Help create healthy daytime sleep habits for infants and toddlers in your care

When dealing with babies and toddlers, a midday break is the best thing for everyone involved. Young children need the rest, caregivers need the quiet, and parents need children who aren’t overtired at pickup time.

Coordinating a peaceful nap time that meets everyone’s needs is a challenge, but it’s an important part of a child’s daily schedule and helps both children and their families. Consider the following tips and tricks to create a nap-friendly environment.

Decide on a schedule

Figuring out when nap time will take place is largely dependent on the age of the children in your care. When it comes to infants, it’s best to let them take the lead on when they need to rest. Although it sounds like chaos, this system is actually far easier than trying to convince multiple infants to sleep simultaneously.

Instead, look for signs that a baby may be getting sleepy, such as eye-rubbing, finger-sucking, or nodding off and take a few moments to comfort that baby in whatever way works best for them. Singing, snuggling, rocking, or stroking their heads or cheek are all options that may help a tired baby finally fall asleep.

Create a safe sleep space

Make sure all caregivers that work with you understand and follow the sleep suggestions recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Babies must be placed on their backs to sleep, each and every time.

Also, make sure cribs have well-fitted sheets and are free of pillows, bumpers, blankets, or toys. Take babies out of their cribs as soon as they wake up.

Older children are likely to sleep on mats or cots and may want to bring a blanket or small stuffed animal from home to self-soothe for nap time. Keep the lights low and work toward a quiet environment.

Have a backup plan

Some children just aren’t going to sleep. You won’t be able to force them to, so it’s best to have a plan b. Encourage non-nappers to lay quietly to try to sleep, and then permit them to stay in their sleep space with a quiet activity such as a book or felt puzzled.

Ask parents about nap habits at home to see if there are any accommodations you could make to help the child get used to sleeping while in your care.

Naptime can cause a lot of anxiety for both parents and children, particularly if they’re new to a childcare environment. Explain your policies, procedures, and set up to them and invite parents to stop by to see how naptime works.

Creating a peaceful environment and a quiet break for rest in the middle of the day is more than just smart scheduling. Sleep is biologically important – particularly for young children – because our brains form new pathways, replace chemicals, and repair muscles during sleep. Promoting healthy nap habits is good for your whole program, and has a positive impact on the health and wellness of the children in your care. The Virginia Infant & Toddler Specialist Network helps improve the quality of care for infants and toddlers through extensive resources, services, and education for caregivers. Learn more about how we can help you improve the standard of care.