Speak to any parent of small children, and the conversation will often end up on the topic of sleep. Is the family getting enough sleep? Is the child difficult to settle? Are the parents driving around at all hours of the night trying to get their little one to fall asleep?
The team from Niño Early Learning Adventures understood that sleep and settling was a big part of their job when looking after children. They also knew that this was an area that many parents struggled with. A family that is sleep deprived needs support and strategies to help get everyone the rest they need. That’s where the Niño Early Learning Adventures Infant & Toddler Sleep & Rest Specialist program comes in.
Toddle spoke to Nicole Atcheson (Dip.Com, Grad Cert So.Sc), the Mentor & Leadership Manager & Infant Specialised Practitioner at Niño Early Learning Adventures to find out how their innovative program came about.
Nicole saw a gap in the amount of training that educators receive when studying, and knew that further training would give the Niño Early Learning Adventures educators some valuable skills to help families struggling with sleep issues.
‘The purpose of the program was to provide further training and mentoring to Niño ELA teams,’ says Nicole.
‘It was evident that the training provided in the Early Childhood industry falls short of the required knowledge. So we implemented the one-of-a-kind program in 2018.’ Nicole was on hand from day one, to support, mentor and train the educators in nursery rooms at individual Niño Early Learning Adventures centres.
Tell us about the Niño Early Learning Adventures sleep program
‘The ‘Niño Early Learning Adventures Infant Specialist Training and Curriculum’ program is a response-based approach to settling children at sleep time,’ says Nicole.
‘This gentle approach respects the child’s emotional needs, observing and responding to their cues and providing a safe physical sleep environment.
The program supports educators and families to comfort their baby through a change process which helps the young child to undergo positive emotional development.’
What are the benefits to children of adequate sleep and rest time?
‘Sleep is a very important part of your child’s mental and physical health, explains Nicole. ‘It allows children’s mind and body to rest and recover.
Sleep is just as significant to a child as eating healthy and exercising, because sleep helps support their mental and physical development.’
What are the challenges for educators trying to encourage children to nap in a child care setting?
‘Educators can come across many challenges when encouraging children to rest at naptime,’ says Nicole.
‘Different challenges can vary between how children are settled to sleep at home and how these align with the centre’s policies, procedures and SIDS guidelines.
Some challenges may be but not limited to that infants are breastfed to sleep, rocked to sleep, driven around in the car and many more factors that are associated with independent and dependant sleep associations, which are provided to infants at home to settle to sleep.’
What is the sleep environment like at Niño Early Learning Adventures centres?
‘At Niño Early Learning Adventures we provide a very calm, engaging, supported environment where educators can flourish and focus on the individual child settling down to sleep,’ shares Nicole.
‘Educators provide them with the home-like environment and mimick the parent to child interaction.
Support is provided to families to reduces stress levels of parents and children, being able to have support from educators within the centres, knowing that it is OK to pick a baby up when they cry, supporting their child’s emotional needs and being able to provide a secure attachment.
Children have a secure attachment as they are being nurtured and their emotional needs are supported through respectful interactions and their sleep environment is calm, warm and what you would see in their home.’
What is the purpose of the Niño Early Learning Adventures parent hotline?
‘When we identify families who may be experiencing postnatal depression, postnatal anxiety and other mental health issues, we provide access to the Niño Early Learning Adventures Infant and Toddler Sleep Hotline,’ explains Nicole.
‘They can seek support and assistance, before being referred onto an appropriate health professional in a trusting, positive relationship connection environment.
What support does Niño Early Learning Adventures offer to families that are struggling with sleep issues?
‘The Niño Early Learning Adventures program improves outcomes for children and families,’ says Nicole. ‘Within the community, sleep support services consist of 1:1 consultations, phone consultations and tailored plans. These services come at a significant cost, and they are not always readily available.
At Niño Early Learning Adventures, we provide this service at no cost to our families. Our approach allows educators and families to comfort the baby or child through a change process which supports the child to enjoy positive emotional development and continued healthy growth.
We have a strong focus on working together with families and educators to ensure that the strategies implemented at centres and at home are consistent.’
With 14 centres across Victoria, simply enter your postcode in the search bar at the top of the page to find a Niño Early Learning Adventures centre near you.
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