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Thursday, May 26, 2011

I hate preschool rest time! -an alternative system for courageous carers

One of the things I really loved about being a preschool room leader was being able to stamp out the compulsory 'rest on a bed' after lunch. 

And one of the greatest frustrations of being a casual worker these days is having to conform to the routine of each centre, which invariably means telling some 4- and 5-year-old children (and some even younger) who really aren't tired that they have to lie on their beds for a certain length of time.  And them making them comply.

To me, insisting that a young child lies down and stays still and unoccupied when they're not tired- accompanied by the inevitable threats, pleading, raised voices, bribes, lies and confrontations when they won't comply- is a recipe for disaster.  In some cases, it's completely disrespectful and in breach of the rights of the child (as laid down by the United Nations).

Does that shock you- that carers threaten, bribe and lie to children? It shocks me. I can't do it.  So why is it such common practice?

And yes, it IS common practice.  Here are a few anecdotes from 'rest times I have seen'.

1. Children's heights were measured before their rest.  After rest time they were measured again, accompanied by enough intentional error to allow the carer to 'prove' that those who didn't rest wouldn't grow as tall- "see? Jake had a rest, and he's grown!"

Well, there's no need to tell kids the truth, is there??! What's wrong with blinding them with a bit of bodgy biology? They're too young to know the difference...

I might add that in this case, several of the children who wouldn't rest were clearly smarter than the carer- and they snickered.  Remember- gifted children often sleep far less than their peers, so we're dealing with a pretty tricky demographic here.  A little respect for the truth is advisable.

2. Children were refused the right to go out and play at the same time as their peers as punishment.

Oh great- they can't lie still because their bodies are telling them to use some more of that amazing little-kid energy, so the correct answer is to keep them inside longer?  That's a perfect recipe for a trashed room!  And why are we punishing them for listening to their bodies?

3. Children were refused a share of a birthday cake for afternoon tea as punishment.

BINGO- let's combine damaging attitudes to sleep with damaging attitudes to eating.  See my post about using food as an emotional tool.

4. Children were told they were 'very rude' for trying to point out to the carer that they didn't need to rest because they weren't tired.

Excellent- let's damage their self-esteem when they use logic.

5. Children had comfort items and personal belongings confiscated as punishment.

Marvellous- they're already unhappy, let's up the ante and take away their stuff! Hey, we can do that, they're just kids.

6. Children were promised stickers for lying still.

Someone please tell me how that's different from bribery and how it respects the children's needs, because I'm having a bit of trouble following the train of thought.

7. Children were told they had to lie on their bed for ten minutes.  The ten minutes was stretched to 45 minutes or more by carers who knew that the children couldn't read the clock.

Wow, that's a great way of teaching the children about time.

8. And the one that gave me the greatest cause for concern- a 3-year-old gifted child with high energy levels, when shouted at to lie on his bed and stop doing gymnastics on it, looked the carer in the eye and stepped off the bed. And then ran away laughing.

Showdown at the OK Corral, and the 3-year-old just won.

Where does a carer go from there? This particular carer turned it into an attitude problem towards that child and started to tell other carers what a difficult child he was, what a rude child he was, and so on.

And that's just a small sample bag of what happens.  It's as though rest time is contained in its own little bubble, or conducted on another planet, where the normal rules of carer behaviour don't apply.

Everywhere I go to work, I see the same lack of respect at rest time.  I see desperate attempts by staff to make the kids think that a rest is somehow special, desirable and necessary, even if one's body is saying otherwise.  (Hello- children are smarter than that.)  I see staff behaviour condoned which wouldn't be condoned in any other context through the day.

And I see half a dozen or so genuinely miserable children who can't understand why they're being penalised for listening to their body signals. Some use rest time as a spawning ground for creative naughtiness.  (Wow, that's constructive use of their time.)

Rarely have I seen any attempt to talk to the kids themselves about the real issues at preschool rest time, to get them onside, to talk to the staff and work out another way of dealing with the great divide between the staff's and children's needs at this time of day.

So what are the real issues at rest time? Why do we make all preschoolers lie on a bed regardless of their needs, forbidden even to have a book or puzzle to entertain them, for a pre-ordained length of time?  Are these reasons sustainable in the light of reality?

When I gave the children who never slept during the day the choice of staying up and doing some quiet activities instead, the other workers thought I was mad.  In fact, they were furious with me. 

