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"I have to rest all the time because you are not allowed to play": Exploring children's perceptions of autonomy during sleep-time in long day care services

Daytime sleep is a significant part of the daily routine for children attending early childhood education and care (ECEC) services in Australia and many other countries. The practice of sleep-time can account for a substantial portion of the day in ECEC and often involves a mandated sleep/rest period for all children, including older preschool-aged children. Yet, there is evidence that children have a reduced need for daytime sleep as they approach school entry age and that continuation of mandated sleep-time in ECEC for preschool-aged children may have a negative impact on their health, development, learning and well-being. Mandated sleep-time practices also go against current quality expectations for services to support children's agency and autonomy in ECEC. This study documents children's reports of their experiences of sleep-time in ECEC. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 54 preschool-aged children (44-63 months) across four long day ECEC services that employed a range of sleep-time practices. Findings provide a snapshot of children's views and experiences of sleep-time and perceptions of autonomy-supportive practices. These provide a unique platform to support critical reflection on sleep-time policies and practices, with a view to continuous quality improvement in ECEC. This study forms part of a programme of work from the Sleep in Early Childhood research group. Our work examines sleep practices in ECEC, the subsequent staff, parent and child experiences and impacts on family and child learning and development outcomes. (author abstract)
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Reports & Papers

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