Afternoon Naps and Pre-School/ Daycare

PSP members talk about how to handle sleep schedules at daycare and preschool.

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As a PSP member writes to the group:


"I am hoping to benefit from some collective parent wisdom.
Like many others, we received information about preschool placements this week for our daughter, who will be 3 in June.
We got a spot in our top choice school, but it's for the afternoon session, which meets M-Th 12:30-3pm.
I am hesitant to take the spot, becuase I am worried about how it will impact our daughter's sleep schedule (and thus, her mood and our life).
Our daugther is (knock on wood) a champion sleeper. She goes down at night around 7:30 and is up between 6-7am. She naps every single day at 2pm for about 2-2.5 hours. We worked very hard when she was a baby to develop healthy sleep habits and schedule our day so that she can get the sleep that she needs.
So, what have others done with naps and afternoon preschool spots? I understand there is the possibility that she will drop her nap in the coming months, but she shows no signs of that now. My guess is that the kids either 1) drop the nap prematurely, 2) nap after school and then stay up late, or 3) nap before school
and wake up really early.
To be honest, none of those options sound very appealing or practical. (especially b/c we are expecting baby #2 in June).
Is this an easier adjustment than I am imagining? How does it work? What schedule did your napping 3 y.old adopt? If you did it all over again, would you have taken an afternoon spot if your kid was still napping?
Thanks in advance"


PSP member replies:


See if you can get the afternoon slot:

"I went through the same dilemma last year when my daughter was 2 1/2.  We ended up going with the afternoon slot and thank goodness.  Right around the time she turned 3, she dropped her naps.  She was also a champion sleeper...still is, but does not nap at all.  I was pregnant at the time we accepted our afternoon slot.  I thought that it would be easier for me to get out of the apartment later with a newborn child.  I ended up having a miscarriage, but it worked out anyway.  We have a calm morning at home some days.  Other mornings we take classes before school.  When my daughter gets home from school she is hungry and tired.  We eat an early dinner and she gets to bed by 8.  She is up by 7:30 or 8 in the morning.  The afternoons are short and sweet! I would say, don't worry about it too much.  Your child will adapt and so will you!


Find a program with a longer day:

 "I remember the questions you asked very vividly when my son was 2/3. I never understood how pre-schools could even offer school time during nap time, which seems redundant to me. We need school time IN ADDITION to nap time, no?
I personally chose schools that offered another schedule and went for a longer day (with a class room nap) but not every day, because I didn't like the three options you mentioned in your post either. Other parents didn't really care as much about napping. I think it's important to go with your gut feeling. If you think this will have too much of an impact then I wouldn't do it. Regardless of preferred pre-school and glad you got in. Especially in pre-school age the schools don't differ radically, honestly, so I would chose a school that works for your and your kid's schedule.
Just my 2 ;) "


Take the spot:

"My advice (especially with #2 coming in June) is to take the spot! Mornings are tough to get out to school anyway with a newborn (I've done this twice now). Your daughter will either have dropped her nap or likely be ok with a super mellow afternoon post-school. If it's a question of afternoon spot or nothing, go for it. It will be excellent for her to have something of her own once her sibling comes."


Your child will adjust naturally:

"I went through this when my daughter was 2 years 3 months, napped at 12:30, and got into a school that met 12:40-2:10, a 20 minute walk away. ALL preschool directors say don't worry, your child will drop her nap naturally, it will be an easy transition. I moved hers to 10:30 am (a bit ridiculous, but she did it - and we had a #2 who took his first nap then, so it was convenient), woke her up at noon and she snacked in lieu of lunch in her stroller on the way there. It was not ideal, but she loved school so we decided it was worth it. She will be 4 in May and she still sleeps an hour and a half a day, which we love - both for her state of mind, and because it means she goes to sleep later, which lets my husband see her at night. 

All I can say is napping is great, and if your child is flexible enough, try to move it earlier and see what happens. A lot will change between now and September, too."


One parent says it is challenging:

"We took an afternoon spot for our 2 1/2 year old son.  It's been rough. We do "quiet rest time" every morning before school, but he doesn't nap.  He's strung out and not at his best in the afternoon.  It's been getting better, but it's hardly an ideal situation."


Don't worry:

"We went to a 2s afternoon program twice a week this year.  He just fell asleep a bit earlier those nights.  No way would I let him take a late nap or he'd be up all night! He dropped his nap by 2.5 anyway, and sleeps about 13 hours at night now.  (7PM-8AM).
I wouldn't worry about it too much.  Sometimes we are more rigid about sleep than they are!"


Sleep schedules can be resilient to change:

"My daughter is 2 1/2 and has been in a 2 afternoon a week program since September.  I was also very nervous about the change in naps. We only had 2 days to contend with not 4.. but I will share our experience. At the beginning of the school year, we told our daughter that she had school so she had to nap earlier on school days.  She loved school so much that IT WORKED!!!  Nights before school, we put her to bed 30 minutes earlier (7pm) and woke her (naturally) around 6am just be opening the door.  Our school is very close to our house, but we would be put her down at 10am and she would sleep until 11:45am.  We would wake her, feed her.. and be out the door by 12:15.  It was chaotic at first, but manageable.  6 months later it still works, but sleeps more like and hour and 1/2.  Also, we became less crazy about bedtime the night before.  It now seems like habit.  This is only my first child, so I only know what I know.. but it seems at about 3 1/2 kids start giving up their naps.  So maybe you'll just have to endure a schedule change for the 1st semester.
Something to note, while her schedule changes only 2 days... on the other days, her schedule is back to her normal 1-3.  I think it is doable!



 "We sent our son to D. at 3.5 year old in the afternoon session.  He was a champion sleeper before and after but the naps disappearred completely (even on weekends).  He was a little more cranky on the weekends and we missed having that down time but in the end it all worked out."


In contrast, one parent is hesitant about disrupting sleep patterns:

"I have a 3.5 yo who is a great sleeper (same schedule as your daughter - about 11-12 hrs at night plus a 2 hr nap). She's been in a morning preschool program this year which we love and really tires her out physically/mentally/emotionally. We also have a 2 month old and the 3.5yo's nap has been a life saver with the new baby. I would be hesitant to do anything that would prematurely end the nap. She recently went through a 2 week period when she woke up and hour early every morning and it definitely affected her mood and behavior negatively and I would thinking ending the nap would have a similar affect."


Push the evening bed time back:

"We're in exactly the same position as you, but decided to accept the spot for my daughter who will be 3 in October. I will just have to put her down for her nap after school and push her bedtime later. The major advantage for me is that my husband and I are not morning people and it would be disastrous for us to deal with getting my daughter ready and out of the door in time."