When would we do our paperwork and cleaning? (This is why we need the children to effectively disappear for an hour or more- to fulfil the requirements of government authorities. Yes, it sucks.)

How would we get the other children- those who did need a rest- to sleep, when they saw some children still playing?  (This is the default reason for not allowing books and puzzles on beds.)

Don't all young children need to rest during the day for optimum growth and development? (Um, this sounds like an afterthought to me.)

And that was about the order in which the issues came up, too.  The children were last on the list.

Those were the overt issues. (Of course, there were also covert issues, like an unwillingness to change the familiar patterns of years of experience.)

Let's look at them in reverse order, and see if there's an alternative to 'rest time as war zone'. 

No, not all children benefit from a daytime rest.  If the 3-year-old in my final anecdote slept during the day, he was up till 11pm at night without fail.  My own son was the same.  Children have different sleep needs, just like adults. Recognising this is an important part of the 'being' facet of the new curriculum; each child is different, and we need to respect that.

Distracting the children who do need to sleep can be a problem, but it's a matter of using dividers, verandahs, curtains or any means you can to separate the two groups- even having separate rooms for rest and activities, if staffing and space allows. 

You also need very firm guidelines for the non-sleepers about where they may and may not go, and how they may and may not behave, in exchange for the privilege of taking part in the new non-sleeper program (until it becomes part of the normal routine and the rules are understood by all).  The success of a 'quiet activities' program will depend on how good your relationships are with the non-sleepers; if you are honest with them and they have respect for you, you have a very good chance of running a workable needs-based sleeptime program. 

It's also necessary to maintain excellent communication with parents about their children's rest needs; 'mummy wants you to sleep, and I have to do what your mummy says because she's the boss', when you know it's the honest truth, works a lot better for the sleeper group than 'you'll sleep because I say so'.

As for paperwork and cleaning- I did my paperwork as soon as the 'quiet activities' group was settled.  I often had to explain that I needed to finish my writing or I would get into trouble, which was an interesting concept to them and gave them an opportunity to be considerate (they took it, more often than not); the children were always interested in what I was writing, especially if they recognised their name or their initial, and watching me work was part of their pre-literacy program.  Cleaning was done as soon as the sleepers were asleep- and any sleepers who just couldn't get off to sleep on a certain day were allowed to join the periphery of the quiet group and sit with a book near me.

I found the quiet activities time was a precious moment in the day, replacing a time when I'd felt extremely stressed and uncomfortable about what was going down around me.  The children helped me set up the tables and choose the activities, or pursued an activity they'd started earlier in the day, or read books, or made artworks.  Nobody who needed to sleep was denied that opportunity; nobody whose brain was still buzzing was forced into time-wasting inactivity.

I wish a few more preschools would try it.


  1. Hi There,

    I just want to say that I really appreciate your post! I just started reading your blog, and I am a middle school teacher turned child care provider. I completely agree that some children don't need to nap during the day, and shouldn't be forced to do so! I am appalled that the carers would lie to the children in order to manipulate them into doing what they want. What kind of a behavior is being taught here? We tell ourselves that we want to teach these children the social skill necessary to relate to others, and then we teach them exactly what not to do. Well said.

  2. You know, Aunt Annie, the ONLY thing that I remember from my years at preschool was being FORCED to lie on a little bed and have a rest. I loathed it,..and it frightened me. I guess now I recognise that feeling as vulnerability. then it was just scary. Kids who are older than 3 do not need a day sleep! Better that they go to bed early. (all three of my kids are in bed, ASLEEP, by 6:30pm.) I am with you 100% AA! pjxx

  3. Thanks, Dara and Jane. I know as a parent I would have been furious of my son had been forced to take a rest like this, because that just wasn't who he was at all- and the battle to get him into bed at night was already hard enough!

  4. As a mother of a child who stopped her daytime naps at 1yo I was very grateful that our childcare worked with us to find a solution that did not involve forcing her to lie still. She is a gifted kid and was very happy to spend the nap time sitting in the reading corner with her favourite books. The need to be quiet and not disturb the sleeping children was explained and she happily cooperated.

    We need more carers like yourself and the carers we were lucky to have who understand that all children are different and we need to work to meet their needs, not impose rules from above, without consideration of those needs.

