Naps are a fundamental part of most child care programs.  A nap is actually necessary for most children for a number of reasons!  But, we all know a child that constantly fights to stay awake all day long.  Read on for my tried-and-true tips for a successful nap time.

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kids need nap

Why Kids Need Nap Time

No tolerance for awake time.

Kids need to nap because they literally can’t handle staying awake as long as adults can.  Their bodies build up the need to sleep much more quickly than an adult’s (Klass, 2011).

Sleep affects attitudes.

I think most parents and providers know that lack of sleep causes cranky kids that can’t be appeased.  This observation is totally backed by research!  A kid who skips a nap is more prone to moodiness and less able to think clearly (Klass, 2011).  Actually, chronically missing naps can lead children to develop unhealthy ways to cope with feelings that can last a lifetime! (“Nap-deprived Tots,” 2012).

Sleep affects abilities.

Additionally, skipping naps means that children are less likely to be able to think clearly to complete tasks.  In one particular study, kids were 31% more negative when trying to solve a puzzle after they had missed a nap!  They were also 39% less confused – which sounds like a good thing until you realize that confusion is how kids know to ask for help.  Basically, kids who don’t get enough sleep aren’t able to adapt nearly as well as those who do get enough sleep for their bodies.  (“Nap-deprived Tots,” 2012).

Sleep affects health.

Preschool kids who don’t get enough sleep, are actually more likely to be obese (Fan Jiang MD PhD, et al, 2009).  Sleep has also been linked over and over again to depression and anxiety in older children and adults (not to say that these diseases are caused by lack of sleep, but they can be exacerbated by it).  Encouraging good sleep habits young is another way we as daycare parents and daycare providers can help pave the road for health in our children’s future.

They don’t get enough sleep at home.

I’ve found that my daycare kids tend to need a nap more than my own.  This is because my kids can sleep in until 7:30 most days, while my daycare kids are up and getting ready for the day between 6-6:30 A.M.  That’s a big difference for me, let alone a child!  Here’s a great article from KidsHealth.Org that lists approximate sleep needs by age.

Let’s be honest here.

A big reason we nap at daycare is so I don’t go crazy.

nap time rules

Nap Time Rules

Potty first.

I make everyone go potty before we lay down for nap.  Occasionally someone will roll around for a while and then ask to go #2, but for the most part this eliminates any nap time accidents or excuses to get up.

No talking.

Period!  Once nap time starts, I don’t allow talking.  No talking to others, no talking to me, no talking to yourself.  Shhhhh!!!!  Talking to me is one of their little tricks.  Don’t fall for it! 😉

Lay on your mat.

I always tell the kids, “You don’t have to sleep.  You do have to lay down, be still, and be quiet.”  This means stay on your mat and no senseless rolling around.

Reading is okay.

I know it’s a little unrealistic to expect 6 kids to lay down without a fuss everyday and go straight to sleep – though most of them usually do!  But I always give the option of books and stuffed animals.  The kids have to get these when they get their blankets and mats out.  Getting up and down and walking around the other kids to keep exchanging books is distracting to the kids trying to sleep.  But as long as the books are within arm’s reach and the kids stay laying down to look at them, I allow books on their mats.  Usually the kids end up reading for a bit and falling asleep on their own.  I’ve found that this really helps the stubborn kids who like to make choices themselves instead of being told to go to sleep.

Nap mat placement.

I space the kids 3 feet apart to sleep, as per FCCERS.  This really also helps the kids not to get distracted by each other, though.  Their mats go in the same place every day, no switiching mats with others or “Can I sleep there today?”  When I first started daycare, I lined all the kids up in a row and let them watch a movie as long as they were quiet.  Now that I’ve been doing this for a while, I’ve learned that that technique definitely does not get me the results I’m looking for!

Nap Time Necessities

Rest Mats.

I have always used mats for nap time.  The kids seem to like them, and though they’re not as durable as cots, they also don’t take up as much space.   The kids can also get them out and put them away on their own.  I got lucky and found the thick mats on clearance at Walmart during the winter and grabbed quite a few to keep in stock!  You can also get them from Amazon.

Blankets and pillows.

I got most of my kids fleece blankets (on clearance, woohoo!) for Christmas one year.  They each have a plastic drawer to keep their blankets in.  They also might have a small pillow or animal from home that they like to sleep with.  The drawers keep all of their sleep stuff separate.  This helps not to share germs and lice (fingers crossed we never have to worry about lice in daycare!).  Remember, infants under 1 year old should not be allowed to sleep with blankets, pillows, or toys. 


Since some of the preschoolers don’t need as much of a nap as others, I always give the option of reading while the other kids sleep.


 I used to play a Pandora station called Heavenly Lullabies at nap time.  This worked really well for us!  But since moving, we have satellite internet and a data limit.  I found this lullaby CD and set it to repeat during nap time.  Since the songs are the same everyday, it actually trains the kids’ bodies to go to sleep when they hear these songs!  I have always found it important to play music during nap time to drown out any other noises from the house.  This also gives the children something to do and help their bodies slow down.  Here’s the CD I use:

What are your tried and true nap time secrets?  Please comment and share below!

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Fan Jiang, MD, PhD, et al. Sleep and obesity in preschool children. The Journal of Pediatrics, 154(6), 184-188.

Klass, Perri. M.D. (September 12, 2011).  A child’s nap is more complicated than it looks. The New York Times, pp. D5.  Retrived from

Unknown (January 3, 2012).  Nap-deprived tots may be missing out on more than sleep, says new CU-led study.  CU Boulder Today.  Retrieved from