Even if your child is typically a great napper at home, daycare nap time is often a big concern for many parents…especially when you aren’t there. It can be worrisome to have your child not taking naps during the day because it can often mean they will be cranky for the rest of the day! But rest assured, many preschool teachers understand the worry and also know how to help improve preschoolers’ nap time. I had the honor of speaking to one of our favorite preschool teachers, Mrs. Rachel Murawski, who has worked with 2-4 year olds for a few years now!
Could you go through what is typically offered to babies when it comes to sleep at daycare by age, explain why, what you do to ensure baby is comfortable, how they feel about sleep schedules and requests, etc.
I typically work with preschoolers ages 3-4, so I can speak best to those ages. In past preschools, we have had nap times that range from 1-2 hours. This will depend on the schedule that your child’s preschool puts into place. We turn off the lights and darken the room (while keeping it light enough to be able to see all children), turn on quiet music, and try to create a calm environment to encourage sleep. The kids sleep on mats with bedding from home, and have the same spot to sleep each day, so it becomes familiar to them.
When a parent shares how well their child naps at home, but doesn’t nap at daycare – what recommendations do you suggest parents try to help their child get better sleep at daycare?
I always recommend sending in familiar things from home that would help their child feel comfortable and bridge that gap a little bit. If they have a favorite blanket or animal that they usually nap with at home, it might help for them to have it for nap time at school as well. I would also recommend getting a duplicate of their comfort item, if possible, just in case one ever gets left behind. It does happen sometimes and can make for a not-so-pleasant bedtime at home! You could also try sending in a small family photo for them to look at as they lay down. Anything that can help bring some of the comfort and familiarity of home into their new classroom space!
How can you improve naps at daycare?
Sending in comfortable bedding for them and familiar items that they already like to sleep with at home. Also ask their teacher what they do in their classroom to set a nap environment. Talk with their teacher and see what tweaks could be made if you notice your child isn’t napping as well as they normally would. Sometimes a child may need to be moved away from a classmate that distracts them, or might need to sleep in a part of the room where they are a little more secluded.
What are certain sleep questions parents should ask their daycare provider?
Ask about the length of nap time. If your child isn’t typically napping at home any more, ask what they do for non-nappers during that time. (They will probably require a 20-30 min rest time/quiet time on their mat, but they may then allow any non-nappers to do quiet activities for the rest of the time.) If you have a child that naps really well, ask what they do if your child needs a little longer to sleep than what the scheduled time allows.
Do most daycares allow parents to bring in a white noise machine that can be used when their baby naps?
In our preschool classroom we don’t allow individual white noise machines. This may be different in a room with infants. We do play quiet music or ambient sleep noise to help drown out sounds from outside the classroom.
What can parents do if a child still needs to be on a second nap schedule, but the daycare routine pushes for one nap after 13 months?
I’m not sure what classes for younger kids may do, but for preschool aged kids, we only offer one nap time during our day. If your child needs more sleep, I’d recommend moving their bedtime earlier to let them catch up on some of that extra sleep at night and see if that helps them not get too tired throughout the day. My daughter was always a napper, and even now that she’s in 1st grade, we have an early bed time for her on school nights (7pm), because she needs that extra sleep to help her function her best.
Do you typically suggest the parent stick to offering the single nap at home during the weekends, or allow for two naps?
I would recommend seeing what works best for your child. If they seem to have transitioned well during the week to one nap, they may do well with it at home. But if they are extra tired by the end of the week, they may still need some of that extra sleep time over the weekend. The routines of school can be very tiring for little ones, especially in the beginning, so they may need to keep that second nap at home when they are able to.
Can parents typically provide a schedule or set wake times to offer naps?
In a preschool classroom, our nap times are already scheduled into our day. In an infants’ class there may be more flexibility on this, so make sure to check with your child’s teacher.
Any other tips and tricks you can suggest to help give quality sleep to children?
Communicate with your child’s teacher about any concerns you may have and get feedback from them on what would work best for your child. And remember that it’s a big transition for little ones and it may take a little while for them to feel comfortable and get into the routine of school/daycare and nap time there. And always try and find any ways to make it as comfortable and familiar to them as possible!