  5. OMG - this is brilliant!!! I work at a child care centre in the babies room, so all my bubs have sleeps, but I can clearly remember the dramas surrounding sleep/rest times at other centres I did casual work at many years ago. Some things the carers did to the children were simply abusive yet they got away with it! I am talking about just about throwing children onto their beds and putting a leg over them to hold them down!! HORRIBLE! Most of the older pre-school children at the centre I work at now don't sleep, they just have quiet activities. However, there is still a lot of shouting/threatening in the toddler room at sleep time, sigh!

  6. in my experience, carers seem stuck....and once we lacknowledge that bubble of stuck, maybe we can make the changes you suggest...or even more bold - skip sleep altogether!

  7. Thanks for your feedback, everyone. Yep, carers are indeed 'stuck'. Sadly, some of them want to remain 'stuck'. I got so much flack from my staff and my director when I introduced this system that, in the end, I resigned due to bullying. Apparently they reintroduced the compulsory rest the next day, to the horror of many of the children. It makes me furious!

  8. This was one of the issues I had with childcare in my community in Illinois, USA. I have a super bright 4-year old (she was 3 when I had the issue and was bright then too =-) and she did not want to nap. She tried everything includes wetting her nap mat. Nice, huh? Forced sleep turns into potty issues. Then, the childcare worker got upset and forced her into a Pull-Up (UGH, double UGH, oh my gosh UGH). I though my husband and I were going to have a heart attack. Worker is no longer at this center. But my daughter is not either *SMILE* Two weeks later, I was staying home with her and I have been for a year now. We are poor, we don't have a lot of extras, but we have each other and time together which is SO WORTH it to me. She now naps if she is tired. She tells us. She says, "Mom, I would like a nap today." People find it amazing… but it is common sense to me. We do maintain a bedtime goal, but we are flexible on it as well, depending on activity levels during the day and mood of said bright little girl. We are happy here.

  9. Oh AmyD- that is HORRIBLE! Like I said, creative naughtiness can be a side effect of this type of treatment of gifted children. I loathe the way natural instincts are taught out of our children in an effort to make them conform to adults' convenience. Good on you for withdrawing her. I wish more parents were aware of what goes on- but of course unless the child says something...

  10. Hooray, Aunt Annie! I am so glad you are sharing your strong beliefs and standing up for children. The 8 tactics you describe are absolutely appalling. No wonder so many children grow up without respect for authority! They've been tricked, lied to, shamed, bullied and otherwise manipulated by those they have trusted to "care" for them.

    Make naptime a lovely, relaxing experience for children to be encouraged to participate in, but trust them completely when they choose not to do it. Even if the goal was more nappers, this would be the way for that to happen.

    Thanks again, Aunt Annie. You're my new hero!

  11. And hooray, Janet, that you're here! :D

    It IS about trust- trusting them to know what they need, and them being able to trust us to listen even if it's inconvenient for us.

    And it's not only preschool rooms that have this problem. Some children have dropped their daytime nap by the age of 2, or even earlier... and the smaller they are, the easier it is to bully them out of listening to their bodies.

  12. Hi Annie,
    Thanks so much for this post. It has raised some interesting questions for me in my own back to school caring for young children in my home.

    One question that was sparked after reading, however, is how do these young children who don't nap at school fare the rest of the afternoon? I consider my program a home away from home, and yes, do have some children who struggle to rest and fall asleep, only to fall asleep in their parents car at 4:30pm on the way home, or not at all making a very difficult meal/evening routine. I'm guessing that providers checked in with parents re: children who didn't nap and all went smoothly following school?

    I've also found in our own day that even if a child doesn't nap, a short, quiet 'resting' period helps them to gather themselves, come to a place of balance (particularly from busy morning work) and allows them the opportunity to let go. Often our children are so busy and caught up in the pace of culture, they struggle to be children despite the nurturing environments we provide. They are always on! Thinking! Trying to make sense and process and I feel a big part of my role throughout the day is to provide for them so that they can explore, relax, and take childhood at the pace it wants to evolve. Often times I wonder if we as adults have difficulty being quiet as well, and with ourselves, and offering children quiet times (even w/o books/puzzles/quiet activities that are influencing them) we offer them the opportunity to simply rest and be with themselves- and that it is okay to do so, without always being busy.

    Just some thoughts! I'm new to your blog and have really enjoyed the many articles I am discover!

