Sleep Tips for Daycare Teachers
As a daycare provider, sometimes achieving good sleep for the little ones in your care can be difficult. As a former daycare teacher for 10 years and now a sleep consultant, I have learned that every child has different needs and it is so important that we try our very best to meet those needs. I also understand that it can be overwhelming to accommodate each and every child when you have a classroom of children to take care of. What is most important is that you do your very best!
Most childcare teachers want all of the children in their classroom to sleep well so that they can get their tasks done and take their lunch break. Let’s talk about some things to consider so that all of the children in your classroom can sleep well.
1) Ensure that there is no set nap schedule
Every baby has different sleep needs, therefore, getting the entire class to take quality naps at the same time can be very difficult. If all of the babies in your infant class are going to sleep at the same time, there is a good chance that some of them are going to sleep overtired or not tired enough. This is why it may seem so difficult to get them to sleep.
It is important to watch out for sleepy cues to determine when the babies in your classroom are ready for a nap. This will avoid both over-tiredness and under tiredness. Signs of tiredness include eye-rubbing, sucking on hands/ fingers, yawning and staring into space. When a baby is overtired, they are often difficult to settle and they tend to wake earlier from their nap. They may cry, scream, have a rigid body, and push away.
On another note, if a preschool child needs a bit more rest once everyone is already awake, allow that child to sleep a little longer if they seem like they need it or if they fell asleep a little late. Sometimes this may be easier said than done, but if you can make it happen, you may have a less cranky child for the afternoon. Growing bodies can benefit from restorative naps!
2) Avoid forcing children in your care to sleep
This is a big one! It is so important to take the pressure off sleep for the children in your care. After all, you can only control so much. You cannot control if a child sleeps, but you can control the environment around them. For a child to sleep, they need to feel relaxed and ready to sleep. This brings us to the next sleep tip.
3) Make the sleep environment conducive to sleep
It can be helpful to ask the child’s parent what their routine is at home and how their child usually sleeps. Overall communication with the parents is key in supporting a child’s sleep habits both at home and at daycare. For example, some children use a sleep sack, which can act as a cue for bedtime. Or, maybe their child sleeps with a special item or is used to it being darker. You can try to accommodate them by letting them bring something from home that is familiar like a stuffed animal or putting them in a darker corner so that they can have a better nap.
Speaking of communication, it is also important to communicate how long their child napped for (so the parent knows when to put their child to bed). Ideally, parents should also communicate how their child slept that night. This will give daycare providers an idea of when they may be due for a nap and will allow them to have a sense of what their mood might be like during the day.
In addition to this, it is important to consider how each child is used to falling asleep. If some of your infants or toddlers need to be rocked to sleep, that’s ok! This is likely how they are used to sleeping at home and it can be hard to change their habits, especially if they don’t practice independent sleep at home.
On the other hand, some children need to be rocked to sleep at home but their daycare teachers practice independent sleep with them. This can work well (depending on the child) and will likely make your job easier if they can soothe themselves to sleep.
4) Provide quiet activities for those who do not sleep.
For those children who don’t sleep, it is important to provide them with quiet activities. If naptime is 2 hours, a preschool child can’t stay awake doing nothing during this time. Ideally, the activities you provide for the children who don’t sleep should be something fairly new to them or an activity they don’t normally do during the day. If so, it will likely keep their attention and they won’t disrupt the other children.
5) Involve each child in their nap routine
When children are involved and take on more of a responsibility, they are less likely to refuse to do the task at hand. It can be useful to get the children in your classroom to set up their beds and maybe even get them to practice putting their sheets on their cots. This helps them to not only be less resistant toward naps, but can also build their confidence and life skills.
It is so important that daycare providers support good sleep habits for the children in their care. Studies have shown that children who regularly get an adequate amount of sleep have improved attention, learning, memory, behaviour, and overall physical and mental health.
Parents and teachers should work as a team to ensure that the child is getting adequate sleep. You may discover that a child needs a ton of help to fall asleep and it can certainly be difficult to manage when you have other children to care for. If any parents in your program are looking for support with sleep so that their little one can learn to fall asleep independently, they can contact us by email: email@example.com or phone number: 416-454-1003. Little You Consulting helps families with challenges such as sleeping through the night, taking quality naps, transitioning from co-sleeping, eliminating or reducing night feedings, and many more!