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Health

  • Written by Simone O'Brien


Sleep is important – that we can all acknowledge. But when “rest time” becomes a time where children are required to lay down, regardless of whether they normally sleep during the day or even need to sleep, issues start to arise.

Many childcare centres in Australia have become more flexible in how they deal with rest times, allowing children to quietly sit and draw or read, or even quietly play outside. Other centres offer children yoga to give them a period to allow their minds and bodies to rest. Then there is, of course, the more traditional rest time for children who do still need that daily nap.

Sleep and Kindy Aged Children

Most children aged between 3 – 5 have dropped their naps and will sleep between 11-13 hours at night. Of course, this doesn’t apply to all children and some will have an hour nap each day, while others may only need a nap occasionally.

Getting enough sleep is important at this age (as at every age) and contributes to the health, growth and development of the child. There are also benefits to boosting their immune systems as well as potentially reducing the risk for general illnesses.

What Does the Research Say About Sleep at Daycare?

In 2011, a study of 750 parents of preschool-aged children who attended a childcare program, were asked of their preference for sleep while their child is in care. It may not come as a surprise to those with kindy aged children that the majority of parents (78.7%) preferred that their child did not regularly sleep while attending childcare, with many explaining that these naps were no longer appropriate and impacted their children’s health and development.

It is interesting to note that childcare services that have the most flexible sleep-rest practises are often observed to have the highest-quality practises at other times of the day. These centres see sleep, rest and relaxation integral to the care and education of a child and ensure there is adequate staffing throughout the day to provide for the individual needs of children.

Parents often don’t want to put their child into a childcare centre as they are concerned about their child either a) not having a nap and therefore having a terrible night sleep or b) having a nap and not wanting to sleep come bedtime. In October 2017, the National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care updated their sleep policies. Childcare centres of all types are required to have in place a policy and procedure that allows for a sleep, rest and relaxation period that provides for each child, and their parents, individually.

What these new policies mean is that a four-year-old who doesn’t typically nap during the day has options for quiet time as opposed to sleep time, while a three-year-old who still needs a nap has the opportunity to do so.

Treasured Tots’ Wellness Program has been a great way to introduce children to sleep and rest and why their bodies and minds need to take a break for a little while. The big benefit of the program is that it incorporates a range of areas that allow the educators at Treasured Tots to deliver a holistic approach to supporting resilient, happy and aware children. Movement activities include yoga, dance and nature play which develop concentration, a sense of calm and relaxation.

Combined with a flexible rest time where children can nap or quietly play depending on their individual needs, we do recognise that sleep is important, however we also recognise that children having input into what they need at a point in time is essential to their development and growth. By being forced into a regulated sleep time, a child is missing an opportunity to learn to recognise and respond to their tired signals.

How can you support your child at home as they are phasing out of naps, or when you recognise they need time to stop and calm down but don’t need a sleep? Talking with your child about sleep and rest, and how they affect our bodies is important. It is also essential that we include children in the decision making so that they can learn to recognise their own tired cues.

The team at Treasured Tots strive to ensure we work with our families to achieve the optimal outcome for everyone, including on sleep. Whether you want your child to nap or prefer for them to play or read quietly, we’d love to discuss the individual needs and preferences for your family.