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New School, New Nap Routine: Helping Everyone Sleep Well

Is your child starting at KinderCare Learning Centers or another child care center?

As he adjusts to a new naptime environment and new naptime routine, you are likely to see some changes to his sleep patterns. That can be an adjustment for parents as well as children: During those first few weeks, he may stay awake later in the evening, or conk out on the car ride home!  Here are a few tips to help you handle his sleep transitions.

1. Give it a week or two.

In her 21 years with KinderCare, Millie Boychuk has helped a lot of children get good sleep at school, and helped many parents adjust their sleep patterns at home, too.  Boychuk says that  for most children, getting the hang of napping at school takes one to two weeks. So the first rule of transitions is to have patience!

2. Take note of her tired cues at home.

During those early weeks at a new school, it’s especially important to watch for your child’s individual indications of tiredness, rather than relying solely on the clock. She may be tired earlier (or later) than her usual bedtime—if she rubs her eyes, leans against your legs, or succumbs to a fit of over-tired giggles—follow her cues to bedtime.

She should be back to a more typical napping and sleeping pattern within a few weeks.

3. Talk to teachers about the sleep routine.

In our infant rooms, naps are not scheduled: Each child naps according to her individual cues and need for rest. Talk to your child’s classroom teachers about what her sleep schedule looks like at school and how she likes to be soothed at rest time. Sharing what works at home, and learning what works at school, can help your baby  find a good sleep rhythm in both places more quickly.

4. Adopt the class schedule.

In our toddler, preschool, and prekindergarten classrooms, nap or rest time typically begins around noon. At least initially, it might be helpful to stick to that same rest schedule when your child is at home.

5. Don’t have a napper? Try resting quietly.

If your child does not take naps, but is in a classroom with children who do, try taking 30-45 minutes midday to rest quietly. You could lie down together and talk calmly, read a book, cuddle, color, or do another relaxing activity.

6. Stock up on special blankies.

You are always welcome to bring your child’s special bunny to school, but Boychuk recommends helping her learn to sleep without it, in case bunny is forgotten one busy morning.  (It happens!)

If your child sleeps with one careworn blanket or beloved stuffed animal, consider expanding her range. At home, try introducing other blankets or lovies at bedtime or naptime. You might also consider buying a second (or third) of her loved object that can live in her classroom cubby.

7. Slowly change bed time.

After a few weeks at school, if you might find that your child comes home consistently tuckered out, she may need an earlier bedtime. Children who are sensitive to changes in their sleep schedule or who are accustomed to rigorous routines will likely benefit from a gradual adjustment. How do you do it? Shift your child’s bedtime 10 to 15 minutes earlier and adjust her waking schedule accordingly.

8. …Or a little more quickly.

For older children or kids without a strict bedtime, you can employ a quicker time frame. Adjust bedtime by 20 to 30 minutes each night—or every few nights—until you’ve found a bedtime that leaves him better rested throughout the day.

9. Consider blackout curtains.

If you don’t sew, you may not know there is actually fabric made specifically to block light. Adjusting to a new bedtime can be more difficult for children who are attuned to the sun in the sky. Blackout curtains can help by blocking those streaks of light from sneaking through little gaps in the mini-blinds, making it easier for her to fall asleep earlier and (maybe) stay asleep later.

10. Get some shuteye yourself!

Sleep and school transitions can be tiring for the whole family. Consider putting yourself to bed early, too. Pick a favorite book and tuck yourself in. No playing Candy Crush until midnight!

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