12 Tips to help your child nap well at daycare
Would you like 12 tips to help your child nap well at daycare? Let’s face it, childcare is a reality for many parents who need to work to support their families — not to mention the fact that plenty of parents want to work. Whether your child is currently at daycare or it’s something you’re considering in the future, it helps to be prepared.
By daycare, I mean a childcare centre, home-based care, or even grandparents looking after your little one. It can be a big transition spending time outside the home, and it’s not always easy to sleep somewhere new. But it is important to make sure naps do happen, because day sleeps really are that important for your child.
These tips start as soon as you’re considering a daycare, and it does help if you have time to do your research first. Here is what to consider:
BEFORE YOUR CHILD STARTS
1) Instil healthy sleep habits beforehand. Ideally you start this more than a month in advance so sleeping well is automatic. If your child already has healthy sleep habits and great sleep skills before they start care, they’ll more easily adjust to the change. A child who is sleeping well adjusts to change much more easily than one who isn’t sleeping well.
2) Find out where your child will sleep. Is it in the same room with other children playing or is there a separate sleep room. Is it dark? Do they play music or white noise? If your child already has a preference to where they sleep, these things are worth considering, especially if you have a choice of care. This leads into the next tip…
3) Find out how they plan on getting your child to sleep. Some daycares are great, and they’ll do whatever you ask them to do. Which is really helpful if your baby already goes down for a nap by himself (using those great sleep skills in point 1). But other daycares can have a certain behaviour they prescribe for all babies. If you’re no longer rocking or patting your child to sleep, then ask the centre to do the same. It’s less of a change for your child to adjust to, and you’re less likely to mess with their sleep.
This is also something to consider if grandparents are the carers. Take it from me, most grandparents want ALL the snuggles they can get. This means they are often quick to rock or cuddle your baby to sleep. Unfortunately, introducing this as a new habit can often have a negative impact on sleep. So, no matter what your childcare arrangement is, have the conversation about how you would like naps to be handled, before it happens.
4) Visit together before your child officially starts. Children get use to what they know, so it helps if your child transitions into care at a pace that allows them to get to know the environment at a measured pace (vs all or nothing). Staying and playing with your little one helps them become familiar with the new surroundings so it’s not such a big deal when they start.
A number of centres will also allow short visits where you can leave your baby or toddler for an hour or so. Doing this helps reassure your child that you DO come back later. If you can arrange a visit that coincides with a nap, they can get some practice settling into their new sleep environment too.
WHEN THEY START
5) Allow a comfort item. If your baby is over 6-months of age it can be great time to introduce a ‘lovey’ or ‘cuddly’ if they don’t already have one. Send this along with them each day as their comfort item for sleep (make sure you buy at least 2 of the same).
6) Don’t forget your child’s other sleep associations. This includes their swaddle or sleeping bag, so they have something familiar, and something they have already associated with sleep time. This includes your child’s dummy if they use one.
To cover the two points above, Gobstopperz are a great versatile comforter you may like to consider, it is both a comforter and holds a dummy if need be (use CHERISHED15 for a discount on the Gobstopperz website).
7) Try and make as much the same as possible. Whether you’re talking to daycare about following your pre-established routines from home, or whether you start following the same routine as daycare on weekends – making as much the same as possible helps everything run smoothly. If your child starts having night wake-ups during this transition, make sure you don’t change their usual bedtime rules. The more consistent you are and the more that stays the same, the quicker this phase will pass.
8) Say goodbye to your child at drop off. This is important, especially at the start and if separation anxiety is at play. It is much better for you to confidently say goodbye and leave, so they know it’s OK, as opposed to trying to ‘sneak off’ when they don’t know about it and they later find you “missing”. Anxiety can play havoc with sleep, so lets minimise as much as possible.
9) Give them a chance to catch up on sleep when they ARE at home. Daycares are busy places and your child’s naps will likely be disturbed to begin with. Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) is a real phenomenon and children won’t want to go to bed at care if there’s play to be had. You can help compensate for this by allowing some earlier bedtimes as they’ll likely be super exhausted from all they have experienced during the day. Along with earlier bedtimes try and allow your baby to nap at home when they aren’t in daycare. Home naps in the same place as bedtime are much more refreshing than naps on the go.
10) Don’t expect them to be up for much else – at least initially. Daycare can be full on! There is so much happening. Along with the point above, the early days are not the time to start toilet training, afternoon dance lessons or going out to dinner. Scaling back on evening activities is worth it to not have a grumpy overtired child on your hands.
11) Plan for extra on-on-one time. Even though your child will be having a great time at daycare, they will still notice that they are getting less time with Mum and Dad. Make sure you get some extra quality time in when they are at home – it doesn’t even have to be much – 15 minutes floor time a day with no distractions and some snuggles in the evening.
12) Keep the lines of communication open. This is important. Especially if your child has got great sleep skills at home and then you find things are starting to fall apart. If you’re concerned about what your childcare provider is doing, then talk to them. In most instances, your daycare centre will happily work with you to come up with a solution that works for both of you.
A COUPLE OF BONUS TIPS
Be organised with dinner. If you are picking your child up at the end of the day, try to have a quick dinner option on hand at home so getting that earlier bedtime in is as easy as possible (or at least bedtime isn’t delayed). Think meal plans and slow cookers or pre-prepared food from the freezer. This really can help reduce the evening stress in the long-term.
If your baby is starting their solids journey, consider prepared options like Gourmet Baby. For older toddlers who eat what the family eats, there are a huge variety of subscription meal boxes that can help with the planning and sometimes even the prep. Or, if your child eats too early, the meal boxes can be used by you and your partner once your little one is in bed (as a bonus, the step-by-step recipes are so easy that tweens, teens and Dads can do it). We use HelloFresh NZ in our family (and if you’d like to give them a try you can use the code KIMCOR for $50 off your first box).
Be kind to yourself. Often the adjustment to daycare is harder on you than your child. And once your child figures out you do return at the end of the day, then they usually don’t take long to settle in. Indeed, there are a number of benefits to daycare – including preparing kids for school and becoming better communicators. Furthermore, studies have found that daycare children tend to be smarter and better behaved.
There you have 12 (well, 14) tips to help your child nap well at daycare. In summary, do your best to give your baby or child the ability to learn how to self-settle before they start and make sure you’re comfortable with the daycare setting. Have what your child will need when there, and help them manage their sleep needs and catch up at home. All of these things will ensure sleep doesn’t go astray for long.
Has your child started daycare already? Do you have any other tips to help things go well? I’d love to hear them! Pop a comment below.
And if you’re ready for some one-on-one help either before or after the transition into daycare, book in a free initial call to see how my sleep packages can help. My packages also include liaising with your child’s daycare on a case-by-case basis. Because, yes, sleep really is that important!