Friday, October 24, 2014

Notes From A Daycare Provider: Naps

Nap time is a parent's best friend. It's a chance for a bit of peace and quiet and rejuvenation. For me, it's a chance to disinfect toys, clean up lunch, prepare snacks, and get activities ready for when the kids awake. I've been told that kids sleep well at my house (2-3 hour long naps are the norm for the daycare kids). I use to joke that I used cold medicine but I stopped using that line when I had a parent laugh nervously at my response (apparently my humor was lost on her). So, what's the secret??? Parents ask me daily. I've got a few "nap time rules" that all kids become accustom to in no time at all.

My first "rule" is to wear the kids out. This is ensured through a variety of activities every morning. There's physical activity (if we can't get outside to run around, there's dance parties, jumping jacks, hop scotch, and other activities held in the living room). There's crafts that gets them to use their hand eye coordination abilities, thinking skills, and decision making. There's always free play time, which not only are they playing, but usually this involves learning to share with others, problem solving, and using their words. Learning how to share can simple exhaust a two year old! Another big thing while wearing the kids out: very little t.v. I always have cartoons on first thing in the morning, but the t.v. always goes off when the kids go in for breakfast. The t.v. is (usually, sometimes there are movie days) not turned on again until after clean up time and right before lunch. At that time I put the t.v. on PBS Kids, finish getting lunch ready, do diaper changes, and potty breaks. The t.v. is on for 20 minutes at the most. This way I know the kids have gotten all of their wiggles and playing out of their system.

My next "rule": Plenty of calm down time. If things get too rowdy in the mornings, we stop the activities and read a book. After lunch, we read books before naps. The kids know this is calm down time and respond well to it. It also signals their bodies that nap time is nearing and they tend to go right to sleep.

A full belly also helps to make them sleepy. I time lunch just right so the kids eat, we read books, do diaper changes/potty breaks again, and then it's nap time. Kids just don't seem to sleep as well if they are hungry. I've had kids not eat a great lunch and wake up early because they were starving for afternoon snack. Kids burn energy at faster rates than adults, so a well balanced meal is a good start to a full belly (read last week's post for details:

Black out curtains. If you don't have any and your child has issues napping or falling asleep until it's completely dark out, I suggest you buy some for the bedroom windows (Eclipse Fresno 52 by 84-Inch Blackout Window Curtain, Black). This makes the room nice and dark. Add a sound machine and you're good to go. Since I have multiple children napping in cots and pack n plays in a bedroom, the sound machine really helps block out noise from other kids and any noise I make around the house. Both the curtains and sound machine help to set a nap time/sleeping mood.

My last rule is the most important rule: a daycare wide quiet time. Even if a child doesn't nap (I currently have 1-3 kids that are in the in between stages of needing naps and not needing naps), I still require quiet time for at least an hour or two. I have kids rest no matter what, implement rules such as no talking, no moving around, laying still, etc. If they wake up early or don't nap at all, then we may turn on PBS Kids, look at books, do puzzles quietly by themselves, coloring pictures, or build with the foam blocks. This ensures the house stays semi-quiet for those sleeping, those trying to sleep, and even if there are children that don't nap, resting helps their attitudes and behavior the rest of the afternoon.

I've been incredibly lucky to have such excellent sleepers during the days. We've had to tweak our daycare routine a bit lately because of the long naps kids were taking well into the afternoon hours. Sleep is so important for children and I like to make sure all children are given the amount they need (because yes, it varies from kid to kid). These tricks and rules all help to ensure the children are sleeping their best and getting what they need in my care.