If your toddler or preschooler is just about to start daycare, you have probably been given a list of things to purchase. Some of them, like diapers and wipes and a backpack, probably make sense and you know just what to get. But if you've been asked to buy a sleeping mat, you may be at a loss for what type to get.
Purpose of Sleeping Mats
Young children that are in daycare for long periods of time will probably be encouraged to take a nap. Daycare facilities don't have space for beds that are up all the time, so they use sleeping mats, which can be taken out at nap time and tucked away out of sight when the rest period is over.
Talk to the daycare director and your child's new teachers about what exactly they are looking for. For instance, do they require that everyone buy the same brand or type of mat for uniformity or can you choose whatever mat you'd like for your child? If you can choose the mat yourself, what type is the prevailing type of mat that the other kids use? If most of the other kids use a traditional vinyl mat and you buy a cot that doesn't fold up, that may be a problem as far as storage and room placement.
Types of Mats
Many daycares use vinyl sleeping mats that fold up when not in use. These are relatively inexpensive and can be washed with soap and water easily. If you buy one of these, you will need to buy a crib sheet to fit it, and probably a pillow and blanket so your child is comfortable enough to sleep. Another option is a roll-up mat made from a thick, quilted material featuring a small pillow attached to one end. A variation on this type of mat is known as an all-in-one. This is a quilted mat that rolls up and has both a pillow and a blanket attached on opposite ends. Still another option is a cot, which is a mesh or nylon mat on a frame suspended a few inches above the ground. This type of daycare sleeping mat has to be stacked, rather than rolled or folded. Whatever type of mat you use, write your child's name clearly on masking tape fastened to the back.
Keeping Mats Clean
Ask how often mats are sent home to be cleaned, or whether they are cleaned at school. Request that mats be sent home at least once a week to be washed if the school's policy is less frequent than that. Find out where mats are stored when not in use -- are they all just piled together in a closet? If possible, it's best if mats are stored separately, such as in each child's cubby, to keep germs from spreading.