Jet Lag and KIDS – Tips Explain and Prepare
Kids and Jet Lag – How to Survive
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What is Jet Lag?
Jet lag is that miserable feeling you get when your body feels like it is still in another time zone. So, it might be time to go to bed, but your body thinks it is still at home and it is time to be awake. The feeling you have doesn’t match the country you are in at the moment. You feel tired, you feel sluggish, you feel a little ‘off’.
Jet Lag Kids
Jet lag is painful for travelers of all ages and Jet lag with KIDS – a whole new ball of wax. You feel tired in the middle of the day and wide awake in the middle of the night. You get hunger pains at all the wrong times and feel a little like you got run over by a truck. Jet lag is painful but expected.
Imagine if you are a child and felt that way but didn’t understand why. You felt horrible with no explanation. Would you think you were sick? Would you wonder what was wrong with you? Would you wonder if you would ever feel good and normal again?
People (and children) fear what they do not understand. So, to prepare for a trip that will include jet lag it pays to prepare yourself and the children! Teaching your kids the how and why of jet lag will give them the background they need to understand jet lag, deal with it, and enjoy your family vacation even more!!
**As an added bonus…your child will understand the time zone concept when it shows up in science class in a way no book can teach them!
Jet Lag and KIDS – First explain time zones.
Children are very visual creatures and learn best when they can ‘see’ what you are talking about. Get a balloon and explain that the Earth is shaped like the balloon. Label a spot ‘home’.
Next, put stripes on the balloon and explain that each one of the stripes is a time zone and that the clock changes by an hour each time. When you travel a long way, you cross these times zones. The clock will show a different time but your body still thinks the time is the same as it is at home. So, for a few days, you will be sleepy when it is bedtime AT HOME which is different than bedtime at your new destination. Count the time zones to your new destination and then label it.
Kids and Jet Lag – What to do and say
1) Show the kiddos they ball and tell them to pretend it is the Earth. Ask one to put a sticker on the ball to show where you live. Turn on the flashlight and tell them to pretend it is the sun. Shine the sun on the sticker and talk about how it is daylight.
2) Ask one of the kiddos to hold the ball and slowly turn it while you hold the flashlight still. Tell him that the Earth rotates and the sun can only shine on one side at a time. The side that gets the sun has daytime. The other side has night time and they share the light.
3) Explain that the earth is divided into imaginary pieces. Each piece has a different time according to where the sun is for THAT piece. These pieces are called time zones.
4) Ask the kids how they feel during the day. Sleepy? Awake? Then ask them how they feel at night. Explain that your body gets used to a routine…that each day at the same time you eat, you sleep and your body feels good with the routine.
5) Get out the paper airplane and ask one kiddo to hold it. Another kiddo rotates the ball while you hold the flashlight still. Begin with the flashlight and airplane on the sticker…rotate slowly while flying the airplane quickly. Explain that the airplane gets your body to the other side of the earth where it is the opposite of the right time for your body. So, when your body thinks it is time to be awake, it is time to sleep in the new location. When your body thinks it is time to eat, it is not time to eat in the new location. This can make your body feel very confused. This confused feeling is called jet lag.
Jet Lag and KIDS – Role Play
******** If you are really traveling internationally and will be facing jet lag it will behoove you to spend a little time practicing. Tell them you are going to pretend to have jet lag and be crabby. Act like a crabby zombie. Then, discuss a nicer way you can act EVEN when you are feeling crabby. Tell them it is OK to feel cranky and not show it to everyone. Take turns pretending to have jet lag and then discuss options for acting nicer and easier to get along with. **** You. will. thank. me. 😉
Jet Lag and KIDS – Before you go
There are lots of opinions on how to prepare for jet lag. We’ve tried most and our favorite is the first!!
1 – Rotate bedtimes.
The week before your trip start rotating bedtime and wake up time. We start a week before the trip. We get up an hour earlier one day which makes going to bed that night an hour earlier easier.
2 – Consider NOT rotating schedules.
When the kids were small we did some traveling between time zones in the states and it just wasn’t worth the trouble to rotate. We just stayed up late and slept in.
3 – No naps when you arrive.
It will seem like such a good idea to just shut your eyes for a few minutes when you get there. Don’t do it! Get outside and stay active and do your best to wait till bedtime – or as close as you can, to sleep.
Also – choose an active activity for the first day. We made the mistake to NOT do this on our first international trip with the kids. They were 5 and 7 and we arrive in Rome. I planned the trip carefully and knew we needed to be outside (sunshine helps!) and stay active. So, I chose a bus tour of the city. I thought it would give us an overview! We sat upstairs in the open air bus and…..all fell asleep. LOL! **Note to self: Walking tours beat sitting bus tours.**
4 – Sleep on the plane.
This is easier said than done. Adults can try alcohol or Benadryl but what about the kids? Have them dressed for sleep with pjs and make it dim by putting the blanket like a tent over their heads! My son and I swear by this one.
Two-piece pjs are the way to go. Then, if you spill something on one piece you can only change that part only. New pjs can be a fun treat for your young traveler. Consider a theme for the pjs! For example, chameleon pjs would be perfect for a way to start a trip to Belize or Costa Rica! Get the kids thinking before you travel and make your kids even brainier than you know they already are!! 🙂
How about an eye mask for your little one? It is a scientific fact that everyone sleeps more soundly in the dark. Not every baby would be willing to wear this, but it is worth considering if yours will!
Sleep warm and cozy with your own travel blanket. Please, please, please don’t use the blankets you get on the plane. IF you get one for free (and is anything free anymore???) they are not clean. I know they come in a plastic bag, but I have read over and over and over again they are not clean. Ew. Gross. Double Gross. Bring your own.**Read more about how to avoid airplane germs here!**
How cute is this pineapple blanket for a Hawaii airplane trip? Your little will be warm, toast, germ-free and having sweet (pineapple is sweet, get it?) dreams with this blanket. Read How to Sleep on a Plane for more ideas for arriving well rested.
Jet Lag and KIDS – Tell your child’s teacher.
If your child will be missing school for this vacation be sure to send the link to this post to your child’s teacher. Showing an understanding of this concept, which is part of your child’s curriculum and required learning, might be a substitute for some makeup work. It would be worth discussing. At the very least, you can show the school and teachers you are serious about making your travel educational for your children. The whole world is a classroom!
Jet Lag and KIDS – What to do about jet lag.
When you have jet lag you feel sleepy and a little droopy or a little out of it. It takes your body a few days to get used to the new time. While you are waiting to get used to the new time you might feel a little bit cranky. The best way to get through jet lag is to try to pay attention to the time of the new place. So, try to stay awake until it is night time in the new place. Try to eat at meal times for the new destination.
The MOST important thing to remember is: Everyone in your vacation group will feel the same way. Be nice to one another and try not to be cranky or crabby.
Get the trip off to a great start with this information:
Natalie, The Educational Tourist