I hear it every year. “How do you get kids to nap? He doesn’t do that for us at home.” Children in group care are expected help at clean up time, clear their own lunch and snack, set up their own cot with blanket and bear, even perform classroom jobs. I always complement parents with my reply…”It shows he’s been listening to you. He knows what you expect from him when he’s away from home.”
Make Your Expectations Clear
It’s all about our expectations. A seasoned teacher and mentor of mine (even if she didn’t know it) used to say that “Children will rise to meet our expectations.” I’ve come to see its true.
This is as true at nap time as it is throughout the day. Parents often don’t think their child will nap at school. With the different surroundings, different routines, parents often are apprehensive about nap time. The best teachers aprroach nap time with high expectations for each child. Our expectations will evolve throughout the year with the children’s growth and development.
Will all children nap? Not every day, but all of the children will rest their bodies and have some down time. Teachers want their children to be successful all throughout their day. A can-do attitude is as important at nap time as any other time of day. This is what parents need to know.
Nap time is planned for just as circle time or morning meeting is. We put as much thought into nap time as other parts of the children’s day. We put their cots out with thought as to who will likely talk and play together, who can tolerate the door opening when teachers come and go covering each other’s break, which children need to be in the darkest spot, etc.
Teachers implement their nap time plan, give the plan time for children to assimilate, asses what works and what’s not working, make changes as needed.
First Things First
First, we expect children to be active. Active playground/gym time is so important for developing body’s and minds. Even in the middle of winter bundle them (and you) up and get outside! When it’s too cold to go outside kids will still need active play. Teachers know how to integrate active play into each day’s plan. So now that the kids (and you) are worn out it’s time to think about the next step.
Routine, Routine, Routine.
Children do best when they know what to expect next. Just as with the other parts of their day a set routine that rarely changes will help every child succeed. Just as we advise parents to make bed time very routine we do the same with nap time. Read a story, put on quiet music, and EVERYONE GOES POTTY! lol
One of the best blog posts I’ve seen on the topic of preschool nap time is pre-kpages.com. Vanessa Levin does an interview with the blogger from teachpreschool.com that is great.
We begin with a clam, relaxed transition. “Put your blankets on your cots then meet me in the book area.” Read a quick, calming story, or some deep breathing exercises, release children in small groups.
It’s helpful at the start of the new year that each of the children get a little one on one at nap time. This lets them know you care about their nap, if it’s important to you it will become important to them. Maybe tuck each child in with a quick “Snug as a bug in a rug.” or “Don’t let the bed bugs bite.” This might be more than some of your children get before bedtime at home. Toddlers obviously will need more (and earlier) nap than 3’s or 4’s.
Some teachers introduce chapter books at nap so children use their imaginations rather than illustrations. Still other teachers use books on tape or cd but again no book, just listen. Whatever routine you decide on keep it simple and keep it the same. Some states regulate how long of a nap time must be offered but generally 2 hours is the maximum.
Tips and Advice
- Just as kids who help grow and cook their own meals are more likely to eat the meal, kids who set up their own cots will be more likely to rest.
- Teachers give each child a moment to tuck in and say sleep well.
- Dim the lights put on quiet (classical) music. Choose music that is exclusive to naptime, it’ll be an audio cue to sleep.
- Teach naptime skills. Roll play if it’s difficult.
- Follow children’s developmental abilities. Start at the beginning of the year with shorter books, longer one on one, backs rubbed. Later in the year longer chapter books, quicker tucking in.
- Plan for non-resters. Quiet bins, small flannel boards, books will come in handy. Oxy-moron: naptime activities. 😉
- Check state regulations for nap time requirements. Some require 2 hours of nap time daily, others only require 15 minutes of rest to be offered.
- Stay present while busying yourself. Children know you you are still observing them while you get work done.
- When nap is over wake the children calmly and individually. Turn the lights on last!
- Check out my other posts on the topic of sleep here, here, and here.