I don't want to sleep!!!
Sweet naptime! Tired and exasperated from working so hard at convincing daycare children to remain on their mats and relax, you may be tempted to remove this portion of the day altogether. However, knowing perfectly well that the relaxation achieved is highly beneficial you do not want to deprive children of it. Here are a few suggestions to help both daycare workers and children make the most of what should be an enjoyable break from the rest of the day.
Naptime should never be a battle. It is the time of day when children should relax on their own terms while respecting certain predetermined guidelines. Actually falling asleep should never be an obligation. Sometimes, simply changing the name we use for this time of day can change children's view of it. Instead of calling it "naptime", children may be more inclined to embrace "relaxation time" or "alone time". Children who don't feel pressure to actually fall asleep may be less anxious at this time of the day and therefore relax more easily.
First and foremost, it is crucial to explain to children the reasons naptime exists as well as the benefits they can reap from it. Children must be able to look forward to naptime which is possible with proper planning and a touch of imagination!
- Place children who disturb the group in quiet corners away from others. This will allow them to move around without causing a distraction for others. This simple measure will most likely mean you must intervene much less. Allow children to decorate their space to make it appealing to them. For example, children can hang pictures or mobiles above their assigned spaces.
- Allow children to take turns being your helper and give them responsibilities. Choose a "Sweet Dreams Maker" every day. When chosen, children act as helpers to get everyone ready for naptime and to send them off to "Sweet Dreams". Agitated children will love this role but will also be able to appreciate a friend helping them prepare for naptime in the place of their daycare worker.
- Create a calm and soothing environment which children will be eager to enter for a magical naptime. Use candles (if they can be placed in a safe place), relaxing music, or softly sing lullabies to the children. Music should be turned off once children are asleep to allow their ears to have a break too.
- Establish a naptime routine, a series of identical actions and activities which occur prior to naptime each day. For example, each day after lunch, children go to the bathroom, the lights are turned down, and they can choose a book. Children are given a chance to unwind while looking at their books on their mats. Children will know that this routine marks the beginning of naptime without daycare workers having to announce it. Imagination can help even the most hesitant children surrender to their mats. Imagine a train which drops off children one by one on their mats or use toilet paper to create paths to each of the mats.
- Including a short period of light activity following lunch may allow children to spend any bottled up energy accumulated from sitting for a long period at mealtime. Again, this period must be part of your daily routine for children to use it as a reference. The activity itself may vary however. Relaxation games are often appreciated by children. Introduce them to a few yoga positions or encourage them to visualize certain things in relation to your current theme. When the common storybook is regularly replaced by different activities, children look forward to discovering just what is in store for them today.
- It is of utmost importance that naptime rules be clear and that children are familiar with them. A sign illustrating the major rules can be hung on the wall as a reminder.
- Create a "soft box" which includes objects which can be used for massages. Feathers, cotton balls, or small balls can be placed inside and children can choose one item for their daycare worker to tickle or massage them with.
- Once children are settled into their naptime space, make a point of going to each one and whisper a soft magical message to them. Only do so once they are calm and be sure to find something new to say each day. Children will be curious to hear your message.
- Create a scrapbook for children with their best artwork. When children are calm, allow them to look at their books.
- Prepare an album with pictures of children's family members or use Velcro to attach a picture to a favourite teddy bear. Families will then accompany children at naptime.
- Find a light color sheet and using a fabric marker personalize it with etchings and children's names.
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