Should Kindergarteners Have Nap Time?
“Take out your mats and close your eyes” are words that many adults remember hearing when they were in kindergarten. It signaled the beginning of nap time. But much has changed over the years when it comes to kindergarten. For one, there’s been a massive jump in the number of children attending full-day kindergarten. From 1977-2015, the percentage of children attending full-day kindergarten went from 28% to 77%. But despite the longer day, nap time is nearly extinct.
Pre-K Is the New Kindergarten
As far back as 2000, a New York Times article titled “No Time for Napping in Today’s Kindergarten” declared the kindergartner’s day was simply too busy to find time for napping. Kindergarten as a place to play, nap, and learn social skills was anachronism. Teaching these skills is now the job of the preschool. The article goes on to note that new requirements for kindergarten impacted expectations of academic skills and readiness for first grade. Case in point: The child in the article mentions his least favorite part of the day is art history.
While some lament the loss of nap time and what it represents, the extinction of it does not seem to be disrupting students. In fact, naps seem to be naturally dropping off. “We find that when kids reach 4.5 they begin to age out of a nap and are no longer interested in napping,” says Ais Her, the Director of Schools for Fountainhead Montessori School in Dublin, CA. (The location also has a preschool.) Her also has a background is in child development.
At Her’s school, children do have an option to nap. However, she notes, none of the kindergartners nap even when provided the opportunity to do so. “Kids naturally grow out of naps around the age of 5. They’re more social and want to hang out with friends rather than sleep and be on their own,” says Her.
If a Child Is Used to Napping
Of course, not every child is the same. For many kindergarten-aged students, adjusting to a full day without a nap can be difficult. It can be particularly challenging when the day includes academics that require focus and energy.
Heather Sliker, the Director of Academics for Legacy Traditional Schools, which has 14 K-8 locations in Arizona and two in Nevada, recognizes the transition that children go through when starting kindergarten. In the spring, the school meets with parents to ensure a smooth start to the school year. One element of the meeting is a discussion regarding nap time. “We encourage parents to transition their child to no nap if they have been taking naps, which will enable the child to more easily adjust to the school day,” says Sliker.
Parents are amenable to the change, according to Sliker. At Legacy, which also has some preschools, nap time is built into pre-k. Some parents request that their child not have nap time. Sliker says, “They say ‘my child won’t go to bed if they have a long nap during the day.’”
Still, children need a significant amount of sleep at 5 years old. According to the National Sleep Foundation, children aged 3-5 typically get 11-13 hours per night, or at least that should be the aim. In order for children to get this amount of sleep all while not napping during the day means parents need to get their children to bed on time. Sliker notes part of the springtime conversation noted above involves counseling parents to get their children to bed at a consistent time.
When a child has a behavioral issue, the school does a behavioral analysis. One issue that often pops up during the analysis is sleep, or the lack thereof. “We find children who are used to napping and now can’t are more challenged by the transition,” says Sliker. “We reach out to parents and remind them about the importance of sleep and how it will enable their child to perform at his or her best.” A similar conversation takes place if teachers find a child who looks tired or is sluggish. However, according to Sliker, this type of child is an outlier and most children go through the program without any issues.
The Bottom Line
New and more rigorous academic demands have put nap time to bed in many classrooms across the country. However, the loss of the nap does not seem to be harming children, and it is allowing them more time to reach the levels that teachers and administrators set out for them.
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