Sleep Well! 10 Ways We Help Kids Get a Great Daycare Nap
Even if your child is typically a super snoozer at home, daycare naptime is often a concern for parents, especially during times of transition—like starting in a new classroom. Our teachers understand the worry; but rest assured, they help thousands of children every day get the good, restful naps they need.
“Our teachers meet every child’s needs during naptime—it’s not a struggle or a fight,” says Millie Boychuk, a Center Director in California. “Our teachers know how to get babies to nap. In fact, they are pros at getting children of any age to nap.”
How Our Teachers Get Kids of Every Age to Take a Daycare Nap
As pros, our teachers know a few things about napping babies. (They’ve seen every type of napper in our classrooms.) For instance, even the fussiest napper’s sleep temperament can change over time, meaning that if you’ve got a tot resisting naps at all cost, there are techniques you can use to strengthen their sleep skills. Yes, you read that right! We all have innate sleep temperaments, but sleep is also a learned behavior. Our teachers can help with that.
Below is a list of guidelines every KinderCare center follows. Take special note of guideline #1.
1. There’s no set naptime schedule in our classrooms
We begin with baby-based sleep schedules in our infant classrooms. Naps are provided based on each baby’s individual needs for rest rather than a set infant naptime schedule. Teachers watch each child closely for signs of tiredness, such as eye-rubbing, sucking on hands or fingers, or heavy-headed nodding and drifting off during activity time. Once they see those tell-tale signs, they know it’s naptime!
2. We help babies fall asleep with a comforting touch
Our infant teachers comfort each baby the way they like to be comforted as they fall asleep—and every baby is different! So how do we know what works? We partner with families to learn what works best, whether it’s rocking, singing, being held, or using a pacifier. “Our teachers respond to every baby’s need for calm and comfort,” Boychuk says.
3. We always follow safe sleep practices
We follow rigorous Safe Sleep policies recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. This includes always placing infants on their backs to sleep, keeping cribs clear of items like pillows and toys, and using a firm mattress with a tight-fitting sheet in our approved cribs.
While babies sleep, we keep a close watch. (Our cribs with see-through sides ensure that we can literally watch them as they sleep!) When they wake, babies are promptly taken out of their cribs and comforted again.
4. We help babies shift to “regular” naps
As children grow, their napping needs become more regular. Children in our toddler, preschool, and prekindergarten classrooms have one long midday nap, but teachers in these classrooms can still support multiple naps if a child requires them. It’s all about whatever they need!
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5. We help children gently transition from crib to cot
Children in our centers begin napping on a cot after they move out of the infant room, even though they may still be sleeping in a crib at home. Some parents may be nervous about transitioning to a cot for naps at school, and Boychuk assures them that there is no need to worry. “Most children adjust very quickly and teachers are always right there supervising,” Boychuk says. “They help each child get settled and stay with them during rest times.”
6. We encourage children to participate in their own nap routine
As they get older, children take on more and more responsibility for their own naptime set-up: picking a blanket, making the bed, or even setting up a cot. Not only does working together often mean less nap resistance, practicing these life skills builds confidence and a sense of accomplishment.
It also gives children an appropriate level of control: at first maybe just choosing which cuddly toy they’ll sleep with or how they want their blanket, then working up to stretching a sheet over their own cot. (Yes, even young children can make their own beds with a little encouragement and help!)
7. We work to make naptime soothing for older children, too
Sometimes, you just need a special routine to help you close your eyes. Toddlers and older children are welcome to bring a blanket or a favorite lovey from home, while soft music and low lighting helps set the sleepy-time mood. And if a toddler still loves being rocked to sleep? No problem. We’re happy to soothe them however they need until they become more independent sleepers.
8. We follow a lights-low, shoes-on approach
Not everything is just like home—with good reason. “We do follow stricter safety standards than you might at home,” says Boychuk. Children nap with shoes on, because we are always prepared to help children exit the building quickly and safely in the event of an emergency. During naps, classrooms are dimly lit—but not completely dark—so that teachers can watch children while they’re sleeping.
9. We value the need for rest
If a child sleeps for longer than the allotted naptime, we let them sleep. Growing bodies really do need those restorative naps!
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10. We provide quiet activities for children who just can’t sleep
Children nap quietly for at least 30 to 45 minutes each day—but we never force wakeful children to close their eyes or go to sleep. During naptime, non-nappers can read quietly or do other quiet activities in their cots. At Boychuk’s center, teachers create “felt puzzles.” They cut up a picture into a simple puzzle, and then paste felt on the backs of the pieces. These homemade puzzles are made for naps, because the pieces won’t make noise when they fall on the floor. Genius!
Parents are also always welcome to come in and see how naptime works in a new classroom. “Within a week, children have learned the new classroom routine,” Boychuk says. “Parents always say, ‘I don’t know how you do it.’” We’re more than happy to show you!
Daycare naptime can be a positive experience for all! To get your tot (and the whole family) on board with a new nap routine, we’ve got a list of tips to help sleep transitions during the first few weeks of school.