A childcare service in Sussex has embraced a practice common in Scandinavian countries.
At Bury-based Paddock Cottage Childcare, which opened in Spring 2016, eight children now take their daytime naps outdoors.
Owner and manager Hannah Rosalie said it seemed like an ‘obvious step’ to offer outdoor sleeping as part of the provision.
“I’ve always loved the outdoors and so have my own children, who always napped outside. They always slept well and were very healthy,” she said.
“I’m a Forest School practitioner and we follow a lot of these principles through our play and discovery. It seemed a natural next step for the babies to sleep outdoors too. I invested in some very good quality pushchairs which lay totally flat, some high quality sleeping bags and lots of thermal blankets.”
Hannah said that her family members in New Zealand were very supportive of the decision, including an aunt who had three children including twins and was a great believer in ‘al fresco naps’ in addition to neighbours in the village who have spoken of recalling the approach from when they were raising their own children.
“It seems we are sadly losing this lovely method of daytime rest for babies,” said Hannah, who insisted there are huge benefits to sleeping outdoors.
“Followers of the Gina Ford method will be all too aware of the need for blackout blinds and silence, but really it’s so much more natural for babies to be rocked to sleep under the trees and wake to the sound of birdsong. Babies here sleep well, rarely cry when they are tucked in for a nap or when they wake, and several ask for a pushchair when they feel tired.
“Sleep is so important for babies and young children right up until the age of three of beyond. Naps are absolutely essential for children’s physical, emotional and cognitive development. For many children naptime can be a very stressful time, especially in big nurseries so having positive sleep associations at an early age can lead to a lifetime of good sleep habits.
“Numerous studies point towards quality sleep playing a significant part in brain development in children,” she added.
The childcare setting in West Sussex offers outdoor sleeping along with most of the day spent outdoors in the garden or out and about in the village.
Hannah listed riverbank walks, playing on the huge fallen Willow tree, collecting natural treasures, reading a story or having a picnic, among the normal activities (see gallery above).
In addition baking from scratch, using eggs from the pet chickens, and harvesting homemade fruit and veg are also regular occurrences. An open day is being held on March 12 offering free play and good coffee, while on February 20 Hannah’s woodland parent and toddler group at Amberley is having a taster day.
Visit www.hannahrosalie.co.uk for more information.