A new study was released this week. In case you didn’t see it, it was conducted by the University of Massachusetts Amherst and discovered that preschoolers retained information they learned in the morning significantly better if they had a nap afterwards. In addition, they found that children who napped routinely five days per week performed the best.
Read this important study here: Cutting Nap Time May Hurt Preschool Learning
I have always noticed that our children in daycare seem much calmer, happier, and more alert if they take a brief afternoon nap, even if they sleep for as little as 45 minutes. In fact, in Massachusetts it is a requirement issued by our licensing agency, EEC, that we provide children an opportunity for rest and to make the environment conducive to sleep by darkening the room, playing soft music, and minimizing disruptions.
Some parents over the years have come to us and said they have trouble getting their kids to bed at night if they nap during the day. Since daycare centers and family child cares are required to offer a rest time, this can be a challenge. Here are a couple of suggestions based solely on my personal experience and observations:
1. One way to lessen the bed time issues are to adjust your child’s schedule. Getting them up earlier in the morning should result in them falling asleep faster at rest time. Then adjust their bed time a little later.
2. Outdoor play or exercise 1-3 hours before bed can help your child expend extra energy and promote relaxation.
3. Have a structured bedtime routine, and stick to it. A warm bath, listening to a favorite book followed by soft music or white noise are common relaxers.
4. The most important thing at bed time is to be firm. Don’t let them get up unless there is a real emergency. Make sure they use the potty, get a drink of water, etc, before you put them to bed to eliminate the use of excuses to get back up. Letting them look at a book or some other relaxing activity while in bed is probably okay.
If your child is well rested and in a regular sleep routine, this will avoid them coming to preschool over tired and sleeping so much at rest time that they can’t sleep at night. Pretty simple: if they’re not tired, they won’t sleep! But adequate sleep is crucial to their health and development.