One of the biggest bones of contention between parents and teachers at child care settings is whether or not children need a nap. It’s a touchy subject, and there are so many things to take into consideration that it’s well worth discussing.
Young children grow rapidly. Their energy seems boundless, their little minds are growing as quickly as their bodies. Some of them seem to outgrow the need to nap around the age of 3 years. Note: “seem to” is not the same as not needing to nap anymore!
Children are like little rechargable batteries: eventually, they need time to recharge. As batteries wind down and generally start acting up if they don’t have that necessary “down” time, so do children. Perhaps they didn’t have much sleep the night before, or they got up really early to go to school, or they may not feel well. Whatever the case, they need that chance to simply rest.
When children are at home, their routines are so different than at “school.” Nevada daycare licensing and child care centers in general, recognize this, and have come up with the obvious fact that all preschool children should be given the opportunity to nap at a child care setting – be it a daycare, a learning center or a preschool. Rules may vary at the different centers, but the bottom line is that all children under the age of 5 years should be placed upon a cot for at least 15 minutes to half an hour, where they will be expected to lie quietly while the nappers are put to sleep.
This also supposedly gives the teachers the opportunity to make certain that all children who need to nap are asleep before the other children are allowed to either get up from their cots or be given alternate activities. I say supposedly, because, in a perfect world, this is how it works. In reality, those who don’t want to or can’t fall asleep, often resort to noise or thrashing about while teacher is occupied with patting backs and comforting children who miss their mom at naptime.
By the time all children are settled down, with teachers going on their well-deserved lunch breaks (with alternates coming into the room) and the classrooms sometimes being over ratio, it’s almost impossible to have children get off their cots without disturbing the entire classroom. There are potty breaks (especially in the younger children), late arrivals, needs for drinks of water (just like at home), desire for attention or comfort, children bothering each other or inciting each other to giggles and misbehavior.
In a perfect world, there would be a separate supervised room where confirmed non- nappers can go to play quietly with puzzles or read or do simple art such as drawing and coloring. Unfortunately, in most centers in which I have worked here in Las Vegas/Henderson, there simply isn’t room or staff available for this. When a parent insists their child doesn’t have to nap, it is difficult to grant this request. In a classroom with a computer, non-nappers can occupy themselves for the duration of nap time, but once nappers find this out, they won’t want to fall asleep either – that’s the conundrum.
So what can teachers do? The best option is to have all children, whether nappers or not, lie quietly on their cots for half an hour or so. After that, those who obviously are wide awake can be given books or crayons and papers ON THEIR COTS. Under no circumstances should they be given toys with which to play or be allowed to get up and move about. This disturbs the other children and undermines the idea of “rest time”. Smart teachers often have little “non nap” bags with quiet activities for those children who simply can’t sleep. But let’s face it, when it’s calm in a classroom with soft naptime music playing, and when children have the option, quite often those who don’t appear tired still decide (body against mind) that yes, a nap may not be a bad thing. And they slowly drift off to dreamland.
Everyone knows that this afternoon nap may be inconvenient for parents whose children don’t fall asleep as early as they would like. But if children arrive early at daycare, and if their bodies are calling out for rest after an active morning of learning and play, that call has to be answered with the opportunity for a nap, otherwise, not unlike that rechargeable battery, the child will start to act up and misbehave.
It’s only human.