Creating Safe and Appropriate Napping Areas in Child Care

Child Care September 09, 2015 Print Friendly and PDF

Napping is an important routine in child care. Most children in infant, toddler, and preschool programs will take regular naps while they are in child care. Setting up comfortable, predictable spaces for napping helps children relax and get the rest they need. The needs of napping children are different depending on age. Child care providers should set up napping areas to best meet the needs of the children in the classroom, based on the layout of the child care space. Here are some specific guidelines for effective napping areas for children of different ages.

Infant sleeping on back

Napping Areas for Infants

A designated napping area with individually labeled cribs is a necessity in any infant room. Infants have natural sleeping and waking rhythms, and child care providers should respond sensitively when infants need to sleep. It is important to recognize that sleeping schedules will be different for all infants.

The following guidelines will help ensure that nap time is safe in the infant room.

  • Know your state's child care licensing regulations. Some states require separate napping rooms; other states allow (or even require) napping areas in the same room. Place cribs an adequate distance apart, based on the specific regulations in your state.
  • Provide each infant with his own crib and crib sheet. Label the crib with the infant's name, and do not place an infant to sleep in another infant's crib. Be sure the mattress fits tightly in the crib and that the crib sheet is snug on the mattress.
  • To reduce the spread of germs, wash crib sheets at least weekly or whenever they are soiled. If the child care program provides blankets, they should be washed at least weekly as well. If parents provide blankets for their infants, be sure to send blankets home to be washed weekly or whenever they are soiled.
  • Supervise children while they nap. If possible, place the napping area in a separate part of the room from the play and eating areas to cut down on disturbing those who are sleeping.
  • Use cribs only for napping. When infants wake up, remove them from their cribs and return them to the play area. Do not use cribs as play, feeding, or diaper-changing areas.
  • Do not place pads, pillows, stuffed animals, or soft toys in the crib. These items are a suffocation hazard, especially for infants who are unable to roll over. 
  • Use guidelines from the "Back to Sleep" Campaign and ensure that infants are placed on their back to sleep. For more information, please see this related article on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

Napping child

Napping Areas for Toddlers and Preschoolers

  • Provide each child with a mat or cot in the classroom. Some state licensing regulations require cots; other states allow toddlers and preschoolers to nap on mats.
  • Store cots or mats in a location away from walkways and without interfering with other learning areas in the room. Cover cots when not in use to reduce the spread of germs.
  • Create a system to assign children the same cot each day. Label cots with children's names, or number the cots and create a key so you know which cot belongs to which child.
  • Clean and sanitize each cot before putting them away. Launder sheets daily. Stacking mats or cots with used sheets can promote the spread of germs. 
  • Send home blankets, pillows, and security items with families every week for washing. 

For all children, a quiet, calming environment will help promote rest. Dimming lights and playing quiet music can help soothe children to sleep. White noise CDs or natural sounds like waves and the rainforest can also be great sounds for children to fall asleep to.

For More Information

For more information on naps and other routines in a child care setting, take a look at the following articles:

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.