Another trip to the restroom. That all-important fourth cup of water. Just one more snack to sustain them until daybreak. Isn’t it amazing how young children become such ardent advocates for self-care as the evening hours roll on? Bedtime struggles are a timeless, and trying, rite of parenthood. Just as we’re ready to wrap up the work of the day and enjoy a fleeting moment of grown-up time, our little ones get a second wind, armed with a million urgent reasons to leave their beds. Are afternoon naps to blame for these late-night revivals?
Toward the end of the first Primary year or middle of the second, some parents begin to wonder if eliminating their child’s naps will ease evening bedtime struggles. In some cases, less sleep during the day can indeed help children nod off earlier at night. However, before dropping naps cold turkey, there are some important factors to consider.
The American Academy of Pediatrics supports the American Academy of Sleep Medicine’s recommendation that “children 3 to 5 years of age sleep 10 to 13 hours per 24 hours (including naps) on a regular basis to promote optimal health.” With families’ busy lives, this goal can be difficult to attain without the added rest time an afternoon nap provides. Children who have recurring issues with falling asleep at night may not fill their sleep tanks by the time they need to wake for school the next day, leaving them to navigate their mornings foggy and fatigued. Adjusting this pattern by abruptly eliminating a midday rest may result in emotional and behavioral repercussions later in the day, which can put a real damper on family time.
Napping at Greensboro Montessori SchoolIn the Primary napping room at Greensboro Montessori School, we carefully monitor how long and often children sleep at school. When we notice a child is moving away from napping, we communicate with parents to make a transition plan for gradually eliminating afternoon sleep. Depending on the unique needs of each child, we may begin by abbreviating a child’s nap, waking them after a specified period of time. The duration of sleep is decreased little by little, until the child is ready to forego their snooze altogether. When they wake, we offer quiet, engaging activities until it’s time to transition to the car line or our after-school program. For many children, this opportunity to wake slowly and refresh themselves is much less jarring than an abrupt transition to the active Encore classroom or outdoor play spaces.
In other cases, children may outgrow sleeping on their own, while continuing to benefit from remaining in the nap room for a quiet rest and calming activities such as reading, drawing, or listening to music. When the child shows signs of readiness for more stimulation and movement, we work with the family to plan a transition to our Encore classroom (for first-year Primary students), or for the child to remain in their Primary classroom (second-year year Primary students) through the afternoon.
Is it Time?If you’re uncertain about whether to begin phasing out your child’s naps, please reach out and let us know. Each child is unique, and requires their own individual approach to this transition. We are happy to keep you posted on your child’s sleeping habits at school, and to partner with you to craft a plan that is responsive to your child’s – and your family’s – needs. We can also provide helpful information on other challenges you may be experiencing while getting your little ones to settle in for the night. Though bedtime battles can seem insurmountable, there are effective strategies for giving and getting the rest we all need. Rest assured that your dreams of bedtime independence will eventually come true, and we are here to help you find your way to a truly good night!
Brooke Juneau is the director of CASA at Greensboro Montessori School. In this role, Brooke oversees the School’s before- and after-school programming, along with all summer camps. Brooke first joined Greensboro Montessori School as a Toddler teacher in 2013 and served as an anchor for our Toddler students, families, and faculty for six years. She transitioned into her current role in 2019. Brooke holds her Montessori teaching credential in Infant & Toddler Education. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts in education and human development from Hampshire College.