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How to Help a Child Adjust to Sleeping at Daycare

By Drea Christopher ; Updated June 13, 2017

Babies and toddlers spending time at a daycare facility may feel worry or sadness when separated from their parents. Although separation anxiety eventually subsides as the children get used to the new accommodations and caregivers, the nap period may still prove difficult, since insecure children may need a parent’s comfort when going to sleep. If your child resists taking naps at daycare without you, use transitional techniques to put him at ease enough to sleep.

Get your child on a nap schedule that corresponds with the time that she will take a nap at the daycare facility. If you get her accustomed to napping at 1:00 p.m., for example, she’ll feel drowsy at 1:00 p.m. when it’s time to nap at daycare. Family Education suggests ensuring your child gets enough sleep for several days before the transition to daycare so she won’t be exhausted and more emotional and insecure.

Lead up to having your child nap at daycare gradually. Avoid nap time in the initial visits to daycare. Instead, visit for an hour for two days, and then allowing your child to attend on his own for a few days, before nap time. Slowly increase the hours spent at daycare until he’s comfortable enough to stay through the nap period.

Ask the facility if an assistant can help your child if she’s having trouble sleeping. Have a caregiver sit with your child until she’s calm enough to fall asleep.

Teach the daycare’s caregivers the slang you use at home for naps, snacks or going to the bathroom so your child will feel more comfortable in the new setting. Provider-Parent Partnerships of Purdue University suggests discussing the techniques you use to soothe your child before naps, such as a gentle back rub or a special bedtime song, so the caregiver can use them to relax your child.

Allow your child to take a familiar comfort item to the daycare facility for naps, such as a stuffed animal, a blanket or a parent’s sweater that your child can cuddle as he falls asleep.

Tips

Suggest quiet activities that your child can complete while the other children are sleeping if she’s unable to fall asleep with the group. Ask if your child can read books or listen to music on headphones, which will allow her to rest without disturbing the other children. She may even grow drowsy and take a nap without coaxing.

Warnings

Discuss the situation with the staff if your child continues to be too uncomfortable or insecure to sleep after attending daycare for several weeks. The University of Minnesota Extension notes that you may have chosen a center that doesn’t suit your child’s personality, and it may benefit him to consider other options.

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