Nap and naptime tips for child care providers and day care teachers

Is Naptime A Friend or Foe to Child Care Providers?

Joyce Mason, Caniya Johnson, and Janet Burke from ChildSavers explore the ins and outs of naps… for both the child that doesn’t want to sleep and the one who does.

Naptime can be the best time of day or the worst daytime nightmare for an early care teacher. Having a naptime that all children go to sleep at the same time and stay asleep for two hours is heaven – unrealistic – but heaven. On the other hand, having a classroom full of tired and irritated children is not only hard on the children but also hard on the teachers. Early care administrators must be aware of what is happening in the classrooms in regard to naps and prepare to assist when needed.

A Word From Joyce Mason on Naptime for Child Care Providers

Naptime is often used as planning time for teachers. You know, that quiet time of the day for you to catch your second wind. But what happens when you have a few students who are not ready to fall asleep. Hmmm. What do you do?

Joyce has been an early educator for several years, a parent of two and grandparent of two rambunctious preschool grandbabies who often don’t care for a nap.  She doesn’t necessarily believe all children require a nap but do need downtime. Her suggestions for a naptime/quiet time routine are really quite simple.  So, if you need a few naptime ideas that are tried and tested, below you’ll discover some of the best ways to help with the naptime blues.

Set the mood

Have the rest area ready before the children lay down. That means cots should be down with blankets, pillows, etc. already on the cots. I have found this extremely helpful and soothing for the children because it reinforces routines. Have soft, soothing music playing and I like to have essential oils (fragrances) are often helpful as well while making sure the area is dimly lit to encourage rest.

Have planned quiet activities before the nap

You can facilitate naptime by doing quiet activities before naptime happens.  Overtiredness can affect a child’s mood and may make it harder to fall asleep. So, remember not to schedule busy or active activities before the nap as it overstimulates the child. As I stated earlier not all children require a nap but do need downtime.

Have several books or puzzles, coloring sheets, etc. in a special part of the room or like I did under the child’s cot for easy access. Some children may want a cuddle buddy that I bring out at rest time to help them relax. Let the child determine if it is necessary by going to their cubby for it and replacing it when naptime is over.

Once the children are used to this routine it really does work. The trick is to be consistent and stay calm. Reminder naps/downtime recharges children and also, is beneficial for brain development in our young children.

Janet Burke’s Tips on Improving Naptime

But what if a child falls asleep before nap time? Do you wake him up? How do you continue with your schedule while still providing the child with what they need?

Especially when working with children up to the age of three, little ones will have varying schedules. It is important that the caregiver and the schedule allow for a more personalized approach. To accommodate these individual schedules it is important to look at the big picture. As toddlers, up to age 3, we want to begin to move them into a routine of napping during a certain time. But it is just as important to be flexible as we are moving children.

We know when we are moving children in development, we must be prepared to meet each child where they are and not where we think they should be at any given time.  Here are some tips that may help.

  • Re-evaluate your nap time slots a few times a year. You may notice a pattern for when most children are becoming tired. Look for signs like sucking fingers, wanting personal items, wanting to be held, crying, and finding soft spaces to lie. Don’t be afraid to make changes to meet the children’s needs. Maybe in September, nap time starts out at 11:30 and gradually pushes back as the year goes on.
  • Schedule your outside time as early in the morning as feasible. That way as younger children become tired, they are allowed to nap at their own pace by providing a quiet and protective space in your environment that you can pull out their cot for early napping. This space is away from others but within sight, sound and touch of an adult but enough away so that children are not climbing or walking over a sleeper.
  • If one child is consistently falling asleep early, make note of this and work to move that child gradually to your classroom nap time. You can do this by providing some of their favorite toys or playing active music about 15-20 mins before your noted trend. If you do this and move the child’s nap time by 15-20 mins in weekly cycles, before you know it you will have the child in sync with your classroom naptime. But under no circumstance should you force a child to stay awake. This suggestion is to make sure a child is provided a pleasurable experience while gradually moving him in the direction of a classroom set nap time.
  • Things happen! Children are just like adults; they have bad nights, early mornings, or situations that change their schedules that are out of their control. Prepare to have a space for children to rest when needed.
  • When children go to sleep early, they will undoubtedly wake up early. So by following the information in the first section, you will be prepared for that early riser
  • Also, plan for that child that wants to sleep all day. Again, extreme measures should never be used to wake up a child but a rub on the back or the softness of calling a child’s name when naptime is over may be just what they need to start to wake up.
  • Never use extreme measures to keep a child awake because they need to wait until a 12:30 scheduled nap. (The only exception to this rule is for safety. A bump on the head or other safety protocol.)

Caniya Johnson’s Naptime Advice for Child Care Providers and Teachers

Reasons why children’s sleep patterns may be disrupted:

  • The child experiences trauma at home or within the community that limits or disrupts sleep.
  • Food insecurities, no breakfast and/or dinner.
  • Boredom.
  • There are too many teacher-directed activities and not enough child-directed ones.
  • Poor sleeping conditions.
  • The child is developmentally not ready to reduce or combine naps.
  • Sickness.
  • They’re experiencing growth, developmentally or physically, that could be interrupting sleep patterns.

When working in a classroom, it is more convenient for adults to have children all sleep at the same time but it just isn’t feasible all the time. We must be prepared for those circumstances when children need the extra rest and will vary outside of the typical schedule. It is important to see their perspectives and meet their individual needs.

Janet Burke is the Director of Child Development Services at ChildSavers, a nonprofit organization that believes that all children can be safe, happy, healthy and ready to learn.  She manages six core programs that support this belief; Child Care Aware of Central Virginia, Child Development Training, Child Development Associate Certificate Program, Virginia Quality Central Region, Voluntary Registration for the Central Region and the Child and Adult Care Food Program.  Janet joined ChildSavers in 1992 and has 38 years of experience working in and with Early Childhood Education.

Joyce Mason graduated from Virginia Union University with a degree in Early Childhood Education. She has enjoyed working with children in several capacities over the years. She taught in the elementary schools in Richmond City and enjoyed being a Girl Scout troop leader for my daughter in Henrico County. Joyce has obtained several certificates in nutrition.

They include Virginia Child and Adult Care Food Program sponsor’s Association, Go NAP SACC Consultant Training, Active Play! Conducting Workshops for Providers on Fun Physical Activities for Young Children, Keys to Customer Service, Connections count: A Summit for Early Childhood Professional Development Providers, VCPD101: Module1: Interactive, Participant-Centered Instructional Strategies, Minute Menu CX for Centers, New Healthier CACFP Meal Standards: What you Need to Know, and Safe Serve from the Richmond Food Bank.

Caniya Johnson is the program specialist for the CACFP team at ChildSavers, a nonprofit organization whose mission is guiding our community children through life critical moments. She joined ChildSavers in 2018 and has 3 years of experience working in and with Early Childhood Education. Caniya strives to ensure national needs of children are met while providing effective services to day care provides. Caniya is a strong believer that the food pattern children form at a young age will stay with them throughout their life.

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