  13. Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments, Danielle. The children who didn't sleep at all on a regular basis mostly did very well in the afternoons, because they were the sort of children who'd already dropped the daytime nap at home and had trouble going to sleep at night if they slept during the day. Feedback from the parents was universally positive for these children; some showed markedly less resistance to coming to care in the first place.

    The only children who were unsettled in the afternoon were those who really still needed that sleep and refused to have one- but that was a problem before we changed the system!- nothing changed there at all, except that we stopped FORCING them to lie down, so we had better relationships with them. I would remind them quietly, late in the afternoon when they were having fights with their playmates and getting cranky, that this was a result of not listening to their bodies at rest time.

    I do think that we need quiet times- absolutely agree with you there- and staff do need that respite too. I found that my time sitting down with the children while they read books, made artworks or built with Lego etc was quite peaceful, and nearly all the children eventually accepted that it was not a time for running around the room yelling. I tried to foster empathy for the children who did need their sleep; the change was accompanied by a social skills program using puppets, and this really helped the children to be kind to each other.

  14. Interesting! I have taken this to heart as a valuable exchange for me. It's a bit of a juggling act as I work independently for the moment with a small group of children- some who surrender to sleep readily as a peaceful and relaxed experience and with some who struggle. Logistically challenging to figure out how to meet everyone's needs (on your own!). What you say makes a lot of sense and has inspired me to explore the 'struggles' and what might be done differently. I am grateful for that. And it is a balancing act as well where I feel that we as a culture can also be guilty of pushing children to fit our schedules to the point of exhaustion because that is what is necessary and convenient. Providing the quiet time in caregiving is one way to offer children a reprieve from this. I look forward to experimenting with some of your ideas this Fall. Thank you for opening my eyes to this dilemma and the possibilities Annie.

  15. I am not sure how you were able to so eloquently write my thoughts and frustrations down when we have never met! So pleased to read the comments of others also! With more than 30 years in the EC field this is my greatest frustration, caregivers placing their needs above the children through forced naps. Under my supervision I have practiced the quiet activities and it does work beautifully. Unfortunately I have also been on the end of the caregiver lying to me as a parent and forcing my child to nap for two hours when he didn’t sleep. Those months mad our lives miserable and until I arrived unexpectedly to find him forced to sleep by unending backrubs and hand pressure to keep him lying down… wonder he was unable to fall asleep on his own or at a decent hour. THANK YOU and Janet Lansbury for leading me to your wonderful blog!

  16. Amy, that's a pleasure- I'm so pleased to find other carers and parents who share my concerns.

  17. I'd like to thank you for writing this post. I think it's only through people voicing what really goes on in Early Years environments that we can have any hope of changing and improving things for children. I think sometimes when we know things are wrong, we put the implications for ourselves above the well-being of the children. I'm a lucky in that I work for myself, in my own home and so do not have to witness unpleasant incidents such as those you describe and was quite shocked at the lengths you suggest some childcare staff will go to. I hope you don't mind if I share this on my Facebook page as I think the more these issues are discussed the more chance there is of change.

  18. There was a school in my state which was shut down after a grandmother came to check on her grandson during nap time and found that he had been duct taped to his cot. This is obviously an extreme case but in my years of childcare I have seen children threatened, bribed, punished and more for not resting. It is horrible. While I do know that many kids need a nap during the day(my oldest took naps until she was almost 7), there should be activities available for those who don't. Thank you for this post.

  19. When I qualified as a Montessori directress I moved to Germany where a nap is quite normal until the child is fully five! All the parents were used to and expected that their children would be up later - 3 and 4 year olds going to bed at 10 or 11. There was also the advantage to working parents that they could spend time with their children, which was a relief to me. I say relief because I was not convinced that it was wholly for the children (see administration and preparation!). However it was quite organic. The children got ready for their nap at 13h30 (after lunch) - in underwear normally and then went to the room where a teacher gave them a sleeping mat and their quilt and pillow. That teacher put on a tape/CD of stories or songs at very low volume. Roughly the volume that you would speak in a library. The effort involved in listening often meant that the children fell asleep during the story. If not they were at least "doing" something! There were over 40 different story CDs. At 14h30 the teacher got up and left - this was the unspoken sign for the children who were not sleeping to leave with her. They went to an empty classroom, got dressed and were allowed to take out jigsaws etc. The rest of the children got up at 15h30. A child once told me that she did not like taking naps so I told her to ask her parents whether they would like to have some time after lunch to rest and recuperate. She came back the next day and announced to everyone that mummies and daddies would love this, so it is also the mind set. From that time on, the children told each other how lucky they were!

