Sleep and Rest
How much sleep should a preschool aged child be allowed during the day? This seems to be a controversial issue for many child care services, especially when parents request their child be woken after a certain length of time so they will go to bed earlier in the evening or sleep through the night.
I can remember making some of these requests myself and believing it was my right as a parent to determine whether and how much my child slept. It’s pretty hard to argue with a parent who after all knows the child better than anyone else and has to cope with the consequences of a child having too much or too little sleep at the Service.
It is important that educators and Nominated Supervisors understand what the regulations say about sleep and rest, and determine whether their policies clearly explain the Service’s approach to sleep and rest.
So first let’s consider the regulations, which say that Services must take all reasonable steps to meet a child’s need for sleep and rest, based on their age and development. The Operating Guide for Regulatory Authorities says “ taking reasonable steps “ means giving sleepy children an opportunity to rest by sleeping or just sitting quietly.
This is still a bit vague and provides no definite guidelines to parents, particularly of older preschool aged children, about how a Service may treat the sleep and rest needs of their child or how long the sleep and rest periods are.
This sort of specific detail can go in a Service’s policy and procedures on sleep and rest. Some of the things Services may consider discussing are whether:
- they allow children to sleep until they wake of their own accord
- they will wake sleeping children if parents make this request
- they require children to sleep for a specified minimum time (eg 40 minutes) even if parents request their child be woken
- sleepy children who can sit quietly will be required to lie down and rest while other children are sleeping.
Discussing these matters during the enrolment process will ensure parents know how the Service handles children’s sleep and rest needs. Parents will be less likely to ask educators to apply different rules to their child, and if they do educators need only refer to the policy to clarify their approach.