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Ask Malia: Hello Kindergarten, Goodbye Nap

Maybe it's because my own daughter is going on 5, or maybe it's because the Pre-K and early school years are a tough time for sleep, but I get a lot of questions about this age group. Here's one:

My 5-year-old just started all day kindergarten and is now having to go without her regular nap after lunchtime. She is so cranky when she comes home from school. How late is too late for a 5-year-old to nap? Should I let her take a nap when she gets home at 3 p.m. or keep her up to avoid ruining bedtime?



Hi Gloria,

Most kids won't have this problem, because only 20% of five-year-old children still nap. Many all day pre-K and kindergarten programs offer a brief afternoon "rest" period, and for many children, this will be sufficient.

Unfortunately, the minority who still take daily naps are in a tough spot. The late afternoon hours after school are generally too late for a young child to nap. Even 30 or 45 minutes of sleep will likely make it hard for them to be in bed early enough to get their required 10-12 hours of sleep. If a child is napping at 4 p.m., it's unlikely that they will be in bed before 9 p.m.

On the other hand, tweens and teens who need to stay awake later for homework and extracurricular activities may benefit from an after-school snooze. But for the under 6-set, late naps just make bedtime a battlefield.

But I'm sympatheic, because no one wants a cranky kindergartner moping around the house (or melting down while you're trying to make dinner). So what can you do?

My little scholar on her first day of school.Take the long route home from school. A "car" nap of 10-15 minutes may be sufficient to refresh a tired child without ruining bedtime.

Offer a quiet rest period after school. A book, a snack, quiet play, or a snuggle with a pet may help her refresh and unwind.

Move bedtime earlier. When children stop napping, they are ready for bed earlier. And with a longer, more restorative nighttime rest, she may have an easier time giving up the nap.

Switch to a.m. kindergarten. A 5-year-old who really depends on an afternoon nap may do better in a half-day kindergarten program. If full-day kindergarten is tiring for her, she won't get much out of the afternoon portion of the day anyway.




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