There are certain tricks to helping young children get the most out of their rest time. Sheila Milnes with the Better Kid Care Program suggests that a successful naptime depends on five things:
1. Meeting each child’s needs for sleep. Depending on the age of the child, they may need two naps, one nap or even no nap at all. Paying attention to a child’s signals will help you determine when they need to rest.
2. Set up a good daily schedule. A child’s schedule should include plenty of physical activity. Without the ability to expend some energy, children will have a more difficult time falling asleep or quieting down. Just taking children outside may not be enough. The fresh air is beneficial, but they need to get moving. Children will rest easily when they have had some exercise. When you can’t get outside, put on some music and dance in the classroom or try some kid friendly yoga.
3. Make a smooth transition to rest time. Often toddlers and preschoolers begin rest time after lunch. This can be a difficult transition. Provide quiet activities for the children who finish first to help them stay calm. Turn the lights down (as long as it doesn’t interfere with supervision) and play soft music. Sounds of nature and instrumental music are very soothing.
4. Plan where rest will take place. It is important that each child rests in the same place each day if possible. This helps a child feel more secure and helps them fall asleep more easily.
5. Create a calm mood for sleeping and quiet play. Ask parents how their child sleeps at home and try to replicate that as much as possible. If they sleep with a favorite toy or blanket, allow them to have that item with them without requiring them to share it. Model a clam and relaxed mood. Children will feed off of your behavior. If you are racing around frantically, it will be difficult for some children to calm down.
For those children who are at the age where they may be outgrowing naptime, consider treasure boxes to occupy them during a quiet time. Even children who do not sleep need some down time. Treasure boxes can be shoe boxes or other containers that hold themed quiet activities. For example, an art box with crayons, paper, stickers, child scissors, etc. Another treasure box could be dress-up with watches, necklaces, hats, rings and sunglasses, or a transportation treasure box with matchbox cars, a small road map, some small people figures or animals and a few small blocks for buildings.
The idea is once the majority of children who are going to sleep are asleep, allow the children who are awake to choose from the treasure boxes. As long as they can remain relatively quiet and play with the activities on their mat or cot, they can keep the treasure box. You should have at least five or six themes to choose from and create new ones from time to time so that the children don’t get bored.
Forcing children to sleep when they are not tired will only cause frustration for the child and the teacher. Providing tools like treasure boxes for children will set them up to be successful during rest time.
Please feel free to share your own successful strategies for naptime with us.
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