  20. I found this article to be very interesting. I truly believe you are right to name off all the worst nap-time offenses (bribery, lies, threats, etc.) I also know that some of the children I've cared for who sleep soundly throughout the nap period go home to tell their parents that they HATE nap?!! It's confounding and confusing, and hard to understand how to offer the "right" thing in your program.

    Like Danielle, I wonder how to help those who would surely say NO NAP! if given the opportunity...but who feel so much happier and settled when they do get some down time. Also, how to balance the practical issues of how to offer awake/asleep activities in a fairly small space. And, on a self-centered note, YES, there's no way to avoid the reality of the fact that I do need some quiet down time to get some dishes done, sit with my own thoughts, complete paperwork, return phone calls, do some laundry, etc. In a 11-hour work day, even a grown-up needs a moment of silence :)

  21. On another note, I suppose the situation might be different depending on each individual program's hours and routine. I should say, I open at 7am, close at 5:30. So many of my children are awake well before sunrise, and heading to bed at 8 or 9 pm. That is a long day for any young child. I suppose for those who are caring for children who get to sleep in later or go to bed earlier, a nap might be less appropriate. There is always an individual difference in children, of course, but for the most part, I see the children in my group resting for at least a short time.

  22. I think the nap-averse children need to be approached through consultation with their parents. As long as the parents understand that we can't and won't FORCE a child to rest, they are part-way prepared for any consequences of refusal (like a tired cranky child on pick-up). Similarly, after consultation we are able to say honestly to the child 'This is what mum and dad want- please rest your body now.' Separate areas, even through pull-across curtains or movable dividers in a small space, are very important to provide for everyone's needs.

    The transition is also so important, as Chartreuse has pointed out- you simply can't expect a child to go straight from a noisy lunch table to a bed. If you can implement a routine where there's a gradual wind-down period you are halfway there.

    And note that both sleepers and non-sleepers have rights to have their needs met- it's important not to fall over too far the other way!! In long day care a few children are literally in care from 6am to 6pm- hideous- and most of these children do need some respite, whether in the form of a nap or some quiet time-out from the mayhem and enforced 'company'.

  23. Thank you for writing this article i think it brings up some very valuable points. I agree with many of the points you bring up, children should be treated with respect and unfortunately it doesn't always happen. I do believe although, that all children need some down time.

    I don't force 4-5 year olds to sleep. We changed the name from 'nap time' to 'relaxation' and during this time the children have a number of options. We do set out beds for every child but after lunch they have the options of hopping straight on their bed or joining in on some yoga/tai chi for about 15/20 minutes which helps the children to clear their mind and start to relax. They are all then asked to sit/lie on their mats while i read to them. I have an excellent book of bed time stories and the children will often request their favourite ones (over an over) I don't use picture books at this time as i want the childrens to use their imaginations and visualize the story. After about 15 minutes of reading, those that are still awake are able to get up when they are ready and then play some quiet activities while the others rest/sleep. This process takes 30/40 minutes and is very much embraced by the children. I think that in such a busy world where children are always on the go, it is important to teach them how to still their body and mind.

  24. That's fabulous, Anon- and almost exactly what I was trying to do with the children when I changed the system (minus the yoga!). I found they were so used to picture books that it took some time for them to be able to just listen and imagine, though.

  25. Thank you for this great post! I am in the process of opening a small home day care and am struggling with this exact issue. We spend most of the morning playing outdoors, so I know they are using up lots of energy all day, but "quiet" time is still the most frustrating part of the day. I have definitely been guilty of the threatening / bribing cycle, and I hate it! My son (4yo) doesn't sleep, my daughter (2yo) takes over half an hour to wind down after quiet story time, and sometimes sleeps, one of the kids I care for (2.5yo) won't sleep for me, but does at home, and the third (1 yo) definitely needs a nap! They all rest in the same room while I read stories, then my son goes in his room to play quietly, but I don't feel comfortable letting the other two out of my sight. They are not old enough, and would end up frustrating my son by taking his toys. Do you think two year olds are old enough to close their eyes and use their imaginations to listen to the stories? That sounds like a great way to help them rest if they are going to sleep. I have been thinking about letting them play with quiet books and toys, but I am worried that the older one will keep my daughter up on days when she needs to sleep, and they will make too much noise and keep the baby up.... Any suggestions for this transitional age group??? Thank you!

