New Research Reveals Naps Help Preschoolers Learn Better


Just about every parent dreads the day their child stops napping. As much as we love our children and the joy they bring to our lives, there's no denying that we need a break from each other every now and then. And it's not just the parents that need the break, but so do the children. For me, when my preschooler doesn't nap, the witching hour, which begins around 4 PM in my house, tends to be way worse when a nap is not had thus making it tough for both my daughter and I. Suffice it to say, I do all I can to make sure she gets a nap in, though it doesn't always happen despite my best efforts.

New research suggests, though, that naps for preschoolers are more than just to help quell all the moodiness, but rather regular napping helps these preschool aged children learn better. It's not just about being well-rested to deal with the day's tasks, but rather getting enough slumber actually helps preschoolers to absorb more information as their day progresses.

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Rebecca Spencer, Ph.D., an associate professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and this study's co-author said that, "(The study) shows naps help protect memory." Ultimately, what Spencer and her cohorts did was provide a grid of pictures to preschool children in the morning. Some of the children napped for about 75 minutes, while another group just rested. The children who napped did better at recalling the pictures on the grid than the children who didn't. They even looked at the brain waves of children while napping and found that those waves moved quicker, which is associated with memory retention.

It's no wonder that when my preschooler naps, after getting over her grogginess, she starts chattering away about things we did or discussed earlier that day or even days and weeks ago. It amazes me at how much she soaks up and can recall. The other day she even said to me that she knows my number. "What number?" I asked. "You know, 2**-***-****." My 4-year-old knows my cell phone number, not because I told it to her, but because she recalls hearing me give it over the phone. Who knew that napping during the day would help to aid her in learning and memory retention?

I'm so very grateful that my preschooler's childcare center still promotes nap time for preschool and pre-K classrooms. I know not all of the children in her class take a nap, but gosh darn it, my kid still needs one! I totally get that kids outgrow naps earlier than my child has, but I've learned to still advocate for nap time when I'm not around. And I've made that heard to her teachers as well.

As a teacher, there are a lot of transitions for my daughter as she gets more breaks from school than her preschool buddies. And it's always hard to get her back into the swing of preschool naps, so I work closely with her teachers to help her get the much needed rest. They've moved her to a more secluded parts of her classroom where it's darker as they can't turn lights of per center regulations. And on days where they can sense she's struggling to snooze, a teacher will sit with her and rub her back for a bit. And at one point, when she was in the younger preschool classroom, the center director decided to move a few of their non-sleepers to another room as they struggled to keep their voices low and kept the whole class up, not just my daughter. It felt good to know that I wasn't the only one who wasn't willing to wave the white flag on preschoolers napping.

I have to say, too, that I'm sure preschool teachers appreciate the nap. It provides rest for not only the children, but for themselves. And overall, as the study suggests, helps their little fledglings to achieve more as they are preparing to enter Kindergarten.

We all know that no two children are the same, and sometimes giving up the nap is for the best for some children and families. However, I will be clinging tight to nap time for my preschooler. The benefits of her napping far outweigh the benefits of not napping and it's good to know that the science of sleep is on my side as day time slumber helps to aid in acquiring knowledge.

For 9 napping no-nos, visit BabyZone!

-By Tracy Brennan

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