Sleep and Rest Routines in Childcare

Sleep and rest routines in childcare need to be flexible enough to cater for a variety of needs. It is a child care provider’s responsibility to provide a safe comfortable environment for children to sleep in.  

Differing sleep and rest routines in childcare

Sleep and rest routines, and environments in childcare are going to differ in most cases to the home environment. Reasons for this include:

  • The environment in the childcare service will be different to the home environments of each child. Some children will be used to sleeping in a noisy environment while others will be used to near total silence. Understanding the child’s home sleep environment   will give the childcare centre a better chance of helping the child to sleep successfully in the child care environment. 
  • Babies introduced to childcare and who have become used to being nursed to sleep could find being left in a crib quite hard to adjust to. 
  • Some children have more than one daily nap and may take time adjusting to the childcare centre’s nap schedule. 

Organising successful sleep and rest practices in childcare depends on five factors. 

5 Factors that lead to a successful rest time in childcare 

Providing a consistent schedule that encourages rest

It needs to be recognised that childrens’ individual sleep needs will vary according to temperament and habits.

Young toddlers sleep at varying times of the day, making it difficult to set one specific rest time for the entire group. Whereas older infants will more easily follow a set schedule which could incorporate a nap time after lunch. It is useful to have enough flexibility to adapt to a child’s signals throughout the day. .Babies and young toddlers should be allowed to set their own sleep schedules wherever and whenever possible.

Given that all  children will not have the same nap time, a safe place in the child care centre should be set aside for napping. The place should be easy to observe and supervise. While some older children will take it upon themselves to ask to rest, most  children will need to be prompted to take a nap. 

The most successful rest times rely upon a daily schedule that is full of stimulating activity with lots of play indoors and outdoors.. Plenty of this type of activity helps children to enjoy their rest periods. Sufficient exercise and stimulation will help all children to eat and rest better.

Organize where each child will rest

When  organising where each child rest it is important to consider these points:

  • Look at separating children who would be likely to talk to each other or play during the quiet time. 
  • Work to create familiarity by encouraging children to sleep in the same spot daily.  This will help them to settle quickly and make it easier for them to drift off to sleep.  

Create a calming environment in which to rest

Children are more likely to relax when rest time resembles their nap time at home. That’s why it’s important to get parents to share how their child likes to fall asleep. If necessary, it can help to encourage children to bring special items from home that they associate with their nap time. These Items should be made available to children on a need’s basis and the ownership of these items should be recognised and respected.  

The child carer has an important role to play during rest time. It is important to try and mimic the home sleep routines as closely as possible for each individual child. Here are some practices to adopt in order to facilitate a calming environment.

  • Take the time to discover how adults help the child to rest in the home. Some common relaxation techniques may include rocking, back rubbing, patting, or alternatively leaving the child alone in their room. 
  • Encourage children who are restless to choose a book to read.
  • Maintain a calm serene presence, so that the children will understand that this is a quiet time. 

Make a smooth transition to rest time

Rest time for older pre-schoolers, usually follows lunchtime. This can be potentially difficult in transitioning as there are a lot of variables to deal with. The process can be managed by having something to do organised for the children who finish eating early. Easy tasks to allocate include clearing eating places, wiping tables and washing hands and faces.

After lunch, plan an activity that will help children to remain calm after eating, then maintain the mood by playing soft music and dimming the lights – these cues will help to signal that it is rest time. 

Carefully transition to prepare for children waking up

One of the parts of managing sleep rest routines and environments in childcare is smoothly transitioning out of rest time. This is because some children can take time to fully wake up and during that time they can be irritable and cranky. To manage this carefully, allow sufficient time for children to wake up fully. As children do wake, move them away from the rest area, so that they will not unnecessarily disturb others. Lighting should remain low during this period so that the environment has a calm and peaceful feel.