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The Importance of Napping and Resting in the Early Years Foundation Stage

At La Côte International School Aubonne, we welcome children as young as two years old. They come to experience their first year in Foundation 0 in a bilingual community, hopefully starting their flourishing school adventure with us. Their learning process is rich; the days are rhythmic and energised mainly by games initiated by the children and the activities on offer. To find the right balance between these moments of exploration, discovery and learning, we must ensure that the children can also benefit from a nap or a moment's rest after lunch in the early afternoon. 

an Early Years child speaking with her teacher about nap time

by Sandrine Pureur, Educatrice Petite Enfance - Foundation 0

During this time, the children in Foundation 0 who need sleep can sleep on a small individual mattress or simply rest quietly. They can relax for 15-20 minutes in a quiet environment lulled by soft, relaxing music. The children in Foundation 1 (3-4-year-olds) are also offered 15-20 minutes in a calm environment to lay down or sit quietly to relaxing music. In Foundation 2 (4-5-year-olds), the children have time to calm down after lunch or after returning from outside with calming music, guided mindfulness listening or a short yoga session. 

Sleep is essential for a child, and naps have many benefits for children. This time of rest allows their brains to transfer the new information they have just learned to the brain's area responsible for long-term memory. Several studies have shown that children who take a nap after a recent learning activity better retain this new knowledge. Napping also has a positive effect on a child's mood. It reduces the frequency of seizures, anxiety and hyperactivity. Finally, naps are beneficial for general health by reducing infections. While the body sleeps, everything continues to function physiologically: the secretion of growth hormone, the organisation and improvement of the nervous system, the elimination of waste products, the strengthening of the bones, the healing of wounds, the immune activation response and, also, dreams, which help to relieve accumulated tension. 

The direct consequences of sleep deprivation in children manifest by abrupt changes in behaviour (from extreme excitement to tears that are difficult to calm). The child may develop concentration problems, have a lower frustration threshold and be more irritable—all emotions exacerbate. Also, they become more susceptible to illness as the immune system weakens. Knowing the benefits and consequences of sleep allows us to understand the behaviour of young children better. 

The need for rest varies significantly from one child to another. It also change as children grow older. The need for rest remains present until about 3-4 years of age but manifests differently depending on the child and age. Some children need to sleep for an hour or more, while others may be satisfied with a short period of relaxation (e.g. lying on a mattress with a book). A day at school requires the young child to adapt to various stimulation sources that mobilise the energy capital deployed at school. Therefore, a nap or rest is essential to heal, recover and maintain balance. 

To learn more about our Early Years Foundation Stage, please follow the links below: 

Early Years (2 to 3 years old)

Early Years (3 to 5 years old)