Published: November 1, 2018

Thorpe, K., Irvine, S., Pattinson, C., & Staton, S. (2018). Insider perspectives: the ‘tricky business’ of providing for children’s sleep and rest needs in the context of early childhood education and care. Early Years, 1-16.


Karen Thorpe, Susan Irvine, Cassandra Pattinson, and Sally Staton.


Sleep and rest provision in early childhood education and care (ECEC) is commonly enacted as a routine – a standard time-period during which children are required to lie down even if they do not sleep. Yet contemporary ECEC policies emphasise responsive pedagogical practice that includes children in decision-making and respects each child’s developmental and sociocultural context as appropriate pedagogical practice. To understand current practices, analyses of numeric data and textual accounts from a survey of Australian ECEC service providers, leaders and educators (N = 247) was undertaken. Two broad challenges to enabling responsive practice and inclusion of children in decision-making were identified: (1) Provisions – organisational interpretations of national policy and attendant resourcing set the structural parameters for achievement of responsive pedagogical practice. (2) Practices – individual and communal demands on educators and their professional philosophy set interactional parameters. Service leadership played a pivotal role in determining whether sleep–rest practices were Routine (84%) or Responsive (16%). Responsive leaders were characterised by strong professional advocacy for child rights and child-focused pedagogy. They instigated professional reflection and communication strategies within their service and removed expectation that educators could undertake alternative activity while providing for children’s sleep and rest.