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My Toddler Won’t Sleep at Daycare! How Can I Help?

My Toddler Won’t Sleep at Daycare. What Can I Do?

If you’ve had your child pass out from exhaustion due to lack of sleep while coming back from daycare many times before, then keep reading because you’re going to find out exactly how you can prevent this from happening again.

Getting your child to sleep can be an unbelievably difficult challenge. Trying to make them sleep at while at daycare can be an enormous undertaking! Their and your wellbeing depends on how rested they are. If your child isn’t taking naps throughout the day, it can quite often mean that they’re going to be crabby for the remainder of the day. Often, this will lead to much more stress for you.

How Can I Get My Child to Sleep at Daycare?

The million-dollar question. Many of us wonder what the answer is. Think of it like this: Toddlers and babies alike sleep the best via consistency and constant routine. Let’s start by breaking things down and try to understand what exactly they need first.

Focus on these things first and foremost:

1. Establishing an Environment That Is Familiar to Them

2. Keeping Consistent and Following a Routine

What’s happening is that your child is accustomed to sleeping in their own crib/bed with you around. I know that the concept of where they’re sleeping might not be that important to you, but to them, they are very sensitive to their environment and the possible changes that come along with it. Even if they’re comfortable, that alone is not enough. That’s why sometimes they sleep much better in familiar places with you around versus other places that aren’t familiar to them.

Fear not parents, there are actually quite a bit of things here and there that you can do to help your child sleep better at daycare. Every possible little step you take to try to better their sleep can actually make quite a difference. It’s also important to be aware that implementing some of these concepts might actually require some extra effort from you and/or your spouse/husband. Remember that each and every child is unique, has different needs, as well as different comfort & different dislikes, different likes, etc. for the most basic needs. Let’s go over everything that could possibly be beneficial for your child and his or her sleep.

Routine and Staying Consistent

I know I’ve said it over and over again, but routine and being consistent are extremely important. Let your daycare know how your child’s sleeping routine generally is at home. By doing so, you’ll improve their time at daycare and ensure that it counts (considering how much daycare costs these days, the least they could do is make sure my daughter isn’t cranky when she comes home). Most of the daycares should want to know this because most of them are more than happy to ensure that your child is as comfortable as possible. By giving your daycare all of this knowledge that they need, they should be able to give your child everything that they need to be comfortable – which should ultimately benefit them and their time spent at daycare.

Some children might take more than one nap throughout their day. Some might not. Parents who’ve had more than one child fully understand that one child can be completely different from the other. You should let your daycare know how many naps your child usually takes throughout the day. Even if you feel you shouldn’t be giving them this knowledge or that they should know what to do already, by giving them as much information as they need, they will be able to better accustomed to your child’s individual needs. Be VERY specific because every detail you give them could make that much of a difference in making sure your child is sleeping at daycare when they should be. Sit down and give it some time to consider. What do you normally do? Do you sing to them? Do you play music or white noise for them?

When you put your child sleep, how you do it, and how often are all equally important. Tell your daycare all your little secrets and tricks that you do to put them to sleep at home. These small and probably overlooked details could actually be the most important ones that can make the most difference in helping your child to get to sleep at daycare. Try to replay your own routine in your head and try to recall if you’re missing an important detail that you might not think otherwise.

Their Environment

Your child’s environment plays an incredibly huge role in their ability to sleep at daycare. Their smells that they are familiar with, the objects they’re familiar with, and where they sleep are all important factors that help familiarize them with the environment and help them feel more safe and secure. If they have a hard time sleeping, it can all come down to whether or not they’re familiar with their environment. This is very common when children have issues getting to sleep when they’re at daycare or another environment that they’re unfamiliar with.

Bringing their own blanket is a great way to minimize their worries about the environment. Anything that gives a sense of familiarity will benefit them. Not only will their own blanket smell like home and other things that they’re familiar with, but it will help them relax more too. You could even spray a little of your perfume on their blanket so that they can take a little bit of you with them wherever they go.

When choosing a daycare, I can’t stress how important it is to pick one that can communicate with you on a regular basis. When you’re looking for a daycare, don’t be afraid to take your time in deciding. The right daycare could make an entire world of difference in both you and your child’s life. If you can pull off making your child’s daycare environment as close to your home environment, your child will feel so much more comfortable and might sleep much better while at daycare.

