Listening to Little Kids Helps Them Sleep

By Laura Minnigerode

Carmela is 21 months old, and a student in my classroom in a community college lab school. Because she loves to play and is not as sleepy as many of the other children she usually struggles at nap-time. Often, the teachers in the classroom will tell substitutes and student teachers, “Carmela doesn’t sleep as long as the other children.”

But recently I tried some new ways to help her sleep.

She naps on a mat, so there are not a lot of physical boundaries to keep her still, and this means that it’s pretty easy for her to engage a teacher in an unwanted game of tag. She’ll get up and run around while the other children are asleep around her.

One day, she caught my eye and made sure I watched her almost purposely step on a sleeping child’s head as she ran past. This seemed like her signal to me that she was looking for help. I was not able to move close to her immediately but I said quietly and firmly, “I can’t let you wake up your friends.”

In the past, I’ve tried several approaches to help Carmela to sleep. Some days I ask her to come back and let her take her time, and that can work. Or, after giving her a chance to come back on her own without success, I’ll tell her I need to help her.

Today, when I got to her, I kindly said, “I can help you to come to your mat.”

I picked her up, consciously being gentle and warm while cradling and containing her. I brought with her back to the mat. She lay down and I covered her up. She started to cry but did not try to get up again. I listened to her, not making physical contact but staying very close. She cried for a long time, very sadly.

I know this child well, and I have seen what happens when she is allowed to feel her feelings of grief. She shows so much relief.

I knew it would be OK this time too.

After about four minutes, she went to sleep.

Setting a limit and then listening, even through what seemed like very distraught crying, can make a very big difference. That day, Carmela had a long, full, and sound sleep.

She woke up light and happy, and I observed she continued to be more playful for the rest of the week.

Get more help with crying in our free e-book, Secrets to Transforming Tantrums

Learn how children use crying to calm themselves and relieve tensions in The Science Behind Staylistening

Join Laura on a live call to talk about three ways to connect with a new baby. Register here and get your call-in details. 

Laura Minnigerode is a Hand in Hand Certified Instructor based in Texas. Connect with Laura on Facebook or through her blog, Listeningforgood



Share this post

Shopping Cart
Scroll to Top

Learn Hand in Hand in 6-8 weeks. New classes for parents, educators and professionals Are now open.

  • No products in the cart.