Here is an idea I have adopted. It comes from the daycare center where I used to work. I have put it into practice with my group of 4 year olds. It can be adapted to all ages.
Since I have a group formed with a majority of boys (7 boys, 3 girls), who are very active even at naptime, the games they played prior to naptime were anything but calm. This period of the day became very hectic since resorting to calm games was next to impossible for the children under my care. Adding to the problem, I was unable to supervise them adequately since I was busy cleaning up from lunchtime and naptime is scheduled from 12:30 to 2:30... leaving us pressed for time. The children were therefore not at all predisposed to sleep and it took an eternity for them to settle down on their mats due to overexcitement. This is why I decided to apply the "naptime containers" method.
I began to collect yogurt containers (1 per child) and inserted small toys. These toys were blocks, threading games, tiny puzzles, ponies with combs, etc. Dollar stores provide endless possibilities. I then numbered the containers from 1 to 10 to ensure that the same child does not take the same container twice in the same week. I hung a laminated poster on the wall with numbers 1 to 10 beside each child's name along with a dry erase marker. Children mark off the corresponding number beside their name.
Now for my routine... When lunch is over, I send the children to remove their shoes at the door while I sweep around the table. Then, I take out their mats and they each choose a container to bring to their mat and play with its content. I use this time to quietly remove the dishes without having to put all my energy into intervening for them to stop running everywhere.
A few useful rules:
- Children may not choose the same container twice in the same week. This avoids the most sought after container always being chosen by the quickest child.
- Children may not exchange their container among themselves (trust me there would never be an end to it).
- Children must play alone on their own mats.
- Children are permitted to whisper.
I hope this will help you make your preparation for naptime easier. This method is very successful with my daycare children and they look forward to this time of the day.
P.S. Don't forget to renew the content of the containers regularly to avoid children losing interest. Personally, when I change the content, I do not tell them but rather allow them to discover it on their own.