Make sure that whatever object that you decide to give to your child is only used for nap time. By making it a special object reserved for nap time, it signals to them that this is their special little reminder of home “object”. This will remind them of home and give them a little something to look forward to every time during nap time!

Visiting Your Child

Be cautious about this. This is NOT a universal solution for every parent! For some kids, seeing their parent might make them anxious or even too excited. I hope this is not the case for you. Nevertheless, this is definitely a method that you should at least try. Please try to take a few minutes out of your already hectic day to visit your child when they are new to daycare and still adjusting. It might make a ton of difference to them. It might even help them feel more comfortable, safe, and might even reassure them that daycare isn’t something they need to worry about – which could result in them adjusting to daycare in a much better manner. You don’t have to visit them every day or each week, but at least at the beginning, try to gradually visit them until they become more and more comfortable.

Another great option you could try is to go to daycare right before the nap time and help them get put to sleep. This might be exactly what they need to ease them to sleep. The more comfortable and at ease they are, the easier it will be for them to fall sleep. Not only will you visiting daycare be beneficial to them, but it will also give you your daycare an opportunity to see exactly your own unique way you put your child to sleep. Obviously, don’t make this your main goal when you go to visit, but it’s just another thing you can keep in mind. This opportunity could also give you a chance to spend some one-on-one time with your child which could be extremely beneficial & therapeutic to them. Not only can it make them sleep better, but it might even improve your day too!

Be Prepared for Any Outcome, And Be Ready to Accept Whatever Happens

Some children just end up not sleeping poorly at daycare while others have no problems with it. Regardless of either outcome, most children will usually be more comfortable in their own homes. It’s their most familiar environment in their entire life, so it makes sense that no other place like home will make them feel as safe. In the end, each and every option that you exhaust might not even work. That’s still okay, remember that. As long as you exhaust every option and try your hand at every possible solution…even if none of them work out, at least you tried. Sometimes you can’t win them all. As mothers, we always try to do everything as perfectly as possible, but sometimes it isn’t enough. It’s okay to accept defeat every once in a while.

Sometimes, the only thing that your child needs is time and time alone. Sometimes we actually can’t help, regardless of how much we really want to. We often find ourselves struggling with similar issues, where we pursue a solution over and over with no luck. Sometimes, the best solution to solve a problem is to wait and re-approach. The amount of times I’ve solved problems just by waiting is honestly astounding. Sometimes, there is no clear-cut solution, and all you really need to do is sit back and wait, even if it’s the last thing you want to do. Maybe your child simply doesn’t like the daycare, or the people or children there. Sometimes these external factors are completely out of our control and there’s not much we can do about it.

Every child is unique – each have diverse personalities, different things they like and dislike, and some handle change much better than others. We should try to always should keep this in mind when trying to figure out why some of our kids sleep like a rock and why others barely sleep, even with your constant intervention and seemingly infinite attempts to get them sleep.


Some daycares provide children with too much stimulation. Some kids are more well-equipped to handle it than others. Daycares provide lots of activities and fun, but these might be a little too much for some children to handle. If your child is having a difficult time napping at daycare, try to ask the daycare to see if they can put them in a more quiet and dark room.

If your child is overstimulated while at daycare, they might be cranky later on in the day. Plus, if they are napping at daycare, they’ll probably be pretty wired up or difficult to handle during the evening. Try to create a better environment for them that diminishes their stimulation. Having them in a more dimly lit and calmer environment can greatly affect their energy levels.

Napping Alternatives

Sometimes, in the event that your toddler is too stimulated, and is unable to nap even if you put them in an ideal environment, there still are alternatives. Sometimes, something as simple as “quiet time” can be almost just as effective as a full-blown nap. Try to calm them down or read a book to them for the duration that they normally nap for. Basically, what this achieves is that they still use the time they would have if they napped, but instead, they use it to refocus their attention and energy.

And remember, some toddlers don’t always need a nap every day. If they’ve slept exceptionally well during the night, or just don’t seem to need that much sleep, then they might have every bit of energy that they truly need to make it through the entire day. Other times, they might sleep poorly and will definitely need a nap to make their day better. Each child is different and each of them have their own unique sleep “needs”.

Private Nannies and Daycares

If you’ve exhausted all your options and you have the moola for it, these might be options for you worth exploring. A nanny who is able to familiarize themselves with your child can be a great option for them. They can do all of their care at home and both them and your child can get accustomed to being around each other. Nannies don’t have to be excessively expensive, but sometimes the best ones truly are.

