Sunday, April 7, 2013
It's nap time in the front room. "Time to sleep everyone, " I say in a quiet voice. "I'm going to get the mats out and put the sheets on. If you'd like to help you can come over here." I move to where I stash our floor mats and lay them out in the same exact spot every day. Then I move to their cubbies, pulling out a fitted sheet and blanket for each child. Some children have special things they sleep with, so I gather those as well.
As I'm pulling the sheets over the mattresses I begin singing a song. It is quiet and calm, repeated until I am finished. I like to include the name of the children. One of my favorites is Raffi's version of Goodnight Irene, using the childrens' names instead of Irene. After 6 months of being together, the children are beginning to move towards the mats on their own now, some even laying their heads down as they recognize my repeated cues.
Once everything is set up and the children either crawl or I place them on their mats, I say the same thing: "Good night. Sweet dreams. I'll see you when you wake up." Then I start our nap music. I sit within arm's reach of everyone. Giving them just enough help, yet allowing them to use their own self soothing methods to fall asleep. Some children want their arm on my leg as they are falling asleep, others do best if my back is towards them, and I have had children who could only fall asleep if I walked out of the room. It has taken months of practicing this nap routine and learning what is unique about each child for us to get to this point.
After everyone has fallen asleep I give them space, but make sure to return to be near after they have been asleep for 45 minutes. The difference in sleeping in a group like us than at home, is if and when they pop their heads up to do a check in, they are easily pulled out of their sleep schedule because things at school are exciting, especially with a sleeping comrade nearby. I offer just enough to help them sleep for as long as each child needs. when they are ready, they may crawl off of their mat and play. As soon as they are ready they can participate in putting their sheets and mats away.