    1. Fieldday, I think there are a couple of issues here that I can see from the information you've given- I'm doing a bit of guessing though, so forgive me if I'm suggesting what you're already implementing! It sounds like all but your 4-yr-old still do need a sleep at least on some days. Quiet activities are probably more appropriate for most preschoolers, but many (not all) toddlers do need that rest still.

      One issue may be the lead time needed for toddlers to settle down, which seems to be a problem for your own daughter. Transitions are terribly important; letting the children know what comes next in words, combined with a CONSISTENT calming song that signals rest time, will help. The children won't get bored with the same song- they'll enjoy recognising what's happening next.

      Another issue is the structure of the day. Your daily routine needs to involve early exercise, indoor play leading to calmer activities such as mat and story time, meal time (I'm guessing your nap time is after lunch) which should involve absolutely no conflict if possible, then another story (which should be chosen carefully for relaxing content). This gives a shape to the energy of the day- big movement leading to little or no movement. Even adults have trouble resting immediately after exercise.

      Another is the issue of making your 2.5 yr old feel at home in his/her rest area. Can you get this child to choose and decorate (using some items from home if possible) a special resting area which is always his/hers? I think consistent sleeping spaces are very important if a child (especially if they're new to the room) is to feel relaxed enough to sleep.

      Without knowing the children, I can't tell whether the children's individual sleep needs or emotions are part of the problem. Have you tried letting your daughter pat the 1 yr old baby off to sleep? She may need to feel more part of the whole routine. The 4-yr-old may enjoy patting the 2.5 yr old, too. If your own children can feel more important in the whole scheme of things, it could help them to be not only cooperative but also helpful to you. Maybe they feel a little displaced by the other children coming into their home?

      As to whether 2-year-olds can close their eyes and imagine a told story- mostly not, though gifted children might well be able to do so at 2. Your 4-yr-old should be starting to be able to do that, though.

      Hope this is helpful!

  26. Thanks, That is very helpful! I am doing a lot of the things you suggest, but I probably do need to work on settling down sooner before lunch. We had a much better time today. I have been telling simple stories about things they like to do, and that seems to keep their attention while they calm down, but not get them wound up :) I think my daughter would like helping the one year old fall asleep. I'll have to work on that. Do you think a one year old is old enough for a mat? How can I tell? Right now she is in a pack and play, which I don't really like.... But I don't want to move her to a mat if she is not ready. Thanks again :)

    1. Without knowing the one-year-old it's hard to say. You could try putting her on a mat like the big kids- but first you need to talk to her about it, remembering that at this age they are understanding FAR more than they can express in words. Ask her if she would like to sleep on a mat like the big kids, and she'll probably either smile and go straight down or look sad and head for the cot. If she expresses a preference for the pack and play, let her stay there and get your daughter to help settle the slightly older child- teach her a little resting song that she can sing quietly with you to help settle others to sleep, and it might also settle her.

      Glad to be helpful! :)

  27. very interesting article. It is really a war zone in my pre school room. I tried to implement quiet activities like drawing, puzzles, books etc keep my non sleepers busy but they still love to talk to each other. they are little chatterboxes. Could you please suggest strategies to keep them really quiet?


    1. I hear you, Anon! In practice it can be quite tricky. Without knowing the exact circumstances it's hard to be specific but I can suggest some things you can think about.

      How many of the sleepers really do need to sleep? By preschool age it's only a small percentage who actually need a sleep still. Have you consulted all the parents? Maybe you can delete 'sleep' time altogether and just have a quiet end of the room for those who need a wind-down, in which case silence shouldn't be necessary.

      If you do have some who genuinely need a sleep, can the sleepers go in a different area/room with other sleepers from a younger age group, or be more clearly separated from the others with dividers or curtains? A large group of small children is NOT quiet in its natural state! It's actually an unrealistic expectation. Many centres are starting to implement sleeping and non-sleeping rooms rather than basing everything on age, and that's something you may be able to address with your director.

