What’s the Purpose of Quiet Time at Daycare?

Believe it or not, there’s a lot going on during quiet time at a daycare.

Most obvious is sleep. Young kids usually need naps in the middle of the day.

(And everyone else–teachers, other kids–need them to nap!)

However, scheduled quiet time includes more than a recharge.

That’s why putting kids into nap/won’t-nap categories doesn’t tell the whole story.

Quiet time is one block on a daycare’s schedule.

But it doesn’t live in a vacuum.

What happens before quiet time will affect whether kids truly rest.

Why some kids don’t nap during quiet time

They’re overstimulated

A loud, hectic daycare is not conducive to kids napping when the lights go out. Steady noise, like crying or yelling, keeps kids on edge. Busy scheduling can also overload a child’s senses. 

They haven’t moved enough

Lack of movement. Literature has shown that prolonged sitting increases the risk of insomnia. Many daycares allow their kids to watch movies and play video games for hours. Without expending energy, kids find it hard to sleep.

kids playing outside in summer

The room isn’t conducive for resting

Kids, like adults, find it hard to rest in a room that’s bright, stuffy, and noisy or disruptive (phones, doorbells, etc.). They may sleep, but the quality is poor.

They eat poorly

Kids high on sugar find it hard to quiet their bodies. Dairy, too, may present kids with problems. Kids who overeat during lunch will shift and turn to try and get comfortable.

They have problems at home

Unhappy or permissive homes often make it hard for children to nap. Examples include parents who argue a lot or parents who let their kids watch scary movies.

They had a rough night

Night before. If a child slept longer than normal the night before, he or she may not feel like laying down. Less sleep, too, can make kids cranky which often leads them to fight their fatigue. 

As you can see, a daycare controls two-thirds of the factors that determine the success of quiet time.

What quiet time is:

Quiet time is primarily for sleeping. Midday naps help meet daily sleep recommendations for kids ages 2-5. It’s important because many kids get up very early for daycare.

For non sleepers, quiet time can still be restful. Laying down with eyes closed has been shown to improve memory and motor skills.

kid resting at daycare with eyes open

Last but not least, quiet time is a behavioral tutor.

Kids who may not feel like resting, can learn to do it without complaining.

(A tremendously valuable life skill!)

They expect it as part of the daycare package. It’s good training for growing up because life is full of things we’d rather not do but must do anyway.

Quiet time is also a break for the daycare’s staff.

Yes, truly.

And that’s not an embarrassing admission.

Daycare staff use the break for lunch, paperwork, and personal business.

What quiet time isn’t

Quiet time is not punishment.

It should never be presented as such.

Otherwise, a child will think that it’s possible to get out of it by doing something good.

Sleep and rest is too important for development to be misunderstood as punishment.

Quiet time is not optional, either.

It’s something all kids in daycare must observe for their own good.

Some kids sleep, others lay quietly with eyes open or closed for the duration.

Some daycares allow kids who don’t sleep to play quietly or otherwise entertain themselves.

That’s certainly a generous option.

It’s not something, though, that parents ought to expect from staff without discussing.

Tips for making quiet time at daycare productive

Young children need exercise for optimal health.

Ideally, play should be hard enough to make them sweat, lose their breath, or need short breaks.

Playing outside in the morning, especially when it’s sunny, encourages sleep later.

Get rid of the screens.

Digital devices impede quality rest.

Without them, kids are more active, thoughtful, and grounded.

Kids actually don’t miss screen time when it’s not an option.

Create a routine.

Preparing for quiet time should be obvious and predictable to all.

Kids crave routines, it helps them feel secure and track time.

Quiet time should be punctual. At my daycare, preparation starts after lunch around 12:30pm.

We play for a few minutes, go potty, clean up toys, take our socks off, and get blankets. All kids are on their mats before 1pm.

Optimize the room for sleep.

Rooms meant for quiet time should be dark, cool, and quiet.

Arrange the kids in the room and the furniture to discourage interaction.

Strive for nutritious meals and snacks.

Healthier food makes it easier for little bodies to relax.

For example, sliced apples rather than Go-Gurt will avoid a sugar crash. Ditto water over apple drink.

As an aside, parents sometimes wonder why their child naps at daycare but not at home.

Two reasons.

One, kids are usually at home on the weekends and sleep later.

Two, they often have a looser schedule with less kids around. Less stimulation means they can go longer without crashing.

Kids can love quiet time at daycare

At First Things, we have a catchphrase for quiet time:

“You don’t have to sleep, but it is good if you do!”

The kids shout it out when I ask them what the rule is. It’s a good reminder as the lights go out. Kids know what their job is.

kid sleeping on a mat in a sparse room

It takes a few minutes (5-15) for the kids at my daycare to settle down.

I often have to tell some not to talk or move them.

Still, nearly all will eventually sleep. The ones that don’t will rest without a peep.

Wired or cranky kids are a rarity when parents pick them up.


I practice what I’ve been preaching in this article.

Kids play hard every morning.

We’re outside year round.

There are no TVs blaring.

The walls are easy on small eyes. They’re sparse with small pops of color for interest, not overwhelm.

Our schedule is predictable.

The rooms for sleeping are peaceful.

Because my students know what to expect, they welcome quiet time.


I’ve had 3-yo’s tell me they love it.

All two hours.

If you’re a Mom or Dad in Billings, MT looking for a daycare where your child is likely to nap most days, contact us.

We’d love to have you tour.

If you’re not in Billings, feel free to show this article to your daycare’s director.

Quiet time could be a lot easier than it might be now.

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