What would you ask a child development expert? Part Three

In the family survey that was sent out, we asked you to tell us what you would ask a child development expert if given the opportunity. We received some great (and challenging) questions that we want to share and help answer using the knowledge and expertise that we have here at UCCC.

In this third installment, we want to focus on sleep. Bedtime routines, naps, and sleep are often the most talked about, written about, and cried about aspects of raising young children. We all know the importance of sleep for both our children and ourselves. Children need sleep (and a lot of it) to support their physical growth, their immune system, and their ability to focus, learn, and solve problems.

Photo by Jeffrey Pomranka

Photo by Jeffrey Pomranka

Mr. Z likes to remind teachers and families that there are three things that we cannot control in children; we can’t control their sleeping, eating, or toileting.

Below are some tips to help support your child’s sleep. All of these tips have been pulled from various Parenting Exchange articles written by Karen Stephens. All of the articles are available to you in your child’s classroom. Ask your child’s teacher, Ms. Faosat, Ms. Peaches, or Ms. Jessica if you would like to view any of the articles on sleep or various other parenting topics.

Ideas for creating a bedtime/naptime routine:

  1. Determine how much daily sleep your individual child needs based on their age and your observation of their behavior. Children who are overtired have a harder time settling down for sleep. They also tend to be more impulsive and less cooperative during the day. Children should go to sleep and get up at approximately the same time each day.
  2. Follow your child’s lead in determining the routine. Some children like a bedtime story and back rub, others would prefer just a quick song and some white noise. Help your child notice and identify their own sleep cues.
  3. Create a routine that you follow for every bedtime (and naptime). Naptime routines can be shorter than the bedtime routine. Follow a specific sequence so children learn what to expect and are cued in to know it is bedtime. A routine could be: bath, pajamas, brushing teeth, story, lullaby.  Clearly communicate and consistently follow the sleep routine as often as possible, even when traveling or at someone else’s house.
  4. Limit sugar and caffeine intake especially in the hours before bedtime.
  5. Create a calming atmosphere in the hour before bedtime. Avoid active play or loud activities. Play quiet games, draw, or play with playdough.
  6. Promote security and reduce anxiety for children. Provide a night light if needed. Allow a child a particular stuffed animal, blanket, or lovey that the child chooses.

Additional tips:

· Children’s imaginations and fears can get in the way of sleep. Be supportive of your child’s needs. Do they need a night light? Do they need to do a quick monster check? Do they need to sleep with mom’s or dad’s shirt to feel safe?

· Parent-child power struggles can also get in the way of sleep. Children need appropriate opportunities to exert power throughout the day. If they need those opportunities at bedtime, allow as much choice within the routine as possible (what stories to read, which pajamas to wear).

Remember that you can’t make your child sleep, but you can create an environment that encourages and supports sleep.

Post by Jessica Sims