If you manage a child care program for children 5 and under, you don’t have to be told how important a scheduled rest time or nap time is. But just in case you need to be reminded — or need some support for this aspect of your daily schedule — we’ll discuss some reasons for as well as how-to’s for implementing a supervised mid-day rest time in your child care center.
Reasons for Rest
Just like older children and adults, kids need rest to stay physically healthy as well as to manage their emotions. The younger they are, the more sleep and rest they need. We’ve all been around toddlers in the throes of a tantrum whose parents explain their behavior simply: “He didn’t get his nap today.” For some kids, rest becomes more significant than others, but especially when you’re managing a group of young children, the combined effect of unrested bodies and minds is certainly not a recipe for a happy afternoon.
Tips for Optimal Rest
Preparation for rest time begins long before that after-lunch slump hits. Children who are getting enough nighttime sleep and are not over-tired will be more likely to be able to calm down and rest in the afternoons; you may benefit by reminding parents of the importance of nighttime sleep. On your end, though, you can set up a daily schedule that includes regular physical activity throughout the morning hours as well as a calming transition to rest time. Each day, plan for rest time to be at the same time and place; established routines are conducive to rest.
Fair Expectations for Rest Time
Not all children will be able to nap during a rest time; for that reason, we’re not calling it “nap time.” For those children who will benefit by quiet play, you should have a variety of books, puzzles, and quiet toys available. You may want to rotate bins according to the day of the week or check out a particular bin at the beginning of rest time, in order to avoid unnecessary boredom or arguments that might interrupt those who wish to sleep. You may also need to separate certain children who are more likely to talk to one another. You’ll also want to have a timer visible for children to see, in order to avoid the constant question of “How much longer?” For those children who wish to nap, you may want to allow them to bring a comforting object from home, in order to help them calm down to be able to sleep.
Take Transitions Gently
Both the transition from lunch to rest time and that of waking can be difficult for some children. After lunch, it may be helpful to have something low key planned for children who finish eating earlier than their peers. You can also use essential oils, lower lighting, and soothing music to establish an atmosphere that naturally encourages quiet play or sleep.
Some children will have a harder time waking up than others; by keeping voices and noises low and lights dim as you wake them, you can hopefully reduce the crankiness that can come with waking up.