Preschoolers have unique needs when it comes to rest time. Some preschoolers require an afternoon nap after a long morning at play, while others require less sleep. Some children may nap daily, occasionally, or not at all. The average preschooler needs between 10-13 hours of sleep per day, according to the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Here are some suggestions on how to accommodate all children in your group and how to make rest time smoother for preschool teachers.
- Be sure that all children are visible to an adult.
- Be sure that you can access all children quickly in the event of an emergency or fire drill.
- Provide an individual mat or cot for each child.
- Send blankets, pillows, and sleeping bags home to be laundered once a week
- Separate children by 24-36 inches away from other children to prevent the spread of airborne illnesses. Children are more susceptible to spread and pick up germs as they sleep because their immune systems are also at rest.
- Store children’s nap provisions in a non-porous bag or container so that children’s belongings do not mix when not in use.
Set the Tone:
- Schedule nap time so it occurs roughly at the same time each day and so that children follow the same routine each day when preparing for nap. This doesn’t mean at 1pm every day the lights must be out and everyone on a mat. It could be at 12:50pm one day and 1:15pm another day, as long as it is suiting most of the children’s needs.
- Play soft music that provides a calm, relaxing tone for the room.
- Dim the lights and close blinds to provide a more restful atmosphere.
Plan a Smooth Transition:
- Follow a consistent routine each day so children know what to expect. This may take some trial and error to plan the right amount of rest time and to find the right time to start laying down.
- As the children in your group grow throughout the school year, you may see a need to push back when rest time starts or maybe to shorten it as you see children waking up earlier and earlier.
- Begin rest time with a quiet activity or by reading a story.
- Sleeping in a foreign place with new sounds, and lights dimmed can be a little scary. Encourage children to bring a small stuffed animal from home or a book that will ease their nerves.
Expect the Unexpected:
- If children fall asleep before rest time has begun, place the child in a quiet area of the room separate from noisy activities, preferably on their own mat or cot.
- When children have difficulty transitioning or winding down for nap, provide more individualized attention by patting backs, singing softly, or reading quiet books.
- Have quiet activities prepared for children who do not nap or who wake up early. This could be books, puzzles, books on tape/CD, art, short computer games.
- Share your classroom’s nap procedures and any special notes about specific children’s needs to substitutes or floaters so they are aware and prepared to assist in your classroom.
Do you have a new or unique way that you transition to rest time or provide a restful atmosphere? Share your ideas in the comments below!
Additional Resources for peaceful rest times: