Our annual switch to Daylight Saving Time has always been a good news/bad news scenario: The bad news is the young children in our lives often have a tough time adjusting to the time change. But the good news is, the sun will set a full hour later, giving us more time for play! This got our wheels turning, thinking about we can take full advantage of the extra light together. We gathered some helpful ideas to share with our community of teachers, childcare providers, and parents.
Almost Like Summer
During winter, it’s often dark well before dinnertime, putting the brakes on afterschool (and after-work) play. When the sun begins sticking around until seven o’clock or later, it opens up a whole world of fresh experiences for toddlers and preschoolers, who haven’t yet settled into the rhythm of seasons in the way of adults. What if you could ride bikes or go to the park after dinner? Play outside with a working parent at the end of the day? Watch the sunset as a family from the highest vantage point in your neighborhood? After March 10, kids can do all that—and more!
Opportunities for Developmental Enrichment
As early care and education advocates and partners, we’re always looking for ways to maximize the learning potential of every hour spent our little ones. Children are fascinated by the world around them, and every new word, new sound, and new experience creates intellectual pathways. It’s important to help parents understand that by playing, talking, and exploring new adventures with their kids, they’re not just building memories, they’re building young minds.
Idea #1: Make Any Outdoor Spot Your “Gym”
After weeks of being confined indoors by rain, frigid temperatures or early nightfall, it’s time to get moving! Head to the park, the beach, or even just your own back yard for family games that incorporate some healthy exercise. Whether your game of choice involves balls, beanbags or balloons, it’s the movement that counts.
Why It Matters: Children need at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day. The benefits range from improved self-esteem and better sleep, to a lower risk of obesity and various diseases. Conversation flows more freely while you’re engaging in physical activities with your kids, making any activity a relationship-enriching exercise.
Note: for some creative ideas for exercise-as-play, check out our printable tip sheet.
Idea #2: Take Your Dinner Outside
Who says picnics are just for lunch? Take advantage of a light-filled evening (once temperatures warm up) and bring the whole family in on planning a picnic dinner. Even the smallest hands can help with meal prep, and everyone will enjoy the playful change of pace. If you use Earth-friendly single-use plates and utensils, you can even take a break from doing dishes for one night!
Why It Matters: Studies show that when toddlers and preschoolers are actively involved in choosing and preparing their meals, it makes them more willing to try new foods and flavors, which can increase the healthy ingredients (did someone say vegetables?) in their diet. Assisting in the kitchen also helps kids explore math and science concepts, like measurement and texture; young children ready to learn math are more likely to do better in school.
Note: for ideas on how to make these meal-prep moments into learning moments, check out Child360’s Take Time. Talk! Tool.
Idea #3: Take Up a New Hobby
Use your extra hour of daylight as inspiration for learning something new together. Are there arts and crafts or music classes at your local community center or library? What about a special parent-and-child martial arts or dance lesson? Maybe even a beginner’s gardening class at your local plant nursery? Take a break from your regular routine to laugh and spend quality time together while exploring the unfamiliar; it will also give you something to bond over and practice at home.
Why It Matters: Watching a parent struggle to master a new skill is very affirming for young children, who often find it frustrating when they struggle themselves. Talking about your shared experience provides an opportunity to patiently comfort a child and help them identify their feelings; how you react to their emotions can build self-esteem and confidence and help them develop strong social skills as they grow older.
The biggest lesson we can take away from Daylight Saving Time, is to “Get outside, and get moving!”
Remember to mark your calendars to “Spring forward” one hour on the evening of March 9.