      Can you read quiet stories to the non-sleepers? Can you provide some activities which aren't available at other times? The more you are present for the children and involved with what they're doing, the more quiet they'll be; the more you engage their personal interests, the more likely they are to get engrossed for long periods- again, it's unrealistic to expect a large group to be quiet during play without a teacher-provided focal point. I found that my quiet activity time was the one for which I had to do the most preparation; you'll get out what you put in.

      Have you paid attention to the wind-down within the daily routine? Make sure the previous activities are genuinely peaceful- no rows over lunch and what or how much is eaten, for example, and a regular transition period between that time and rest time, so the children come to recognise the 'trigger' for quietening down.

      Have the children had the opportunity for vigorous outdoor aerobic play during the morning- lots of running, jumping, chasing, climbing, throwing etc? If your outdoor play is overly risk-conscious, children simply may have too much energy for sitting quietly.

      Are you perhaps expecting too long a period of quiet? I've found that half an hour is achievable, but after that the natives are getting restless. Another strategy is to split the staff and take non-sleepers outdoors (in the shade in summer) the moment they start to get stir-crazy.

      Honestly, there is no magic recipe for keeping small children quiet en masse, other than engaging their interest (and even then they'll get excited and forget to be quiet). You need to look for alternate solutions 'outside of the square'. And you need to know your kids well enough to know who will be awake on any one day and what will engage them- the same old puzzles and art supplies will not do it for you. It's a perfect time for small group projects and teacher-led science experiments. If you can look and feel interested in what you're offering at rest time, many of the children will come along for the ride, so your own attitude is really important too. Good luck!

  28. One of the first things I have done in each of my centres is slowly ermove sleep/rest time completely except for the children who request it (& some do) or for those who's parents have requaested it (generally after a difficult/late night or big weekend).

    Even when there are no sleepers we maintain the same rules about where we can and cannot go, not using some of the noisier resources and maintaining a low level of busy sound. The two-fold reason for this is that it maintains a continuity for when there are sleepers and we are located beside the nursery with one off the cot room immediately on the other side of the wall so too much noise can quite easily wake one of the babies.

    Apart from gentle reminders to remember our babies & any sleepers in the room, my group are generally fantaastic during this time. In most cases they choose what goes on the tables andd floors. Oh, I have also done away with demanding table top activities only. Animal figurines or small blocks make much less noise on a carpet/mat then on a table and it provides much more room for each child to engage in their own space or in a group space. We just stay away from the nursery end of the room unless reading.

    Perhaps that can help Anonymous too.

    1. Thank you Greg. You make some very sound points, no pun intended! I also used a lot of building kits on quiet mats. Another thing which kept both boys and girls involved for ages was dolls' house furniture and dolls and animals of the right size, set up not in the dolls' house, but on the tabletops. This led to very complex roleplay and design activities, completely child-directed. I had a special bag of dolls' house furniture which was only available at this time (which I bought for $10 from the op shop!).

  29. I can't tell you how relieved I am to find this blog post! I am a preschool teacher, and I really wish the rest time routine included quiet activities. Children are being traumatised all across the nation because of this horrible practice. Children are human beings, and as such, they are complex just like the rest of us. Some of them really do not need sleep at all, and they will be just fine without it.

    1. I totally agree, Anon. I hate the way children are treated in some centres over this issue.

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  31. I know this post is really old, but I agree with it 100%. I am a child care worker and it's a waste of time and energy 'making' kids rest who clearly don't need it. The children and teachers both get frustrated and it usually gets worse when the kids start acting out because of it.
    One thing I did find is that if I set up quiet activities right away, ALL of the children fight sleep, then there is no quiet time at all. So instead, I ask them all to lay on their beds quietly, while I clean. It usually takes no more than half an hour, then whoever is still awake can get up and do some quiet activities. The children who need sleep, will be asleep within half an hour, the ones who don't will still be wide-eyed. And because they aren't being forced to rest, they wait patiently and quietly until I have finished. I don't need to ask them 50 times to be quiet or lay still.

    1. That's a really smart strategy. What it tells me about you is that you've won the children's trust and respect, so they keep their end of the bargain- and that's awesome. Go you!

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  34. I'm so frustrated! I have no option to not 'make' my 2/3 yo preschoolers nap. I asked and I was told no. I love your article!

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