Teaching young children healthy sleep habits
It is possible to teach very young children heathy sleep habits. In fact, as adults, it’s our responsibility. Through simple daily actions, instill behaviors that will follow children as they grow. Children (and adults) really benefit from restorative sleep. I am sure you’ve noticed that if you don’t sleep well, even if it’s only for a few nights, it affects your daily life and your mood.
In general, children require a great deal of sleep. It’s perfectly normal for some children to need more sleep than others. However, children must learn to consider sleep positively. As adults, we must act as positive role models and demonstrate the importance of sleep. I would like to share five (5) tricks that may help you establish good sleep habits among the children in your group. Note that these tricks can be used by parents too.
Never use naptime or bedtime as punishment
It can be easy to use naptime to punish a child, for example by stating that he will have to go to bed earlier if he doesn’t behave. Avoid this mistake at all costs. Sleep is not a punishment, it is an essential need. In positive discipline, I often tell adults they must find logical consequences for inappropriate behavior. Naptime does not represent a logical consequence for bad behavior. Using naptime or bedtime to punish a child will only make him see sleep negatively.
Establish a regular sleep schedule
Are you familiar with children’s biological clock? It’s an internal clock that tells them they are tired. It’s associated with subtle signs such as yawning, becoming increasingly or decreasingly active, heavy eyelids, etc. Having a regular sleep schedule will help children’s clock play its role and prepare their body for sleep.
Create a sleep routine
Routines are a popular subject when working with children. Establishing a routine that remains the same day in and day out is important. A sleep routine is a series of events that helps children prepare for sleep. It is reassuring and sends the message that naptime or bedtime is coming. It gives their body time to prepare accordingly. Use visual aids if necessary. Children will learn to refer to them.
Let children fall asleep on their own time and fully respect each child’s rhythm
All children have preferences in terms of how they like to fall asleep. Some may need a gentle back rub, others will ask to be tucked in. Respect each child’s preferences and give them time to fall asleep on their own. Some will fall asleep almost immediately. Others may take several minutes.
Knowing the importance of sleep
Children must understand, through your actions and words, that sleep plays an important role in taking good care of their body, controlling their mood, etc. They mustn’t see sleep as a fun activity, nor as a boring one. It’s simply a necessity that is part of daily life. Sleep is essential to every single one of us. It makes functioning normally possible.
These five tricks just may be the winning recipe for making naptime and bedtime enjoyable and most importantly, positive for children.
Maude Dubé, Specialized educator