Sweet dreams for children

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By Beth Pinyerd

The hot temperatures of summer have arrived! I remember as a child when polio was prevalent, parents would make their children rest and take naps, especially during the hot summer months.
When I have worked in the church nursery or other early childhood settings, I have always admired the teachers and caregivers of infants and toddlers who seemed to have a true magic and loving touch of rocking children to sleep.
In teaching in early childhood classrooms I have used soft music, rewarding them with stickers when they awoke. My favorites were playing “sandman” as I pretended to put sleep in their eyes. Too, I am gently reminded that our father in heaven neither slumbers nor sleeps as we rest in his care. Young children fresh from heaven seem to rest soundly in this truth. Psalm 121:4 gives us this reassurance.
As parents and early childhood teachers, we know first-hand the abundant amount of energy these children have! I love to look through their eyes because they don’t want to miss a thing. But when they finally wind down and drift off to sleep, it is so good all the way around.
Getting enough sleep allows the body to rest and relax, prevents illnesses and refuels our bodies for the next day. As a mother of a very active young son, I used to look forward to his naps so that I could also get a “cat nap” before he awoke. When you are parents or work with young children, it is so important that we rest. Our father in heaven, after creating the world, rested as we see in Genesis 2:2.
What are the sleep needs of each age? Even though schedules are irregular during the summer months, it is good for children to get enough sleep.
Iowa State University’s report on children and sleep states that babies in the first year sleep a lot. The New Hampshire Extension’s report “Helping Young Children Sleep Better” gives excellent suggestions to parents of babies six-to-12-months old. I would like to quickly list these to help families and children.

  1. Prepare your infant for bedtime by rocking your child, playing soft music, hugging your child and keeping events low-key right before bedtime. Sing about Jesus to your child. How safe they feel when you sing “Jesus loves me” or “All night, all day, angels watching over me my Lord.” Whispering Bible verses to your precious gift from heaven instills the word in their hearts and gives them a peace. When you are young parents or grandparents, it is so warm to your spirit as you pick up your infant child or grandchild and hear the child’s caregiver singing to your infant. Children love to be softly sung to.
  2. Follow the same schedule or routine so your child knows bedtime is on its way. They adjust to this.
  3. Develop a “going to bed” nightly tradition to set the sleep mood like lining up their toys, reading to your child a good bedtime story, or singing or playing soft music.
  4. When you slip out of the room, if your baby cries, you can reassure them by softly talking to them.
  5. Make sure noise disturbances are kept at a minimum from families and friends.
  6. Check the room temperature and make sure it is not too cold or hot.
  7. Of course, check on needed diaper changes or other physical needs during the night.
    With toddlers, this same report from the University of New Hampshire Extension states toddlers at two sleep about 10 to 13 hours out of the 24-hour day. Their naps become shorter. The same suggestions of infants were passed on as suggestions to toddlers ages one to two.
    There may be more night awakenings because your toddler is teething and not feeling well. oo, toddlers are more aware of their surroundings and might be afraid of the dark or being alone. Putting a soft night light in your child’s room will help this problem. As a mother, I can remember I didn’t venture far from the house without my child’s pacifier.
    Place your child’s pacifier close to them at night. Too, put that nightly cup or glass of water nearby. If your toddler is resistant to an afternoon nap, just encourage them to rest and do quiet activities. Try to encourage a “quiet time.”
    From the Ohio State University Extension Report, children three and older need less sleep, about nine to 11 hours. During these years, a lot of growth takes place. It amazes me as an early childhood teacher the growth spurt that occurs when a child turns four or five years old. Again, your child at this age may just need a “quiet time” rather than a “deep sleep” nap. With this age “bad dreams” might become an issue in your family. Following previous suggestions of comforting your young child can be applied here. If a child is scared gently guide them to control their fears by guiding what they view on television and reading books that are not scary. We need to guide our little ones to dwell on things that are true and pure. There are children’s Christian videos and books that will help you and your child “laugh” and realize that bad dreams aren’t real. “Veggie Tales” is excellent in this area.
    I hope all of this helps you and your child to get a good night’s sleep.

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