation you will have an idea of how you are going to arrange things.

My Family Staycation Top Tips
My trick to keep little people from falling out of bed – turn the duvet on its edge & tuck in!

If you have children who are still in cots I would recommend that you bring a fitted sheet with you from the cot that your baby has slept on – not clean from the press! That way there is a familiar smell from home with it. I would do the same with sleeping bags and lovies!

I have a little trick around younger children that are in a single bed and not having to bring the bed rail. Simply turn the single duvet on its top edge and tuck it in under the mattress on either side. That way you have created a secure sleeping environment for your little one and are limiting the chances of them falling out of the bed!

7. Think about Darkness

Strange I know! But, you know that I love a good dark room for children to sleep in. Darkness supports melatonin production, the sleepy hormone, which helps us all get to sleep and stay asleep. I don’t think I have ever rented a house that has had a satisfactory blackout solution in bedrooms. For this reason, I always ensure I have thought about how I can make the rooms darker. Suggestions include travel window blackout systems or simply creating your own via black bags and or tinfoil (always be careful when using homemade solutions in case of a build-up of heat cracks a window!)

If you have created a nice dark room then your little one is more likely to sleep well for you at night.

8. Be flexible with your Routine

What? A baby sleep consultant telling you to be flexible with your routine! Yes, you are on holidays. Let loose and have a little fun. That’s what holidays are for. I would advise not to let the wheels come off the bus entirely but some out and about naps or slightly later bedtimes are not going to undo everything. Just remember that holidays are to be enjoyed and if going off routine helps you to relax a little more, then do it. You can always get back on track with things once you are home!

Being a parent is full-on and it isn’t a job that allows you to take holidays, even when you are on holidays! While you are away with your family though plan in a little solo time for yourself. 

Your partner will cope for a few hours on their own with the children. Take a nice walk on the beach by yourself, sit out in a café have a coffee and read your book.
My Family Staycation Top Tips

For me taking a run with a view of the sea sets me up and gives me the time out to come back refreshed for the next parenting round. Allow your partner to do the same. You will both be better for it.

10. Factor in Friends

Children love spending time with other children, fact! While we were away we had another family come to visit us on a day trip. The kids were overjoyed to hear that another family would be joining us and we were delighted to have some other adult company. It created excitement for days! On the day they visited the children were entertained the entire day and we were able to catch up while enjoying the antics from our beach chairs.

I loved our staycation in Ireland and with a little planning, you can too!

Erica x

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