Nap Time at an Outdoor Preschool?

Nap time at the Chippewa Nature Preschool - Photo by Erin Soper

Nap time at the Chippewa Nature Preschool – Photo by Erin Soper

How do you take a nap in an outdoor classroom? Play is hard work and with the sensory rich experience of a Tiny Trees education children require downtime to relax and process the adventures and experiences of the day. That is why we will have an afternoon nap at all of our 6hr Seattle preschools. For our half day preschool programs we will not be doing a nap – your little one will thus be pretty tuckered out when you pick them up and will be ready for a nap at home or at one of our after care providers.

Nap time will look different at each park and at different times of the year. At most locations we will use a designated indoor nap time space where children are provided with mattresses and wool blankets and a divider is placed between each child to prevent distractions and encourage quiet time.  During dry weather teachers make it a priority to have nap time outdoors in a pre-selected space such as a secluded grassy field or grove of cedar trees – a space with natural features that provide a clear boundary and privacy from the general public (an example is the photo above from the Chippewa Nature Center in Michigan where nap time takes place is a field fenced off from the rest of the park). When outdoors children are spread out typically 10-15 feet from their neighbor. Two teachers are present (and awake!) at all times during nap time

Sleeping outdoors not only is a soothing space for children but comes with a number of health benefits. Being outdoors means better airflow and less recirculated germs than an indoor facility. There also are less surfaces for germs to collect on meaning fewer sick kids (people get sick from other people, not from changes in temperature or getting wet). At the same time children will get a good dose of healthy dirt – as documented in a number of recent studies we now know that exposure to allergens and bacteria at an early age lessens the chance that a child develops allergies later in life meaning exposure to limited amounts of pollen or dust during nap time and play may provide a boost to the immune system. It also reduces inflammation in adulthood meaning they may get sick less frequently as an adult.

Downtime is an important part of early childhood education. It help children recharge and process what they have learned and experienced. Here at Tiny Trees we make sure nap time brings sweet dreams while still being full of the wonder and joy of a childhood in nature.

By Andrew A. Jay, CEO Tiny Trees Preschool

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