A morning at daycare can be very exhausting for a child. Learning new things, playing with friends and then perhaps the annoyance when the tower in the building corner simply collapses: by lunch time, a nursery child has done quite a lot.
It’s no wonder that fatigue sets in and sometimes the head can hardly hold itself up in front of the plate. Right now it’s time for a nap to take a rest.
Melanie, our deputy pedagogical director, knows why sleep in the nursery is so important for the kids.
How much sleep do crèche children usually need?
Melanie: We have children in the crèche aged between nine months and four years. The need for sleep is still very high, but it varies from child to child. The children sleep between half an hour and up to three hours, depending on how tired they are. Normally, we have lunch first, followed by nap time, but some of the little ones fall asleep before lunch and then we simply reverse the schedule and wait until the child has had a good night’s sleep.
The long opening hours of our day care centre and the associated different arrival and attendance times of the children also have an impact on the children’s need for sleep. A child who comes to the nursery as early as 7:45 in the morning has a different sleep rhythm than one who is a few years older and is not there until 9 o’clock.
How is the nap/daytime sleep regulated at Zuckertag?
Melanie: The nap room is darkened, we make sure that the atmosphere is quiet and pleasant. Each child has a fixed place to sleep so that habituation and routine can develop. One of the educators sits in the room during the entire bedtime and sings a song, for example, or tells the children a short story to help them fall asleep.
This is especially important during the settling-in period. In this way, the children get to know rituals and a certain structure. The fixed sleeping place is helpful. The children are often allowed to choose their own place to sleep and often they choose one next to a child with whom they also like to play. The educators also lie down next to the children who are having a hard time falling asleep, then they talk a little or cuddle and the children are usually quickly asleep.
Those who wake up after a while can get up and leave the room quietly – this is also practised, of course. The children are not woken up, but can sleep in. If parents come to pick up the children quite early, it can happen that a child is still asleep.
What happens when the children can’t fall asleep?
Melanie: We hardly ever have this problem with this age group. But if it does happen, the children don’t necessarily have to sleep properly. The crucial thing is to rest. Children react differently to demands. Some get tired and fall asleep quickly, others are so hyper that they can hardly calm down – and that’s why learning the importance of rest times is all the more important. If parents keep this in mind, the child has a chance to find a healthy rhythm of activity and rest later on and learns to take care of itself. Children want these breaks themselves. For once, they don’t want to be asked to play, they want to be able to switch off without noise. This helps them to reorient themselves. If a child cannot sleep at all, we of course inform the parents. Sometimes this is a sign of an incipient illness.
What can parents do if a child does not get any rest in the evening because of the rest break in the day care centre?
Melanie: It is important that the nap or the quiet time is continued at home at the weekend. It doesn’t necessarily have to be at the same time as here, but the rhythm between play and rest is important for the child’s development. If this is forgotten at the weekend, the child has to get used to it again every Monday.
The daily routine at the day care centre is often more structured than at home. Due to special activities in the families, it is sometimes simply not possible to keep the rest times well on the weekend.
At home, parents can help their children well if they also introduce small rituals there before going to sleep and, for example, take special time to listen to the children when they want to tell them about the day’s events and their new impressions. When all this has been said and all other things have been taken care of, the child can come to rest.