Preschool and Sleep
Part three in a three-part series about sleep needs and daycare.
Three-years into daycare and your child has finally gotten the hang of napping away from home, but there is a big change on the horizon! It is often around three-years-old that children drop napping all together. Alternatively, it is also around this age that children who do still nap at daycare start to experience trouble falling asleep at home at night and, just like that, bedtime battles may begin again.
The majority of states mandate that children at daycare facilities lay down for “quiet time” even if they don’t fall sleep. While there may not be another alternative for your child during that time, there are some steps you can take to make daycare naptime easier for your child.
If your child stops napping at three-years-old:
Children at this age still need 12 to 13 hours of sleep a day. If your child is waking at 7am for the day and not napping, they should be put to bed 12 to 13 hours after they wake for the day, depending on your child’s sleep needs. Doing this will help prevent your child from becoming chronically over-tired.
Even if your child is no longer napping, it is still a good idea for them to lay down for a 90-minute “quiet time.” Doing this helps their little brains and bodies reset for the rest of the day. This “quiet time” should be practiced at home on the weekends as well.
If your child continues to nap past three-years-old:
Realize it may take your child longer to fall asleep at night, but that does not mean you should adjust their bedtime. Children three-years-old and older should be put to sleep 5 to 6.5 hours after their last nap. If a parent is using a 6.5 waketime, my recommendation is to cap their nap at 2pm so the child is not going to bed any later than 8:30pm.
Have a consistent bedtime routine so that your child knows bedtime is impending, allowing their little bodies and brains to calm down.
Limit screen time. A good cut-off for the TV or iPad, if your child uses either, is 30-minutes before the start of their nightly bedtime routine. Instead of screen time, encourage quiet play with books and puzzles, as those are less stimulating.
If it takes a long time for your child to fall asleep at night, they may pull out their entire arsenal of stall tactics in an effort to derail bedtime. Anticipate their requests ahead of time. For instance, if they always ask for water, have a glass ready ahead of time and point it out to them.
Making sure your child is on a healthy, age appropriate sleep schedule can help prevent the headache of dealing with an overtired child which, aside from sleep associations, is the most common challenge facing the families I work with. An overtired child can often have a tough time falling asleep, and staying asleep.
TIP: Children at this age are incentivized by toys and experiences. Consider having them help you make a sticker chart to track each night that they go to bed, and stay in bed, without fuss. Reward them with a toy or an experience once they have achieved the agreed upon number of nights. I prefer an experience, especially if it is something the whole family can enjoy!
If your child is on a healthy, consistent daily sleep schedule, the transition to no nap should be nothing more than a blip on their sleep radar. Following the above tips for a child who is still forced to nap at daycare will make bedtime a more pleasant experience.
If your family is struggling to get on a healthy, consistent sleep schedule, it is not too late! Visit my services page to check out my packages. Or contact me to set up a call to get acquainted with me.
Sending your child to daycare doesn’t have to mean the destruction of healthy sleep!