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Naptime at Daycare

I get asked often about the different relationships children have with sleep at home and at daycare and so I reached out to my friend Giulia Papini, a perinatal psychologist who runs a wonderful daycare in Rome, to ask her just what happens at daycare and what their magic strategies are to get so many little ones to sleep...who usually need so much support at home...at the same time. Read Giulia's article below to know exactly what they do! ~ Christina



How is it possible that he fell asleep on his own? And how did you get him to sleep for almost 2 hours?

These are just some of the questions that unbelieving parents ask after starting daycare.


When we talk about sleep in daycare, we often see surprised faces and incredulous parents who learn that their child, who usually takes almost an hour to fall asleep at home, took only 10 minutes in daycare and even slept well. Two hours!!


So the educators lie? Do they have any secret weapons or magic potions?

Let's try to understand together what happens at daycare at the time of the afternoon nap and how 3-4 educators get 15-16 children to sleep at the same time.


The magic word is ROUTINE.


As we know, the evening routine is essential for good sleep hygiene, but in reality, it is also the daily routine. At daycare, we follow a pretty strict daily routine that remains the same as much as possible every single day.


The differences that we find are based on the age of the children.

Between 0-12 months


In this age group, we know that the child almost always needs a nap in the morning and one after lunch (usually if he still takes a third nap, this happens at home).


The first thing an educator must ask parents is how the child spent that night, this helps us understand what their sleep needs will be during the day. It is also necessary for the educator to notice the signs of fatigue in children such as yawning, changes in movements/slowing down, etc.


Normally, after a snack around 9.30, the "infants" class takes a nap for about an hour. When a child first starts daycare, we initially follow the usual nap times of each child, and then gradually the nap times tend to coincide with those of the rest of class (usually this is a spontaneous process).


After about a month, almost all children (usually no more than six) sleep peacefully for about an hour, each with their own methods of support. Those who love to be cuddled and cradled will surely have an educator ready to cuddle them and an excellent solution tends to be the bouncer. Meanwhile, those who are a little older and need more space will fall asleep on mats/cots. All in a suitable environment characterized by soft light and lullaby songs.


Usually, the routine repeats itself after lunch. Falling asleep takes about 20 minutes while the duration of the nap depends on each child, usually 2 hours. Obviously, the educator always remains in the room with the children to help them in case they wake early and to ensure the children do not get scared if they don't find her when they wake up.


Between 12-24 months


In this age group, children generally don't sleep in the morning, also because the daily routine is very organized with activities throughout the morning such as snacks, playtime, workshops, personal hygiene, lunch, and then rest.


The nap at daycare tends to be earlier than at home. This may initially be a surprise for parents and, even though it is a change also for children, they take very little time to get used to it. The daily activities, the interaction with each other certainly make the child's day challenging and tiring and 12:30 pm becomes the ideal time to nap. This repetitiveness makes the nap expected and predictable; each child learns very early which bed is theirs (they are specially placed in the same place every day) and which classmate will be nearby.


As for falling asleep, there are children who need contact with the educator, while others recline independently in their own bed and fall asleep lulled by the sound of the lullaby. For the children who need contact, the educator approaches them and gently cradles them until they fall asleep.


Let's not forget the fundamental role of imitation. Seeing other companions lying in their cots helps the child feel safe, in a familiar place, and the other's calm also reassures him. Also, in this case, the educators remain to watch over the sleeping little ones and as each child wakes up, they are returned to their class.

Between 24-36 months


This age group is very similar in all respects to the previous one. What could be different is the duration of sleep. Older children usually have a consolidated routine and falling asleep is faster but, as the child grows, the need for the afternoon nap decreases. In fact, there are few children who still need to sleep after lunch at the entrance to the preschool.




In all cases, the daycare's daily routine helps to mark the times in the day for the child, also making it easier to fall asleep at bedtime. The day is very full and organized in daycare, between play time and learning activities, making it quite demanding for children. All of these activities make a good restful nap essential to recharge and consolidate cognitive and mnemonic skills.


We always need to remember that sleep in daycare can be difficult to replicate at home. TIming at home may be different or the way in which they need to fall asleep could be different. However, this should not scare us, on weekends or on holidays, we will certainly find the right way to help our little ones to sleep in the afternoon as they always did before entering the daycare!

Giulia Papini

Perinatal psychologist &

day care coordinator in Rome, Italy

Pagina FB: https://www.facebook.com/PsicologaGiuliaPapini

Blog internet: https://www.giuliapapinipsicologa.it/

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