5 Top Tips to Support and Nurture your Child's Sleep Health
As both a parent and an early childhood teacher, I would love to suggest that I have the magic keys to the sleep time kingdom. The instructions and ingredients for creating a perfect sleep time recipe, simply disappeared when my own children arrived and like so many parents it seems I am still searching for them! What I do know for certain however is that as parents we have the opportunity to support, nurture and develop our child’s sleep confidence, sleep attitude and sleep time health. So I will put away my magic wand and simply suggest that by following a few tips, we can contribute to creating happy little sleepers. No magic tricks here, just practical tips for recognising sleep as necessary for growth, health and life long learning.
Routine, Routine, Routine:
This one tends to speak for itself, as we all agree that children are creatures of habit, and consistency is a common thread in parenting. Create sleep confidence as you support your child to eat, bath and calm down in the evening. An exhausted child simply cannot manage without a sense of routine and predictability. A bedtime story, a cuddle, a well-ventilated room and soft lighting, reminds children that sleep is relaxing, needed and a positive aspect to the day. We cannot make our children sleep, but we can certainly build up a routine that supports and encourages it.
The bedtime routine starts in the morning:
The bedtime routine begins in the morning – yes the morning! Consider what your child needs in terms of sleep as a holistic approach to sleep/rest in a 24 hour period. A sleep time routine must consider the child, their daily activities and for how long they are active, engaged or in care. Sleep is not simply a nighttime activity, and for many children in a busy long day care environment, sleep requirements should be considered as an important age and developmental need. Your average toddler requires approx. 11-14 hours each day, and preschool aged child approx. 10-13 hours. Understanding sleep holistically supports children’s growth and development, enabling them to learn across the day and to be actively engaged in all areas of learning across a 12 hours period. A day sleep is necessary for many children and their behavior, attitude and capacity to be active learners requires this. Our staff at Ganeinu are responsive to the sleep needs of your child and will look for individual children’s sleep cues, as a sign that they need to rest. Remember, long day care is simply that, long days and children’s sleep should reflect and enable them to be at their best all day whilst in care. A good day sleep creates a good night sleep!
The rest/ sleep debate:
Just like adults, children need time within a busy day to be quiet, to settle, to reflect and to have space. Children need to opportunity to mentally and physically switch off. A period of rest in each day, supports children’s need to both active and passive thought, movement and simple down time. If your child is approaching school age and does not routinely sleep or nap at home, they still benefit from some quiet time in the middle of a busy day. Children need to recharge, restore and replenish their batteries, just as adults do. A short quiet period enables children to rest, even if they do not sleep. At Ganeinu, our Sleep Policy reflects this need for rest and down time, as children are offered quiet experiences if they have not fallen asleep after a rest period of 20 minutes.
Screen time and sleep are not friends:
Research indicates that screen time does not support sleep health, as it over stimulates children when their brains need rest, quiet and switch off time. Screen time has a place in offering learning opportunities for children, but it is simply not your friend when it comes to building sleep attitudes and sleep atmosphere. Try and keep screens out of the bedroom and ask children to read, listen to music or look at books as they wind down in bed before the lights are out. The Wi-Fi at my house has mysterious habit of turn off some evenings around bedtime – now that is truly magical!!!
Remember children bank sleep:
When a child’s sleep deposit is reduced by a busy night out, sickness or simply a hectic few days, we need to be sure to top it up with additional hours. These lost hours do make a difference across a week and can impact upon their ability to manage behavior, be attentive or engaged. Remember what you feel like after a late meeting or work/ family event. Children need to bank sleep, ensuring they have reserves to draw on too. Ganeinu educators are aware that a day sleep can impact on your night routine, and so with parental instruction and consultation we can provide a shortened sleep period that does not disrupt your child’s night time need for rest.
As parents we set the stage for our children’s sleep health and by following these 5 practical tips, you and your children should be well on your way to the land of slumber. Now get some sleep……
Routine, Routine, Routine
The bedtime routine starts in the morning
The rest/ sleep debate
Screen time and sleep are not friends
Remember children bank sleep