The Culture of Sleep and Child Care

The Culture of Sleep and Child Care Across the world people sleep in different ways. Some people sleep inside, some sleep outside. Some people sleep in beds, others in hammocks or on mats on the floor. Some people sleep alone, some sleep with a spouse or children or both. Some people sleep only at night, while others value a nap during the day. How, when, and where people choose to sleep has a lot to do with their culture, traditions, and customs. This can include where they live, how their family sleeps, even how many bedrooms are in their home. Teachers have a role in providing a sleep environment that is comfortable and safe for the children in their care, while honoring families’ cultural beliefs. What can teachers do to help young children feel more “at home” when it is time for them to rest?

 Think of sleep and sleep routines as part of the child’s individualized curriculum.

 Classroom teachers should meet with a family before a child enters your care. This is an opportunity to find out about a child’s sleep habits before they join the classroom. When you know how a baby sleeps at home, you can use that information to plan for how they might sleep best in your care.

 Brainstorm ways to adapt your classroom to help a child feel “at home” during rest times. For example, a baby who is used to sleeping in a busy environment might nap better if you roll a crib into the classroom. Some mobile infants and toddlers might have a hard time sleeping in child care because they think they will miss something fun! These children benefit from having a very quiet place to fall asleep. When you have a positive relationship with a baby it will be easier to know what will help them relax into sleep.

 Encourage families to bring in “a little bit of home” to the program – like a stuffed animal or special blanket. A comfort item from home can help children feel connected to their families. They might want that comfort all day. The comfort item from home can also help children make the transition to sleep while in your care. Make sure that infants under one year of age do not have any extra toys or blankets in the crib with them.

 Share with families what you learn about their child. Use pick up and drop off times to ask questions about sleep at home. Families can share information that could make their child more comfortable in your care. You can be a resource for families about sleep and their child. Remember that families are the experts about their child.

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