Home' Belonging Early Years Journal : Vol 5 No 2 Contents BELONGING EARLY YEARS JOURNAL • VOLUME 5 NUMBER 2 • 2016 • 13
educational resources, programs + planning
given a choice, would you choose for your child
to sleep in their early childhood service, and why?’
Overwhelmingly, parents reported that they would
prefer their three- to five-year-old children not to sleep
while in their ECEC service. Some 79 per cent of survey
respondents preferred that their child ‘never’ or ‘only
on occasions’ sleep, citing disruptions to night sleep
and family functioning as reasons.Those with younger
children (three-year-olds) and those whose children had
long days in care were among the minority (21 per cent)
of parents who preferred that their child have a sleep.
What should we expect when it comes to
sleep and rest for preschool-aged children?
Like many aspects of children’s learning and
development, how much, when and how children
sleep varies considerably from child to child. It is
therefore not surprising that sleep and rest times can
be a point of conflict between educator and parents,
and even children.
While some children will continue to regularly nap
until age five – and sometimes beyond – many children
cease napping well before this age. In fact, for some
children, regular napping can cease as early as
12 months of age. Typically, by age three approximately
half of Australian children will regularly nap, with this
number dropping to less than one-quarter of children
regularly napping by age four. While the exact number
of children who nap will vary from service to service,
it is likely that at least some children, and often many
children, in preschool-aged rooms will not regularly nap.
In addition, when children need to sleep and for
how long will also vary, and can be influenced by a
range of factors, such as the time a child wakes in the
morning, how active a day they are having, and how
much sleep they had the night before. This frequently
changing and diverse range of sleep needs can raise
a variety of challenges for services and educators
trying to juggle, and meet, the requests of different
children and their families.
So, how do ECEC services best tackle these
The key is to build open and trusting relationships with
parents and families, and ensure flexibility. Working
collaboratively with families can help to develop
strategies for managing sleep schedules that meet
the needs of children, families and educators.
Being flexible in how your service manages sleep
and rest times can also ensure that you are able to
meet the needs of children who require sleep, and
those who may not.
The National Quality Standards for ECEC requires
that all services make an ‘appropriate provision to
meet individual children’s sleep, rest and relaxation
needs’; however, there is not a specific requirement for
a set sleep or rest time for all children.
There is, in fact, a range of different approaches
that services can use to provide flexibility for children
and families around sleep, rest and relaxation.
Separate sleep space
At the most flexible end, some services have a
separate sleep space where children who require
sleep can take a nap throughout the day, while the
other children continue their activities.
Advantages: Allows for greatest flexibility in
providing sleep and rest for children, enabling children
to choose both if and when they need to sleep or rest.
Challenges: A separate sleep area is only
possible when an appropriate space, with adequate
supervision, is available. Some service providers are
now opting to build a specific sleep room for children
as part of their centre design.
An alternative for larger centres where a separate
sleep space is not available is to move children
between multiple kindergarten- or pre-kindergarten-
aged rooms during sleep times. In this approach,
children who require sleep are moved into one
preschool room, while those not requiring sleep are
moved to another.
Advantages: Children who require sleep are
placed together, minimising disruption from non-
sleeping children, while non-sleepers are able to
engage in a full range of alternative activities.
Challenges: Ensuring that allocation to sleep or
non-sleep rooms is positive for children, and that staff
work collaboratively to ensure smooth transitions.
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