Some daycares will actually come to your house and watch your child there. It follows the formula of having a private nanny, with the only notable difference being that they’re associated with a daycare. You can tell them exactly what your routines and schedules are and they can follow it just as described. The most positive aspect of this and the nanny option is that it allows your child to stay in an environment that they are familiar and comfortable with. You also don’t have to drive them to their daycare and you’ll know exactly where they are and what their status is. Obviously, these options are going to be much more expensive, but if you have the money for it, it might be more beneficial for them if you’re having a hard time with other options.

Daycare Isn’t Interested in Following Your Own Routine?

Some daycares won’t – Or simply can’t follow your child’s own unique routine. In this event, it might be a good idea to adjust their nap schedule accordingly so that you can match the daycare’s naps as close as possible. Although this option is not really what you want to hear, it‘s a good last resort because if nothing else has worked, this is your best shot at getting some results. If you do manage to pull this off, your child will be able to get the rest that they need and it’ll be a lot easier for you as well – considering when they come home, your child will be a lot less cranky because they are actually sleeping during the day.

Let’s face it, some daycares have set routines and schedules that are more generalized towards addressing the need of all the children and babies that they currently watch over and take care of. Maybe it won’t be your exact routine, but it still might be something that your child will be able to sleep during. Maybe a change in their routine can be a positive aspect for them. Some children deal with change exceptionally well, and this change might actually be what your child prefers. If you’re able to mimic the sleep routine that the daycare uses, this might even be more effective. Obviously, the start of it’s going to be a little bit rough, but if you keep it up and are consistent, your child should adjust to it and hopefully, so will you/your SO. Eventually, it might be an extremely beneficial change.

What are some toys/objects/etc. that I can send with my child to help them sleep while they’re at daycare?

I’ve compiled a small list of great options that you can choose from that don’t include basic things like just a blanket. You can also use a bunch of other things – ones that your child doesn’t have a safety object of that they can sleep with. If you haven’t done so already, introducing some of these can actually help them ease into naps while napping at daycare and possibly at home too:

  • Pillow
  • Stuffed toy/animal
  • Pacifier
  • Anything that reminds them of home

Remember that these should be used for nap time only. Also, make sure that the daycare does not lose any of these items because if your child grew up with one of them and it’s lost forever, it’s going to be extremely disheartening for them. By excluding these items from anything else other than nap time, it helps establish a connection between that item and associates it with naps and sleep. Always try to keep habit and routine because eventually, your child’s brain will start to develop the connection between the two. Remember, daycares are familiar to these requests and they are fairly common. Most, if not all daycares, should be more than happy to oblige with your very reasonable request.

Related and Hopefully Helpful FAQ!

  1. How Exactly Do I Get My Baby to Fall Asleep in Their Crib?

Your child is having a rough time sleeping in their crib and only seems to want to just cuddle with you, try waiting until they’re about half asleep/awake and then put them in their crib. Also, ensure that the room they are in is completely comfortable and makes them feel safe. Things like lighting, temperature, and noise are extremely important factors that play a huge role in affecting your baby’s sleep. Check out my post here that goes more in depth with tips that can help them fall sleep in their own crib all by themselves!

  • What Time Is Right Time for Me to Put My Child to Sleep?

The answer to this question entirely depends on your child’s age. Infant to toddlers – 6 to 7 PM is a good general time frame to put them down for sleep. Not all fall asleep or adjust to a specific timeframe immediately. However, if you start early, that should give yourself enough time to ease them into sleep.

  • My Baby Keeps Waking Up During the Night. How Can I Get Them to Sleep Throughout the Whole Night? Is it Even Possible???

Luckily, there are so many different options that you can use to help your baby sleep throughout the night. Some of these include: co-sleeping, late night feedings, and helping them fall asleep on their own by not rushing to them every time they wake up. Sleep training babies is so difficult! But sometimes, some are easier to train than others. Regardless, it’s entirely worth it for both you and them in the end. If you want to read up on that, check out my post here for my tips/tricks/guide to get babies to sleep throughout the night.

About the Author Elizabeth

Hi everyone, I'm Elizabeth. My beautiful daughter Alice keeps me awake occasionally...but when I'm busy and can't sleep, I post parenting tips and different ways you can get your baby to sleep soundly through the night, and even naps!