I remember dropping off my two-year old daughter at the Lincoln Park Preschool on her first day, and being frozen. I walked her into the adorable school, hung up her coat in a bite-size cubbie, made some small talk with the teachers – and then panicked. It was time for me to walk out the door. I was feeling a rush of weird feelings all mixed together. I was heartbroken, feeling guilty I had to go to work, and lost because I did not know what my daughter's day would look like. And lastly, I could not imagine her possibly sleeping with a group of new strangers, not in our house.
With most households, it takes lot of work to get your own child on a good nap schedule, and it feels like that whole experience was all for nothing when you go back to work – and they go to preschool. Nap time at all-day school programs is sacred time. Sure, the teachers get a little break to eat lunch, recharge their batteries, and return some parent emails; but the primary focus is ensuring toddlers get the rest necessary for their growing bodies and minds.
Below are 5 tips we recommend from the Urban Infant for easy toddler naps at preschool and daycare:
Tip 1: Allow time for your toddler (and you) to make the transition .
We recommend meeting with your daycare and discussing their support system for easing new children through their napping transitions. It is not uncommon to ask if you can “pop in” and witness a nap time a week or two before school begins. This visit allows you to envision the room, for comfort, and also enables you to talk with your toddler about what their new room will look like.
Tip 2: Purchase a comfortable nap mat in advance, practice at home.
Get your bedding early, at least a few weeks before preschool starts. Instead of a pillow and blanket, most schools prefer nap mats. Allow your toddler to select their favorite color or pattern. Practice napping at home with your child’s nap mat. Explain this is a new, special mat and blanket - just for their new school. To see our nap mat recommended by Working Mother and Parents magazine, click here to view the Tot Cot®.
Tip 3: Bring in home comforts.
Does your child have a favorite stuffed animal they could bring to help with sleep? Other suggestions include sending a small book that he/she can interact with during naptime so they'll stay quieter. It is also not uncommon for parents to cut of a small square of a home blanket and tuck it in their nap mat. The Urban infant Tot Cot® nap mat actually has a “secret pocket” that kids love. It is hidden under their blanket for tucking in this something special .
Tip 4: Read a book about napping away from home.
Select a children's book like "Naptime" (by Elizabeth Verdick) that reinforces the importance of napping and read it with your toddler. Ideally, read this at home and talk with your child about how naps keep them happy and healthy, and give them enough energy to play and run during other times of the day.
Tip 5: Choose a daycare that values sleep.
In working with hundreds of families and daycares across the country, we know there are differences in how each facility values and schedules nap time. Most schools try to keep all the kids on the same routine, while others are more accommodating to individual needs. Interview and find a preschool that seems to be a good fit with your napping values.