Saturday, October 15, 2011

How do you get them to sleep?


I have long been in awe of the nap ritual at all day programs.

I have taught since 2000, but have always taught in part-time, half-day programs, where this ritual of the daily nap was left up to families and home caregivers.

This past year, I mentored several teachers who taught in all day PreK programs and one important part of every day was having the children nap. Visiting their classrooms, I was fascinated by the expectation that all children would nap, that the teacher would get them to sleep.

One school had an open classroom concept - some 60 three and four year olds would nap every day together! I was amazed when I watched this unfold. This large open classroom had one of the softest, most inviting routines for children to nap:

Throughout the open space, some soft melodic music played.
All teachers' voices became near whispers.
Teachers and assistants helped children get out their special mat and placed it on the floor -
somewhere in the classroom, throughout the classroom,
wherever there was space to be somewhat alone.


Nap time is no longer a spectator sport for me.

I am teaching in a full day program.
Every day, my twenty-three preschoolers are expected to take a nap.

This past summer, I got the melodic music ready. I heard Ken Kolodner playing beautiful instrumentals with hammered dulcimer, dulcimer-mbira, and fiddle, and I thought to myself - This is it! What lovely music to play at nap time, to softly signal our time to relax, to rest, to sleep.... I purchased his CD "Out of the Wood" and I was very hopeful about this new ritual in my teaching....

[If you'd like to hear a sample of his music, check this out.]

I just knew I could do it!

I looked forward to the nap time expectantly. This two-hour block is also the closest thing to a break that I is my opportunity to plan with my Resident, to enter data into Teaching Strategies Gold, to eat my lunch, to reflect.

That is, once I get these twenty-three three year olds asleep.

I'm ashamed to admit, nap time in my classroom has more in common with Whac a Mole than with sleeping.

What are you supposed to do with the non-sleepers?
What are you supposed to do with the loud ones?
Is it realistic to set up napping cots throughout a preschool classroom and expect children to sleep?
Doesn't it look more like a slumber party?
Doesn't it beg for dancing on one's cot and talking to your neighbor?

As it turns out, several families told me that their three year olds do not ever nap at home. Several more rarely nap at home. Still others sleep in a room of their own.

Of the wide-awake ones, at least five have only one volume to their voice - loud. And they can't stop talking.

So, here's what nap time looks like in my classroom:

there we three adults are,
moving constantly through a sea of preschooler cots,
whispering calming words,
patting and rubbing backs,
reminding them about quiet,
pulling up blankies,
finding a special lovey to hold,
around and around and around the room,
over and over and over again.

It is the most exhausting part of my day.


  1. I love the music link.
    I always resisted napping, but I was such a quiet kid, I just stayed on my mat and entertained myself.
    A few teachers I know with 4's has the asst teacher read stories (no pictures) like folk/fairy tails in a quiet voice to the children who don't sleep. I'm not sure if your 3's would respond by laying on their mats and listening, but who know?
    Maybe run them around the building 10x? hahaha
    Good luck.

  2. Wack a Mole! That is a perfect description of sleep time (especially in an older preschool room). Yes, getting things done during sleep time is what some may think.