Health visitor Ruth Silverman explains why a good rest is so important and how her Sleep Game can help…
How important is sleep for young children? Sleep is vital for young children. Good sleep means they can learn, concentrate, grow and develop, and are generally healthier and happier. Poor sleepers often suffer from behavioural issues, attention difficulties, problems with learning or memory and problem solving. Long-term effects of frequently poor sleep can result in health issues such as lower immunity to illness and increased risk of obesity. Poor sleep also impacts on growth and development.
Should those working in early years settings pay attenion to sleep? Yes, absolutely. Getting enough sleep is as vital as having a good diet and enough exercise. Teachers, early years practitioners and other educational professionals all play a vital role in educating children on healthy lifestyles, making wise choices and setting positive health habits which can last a lifetime.
We frequently discuss healthy eating and exercise, but how often is sleep mentioned?
How can practitioners teach children about good sleep? There are many ways to introduce healthy sleep into an early years setting.
Providing a safe and comfortable environment for naps and rest to allow children to recharge; creating activities to help children learn about sleep like activities around bedtime routines, bedrooms and beds; talking and reading stories about sleep; setting up the role-play area as a bedroom and practising ‘going to bed’; and bedtime routines, such as brushing teeth and bedtime stories.
How can staff support parents and families? When a baby or child is not sleeping well this usually means that neither are the parents. Deprived sleep can affect parenting, relationships, wellbeing and health.
It is important to support parents when they are implementing changes in sleeping practices and signpost them to early help to prevent long-term effects for both children and parents.
As an early years practitioner, you might be asked for advice, so it’s important to have a good understanding of sleep.
How can The Sleep Game help staff learn about sleep? It’s simple! The Sleep Game is an educational board game that can be played by staff as many times as they like, and each time it is played they will gain more knowledge and understanding about sleep, through just playing and learning!
The game uses questions to raise discussions, helping players improve their confidence and gain new knowledge about sleep for children.
What can staff specifically expect to learn about? The Sleep Game covers a wide range of sleep topics from sleep science (how sleep works) to how much sleep children need and different sleep problems.
The Sleep Game will allow staff to have a better understanding about safe sleeping practices and bedtime routines. All questions and answers are evidence-based and have been checked by sleep experts.
Is this a cost-effective approach to training? Sleep training is usually very costly – both financially and also in terms of the time needed to attend courses.
The Sleep Game is a one-off purchase and can be used over and over again. It can be used as part of regular training and for new staff and students. Parents could also play the game with staff to help them learn about sleep and pick up tips to implement at home.