Naps at Preschool

Parent Q&A

  • Preschool nap alternatives?

    (6 replies)

    Hi, I have a 4.5-yo with a busy mind. She stopped napping when quarantine started, and now that she’s back in preschool (since sept), she’s been complaining about naptime, which is at least 2 hours of laying in the dark. She complains about being bored. 

    I’m wondering: is it standard at most preschools to require kids to lay in the dark for 2 hours if they aren’t napping? Especially the older kids? I’ve heard of places allowing kids to play quietly in another room or outside... I am considering looking for a different place to take her, but I want to get a gauge of others’ experiences. TIA!

    RE: Preschool nap alternatives? ()

    Providing nap or rest time for all ages is actually a preschool licensing requirement in California, so all schools do it in some form or another. That said, different preschools handle naps differently, and there are some that set up areas for kids who wake early or who do not nap to come to play quietly once they have rested. Others are stricter about keeping things quiet and dark for the duration of the nap period. I would start with your current preschool to see if they have solutions before starting to shop around if this is your only concern, though--they may have ideas. (Our child's old preschool would play audiobooks quietly during the rest period, for instance; the nappers slept right through them and the non-nappers could lie quietly in the dark but be listening to something and still physically rest.)

    RE: Preschool nap alternatives? ()

    Two hours in the dark for a kid who isn't napping - especially at that age - seems inappropriate and not a good use of her time. Maybe 30 min of enforced "rest", but not two hours. At my son's school, the older kids who don't nap can play quietly, or outside. 

    RE: Preschool nap alternatives? ()

    My child never napped at preschool unfortunately. He has never had to lie in the dark for 2 hours and would not be able to. My understanding is that he rests quietly in the dark for maybe 20 to 30 min? But then plays quietly sometimes with other non-nappers. 

Parent Reviews

We are at Duck's Nest 41st and have friends who've been at My Own Montessori and Holding Hands, and all are great options.

I will caution that you may find some nap challenges at any preschool, though, because California licensing requires preschools and daycare centers to have a quiet nap or rest time for all children. So while a school can certainly offer alternatives to nap for children who do not fall asleep during that time, they are required to have them rest for a period of time before moving on to other activities. (Some strategies our school uses to accommodate non-nappers include placing children who do need to nap in quieter areas of the room; having non-nappers play outside before coming in for the required rest period at the end of the nap block rather than resting at the beginning, so that they can get up again as other children start to wake; and having quiet activities that children can take to their rest areas to do instead of sleeping.) We also know some kids who don't nap at home ever who nap daily at preschool, though, so be prepared for that too--a full day of school can be exhausting!

Re: Duck's Nest 41st specifically, enrollment is very fluid, so although it is "full" they do always take a few kids over the summer as people's plans change (and usually 1-2 during the year, too). It is always worth calling to check. Although many children start at 2, they do take a number of kids at 3/3.5 too given how they split their classes. Again, call early and often if that is something you're interested in. If you are near Holding Hands, though, you might find drop-off and pick-up to either Duck's Nest or MOM a bit of a grind over time. I would definitely look carefully at schools close to home too, since you have a number near you. Good luck with the search!

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Three Year Olds

Preschool's naptime is too early for 3-year-old

Feb 2008


My 3 year old son has been at his preschool 5 days (9:00am - 5:30pm) for 6 months. Everything is going well except his naps. He almost never naps there. I think it's because the class naps at 12:30 which is too early for him.

He used to be at a home based daycare before preschool and he would nap from about 2:00 - 5:00. He napped everyday without fail. He naps at home every weekend.

I've spoken to other parents in his class and there are at least 2 other children (out of 10) that do not nap at preschool. One child's father said that naps are hit or miss at home so they don't know if it has to do with preschool's nap time. However when she does nap at home, it is much later (starts between 2:00 - 3:00).

I asked the preschool director about this and she won't budge on delaying the nap time even 30 mins. She didn't have any advice for me either. She said this is a schedule that has worked for a long time.

I'm now thinking that I should have him there for just the morning find a nanny/sitter to pick him up for the afternoon so he can nap at home.

Is there any other option that I'm not considering? Should I ask the director again? Any other ideas? I can really use some help. working mom

Is he cranky without the nap? If not, then it's probably not a big deal. Does he make it up in nighttime sleep or going to bed earlier? There are many toddlers I know that don't nap. anon

Try Skyline Preschool in Oakland? Their naptime is 2-330, which can be a little annoying for some parents whose kids then don't want to go to sleep if they're sleeping that late. Sounds perfect for you!

We had a similar problem. I wonder if there is any way that you can adapt your home schedule to match the school's schedule? The preschool we had decided upon had naps an hour later than our kids were accustomed to taking them. We had about 3 months notice that the kids were going to go there (off wait list) so we slowly moved their nap time. Now, my kids had very set, immovable schedules, it seemed. Daylight savings nearly killed us. Plus, I needed them up at a certain time, and I wanted them to bed at a certain time. I thought that moving naps would destroy the lovely schedule I was accustomed to and that worked well for our family. But, I used techniques like waking them up early from naps, and playing with their bedtimes (still within what I was willing to do), and eventually they did it so now they are in sync with the school. They still take much LONGER naps at home on the weekends than they do at school, usually. But, it has resulted in much more pleasant evenings at my home--no cranky kids b/c no naps at school. It made the transition to school very easy too--they napped their first day! But, remember that it takes several days to re-set your kid's clock, so don't get frustrated if they don't snap to it. gotta do the preschool's schedule--or find a new preschool with your schedule!


3 year old has to lie there for 2 hours doing nothing

Dec 2007


Our 3-yr old son goes to a wonderful preschool and he is very happy there. I usually drop him off around 9:30 am and pick up around 3:00 pm (3 days/week). The school has a policy that all children need to either nap or lie down from 12:30 - 2:30 pm. Our son stopped napping when he turned 2, so I wasn't sure how that was going to work for him. I had a few friends who told me that kids usually start napping again after an exciting morning in preschool and when they see their peers sleeping around them.

He's been at the school for 5 months now and he has napped twice. This means that pretty much every day he lies there for 2 hours on a little mat doing nothing. I have asked him directly and indirectly if it bothers him, but he says that he's fine with it. It bugs me, though.

I'd like to know other BPNers' point of view and/or experience with this. Should I let it go? I have looked for a school that doesn't enforce naps, but in our area (Napa/Vallejo) I have been unable to find such a school. They either have half days only or a full day and the full days all include a similar nap time period. JOJ

My then-3yr-old son and I were in the exact same predicament-- wonderful preschool with wonderful teachers and a 2-hour naptime during which he did not sleep. OR he would fall asleep just from boredom and then wouldn't sleep till close to midnight at home. I had a lot of angst about what to do, esp. since I could not find another preschool whose quality matched up to the current one, which he and I loved. My son always behaved well during naptimes, which would lead any casual observer to think he was dealing with it fine. The two reasons I decided to move him to a different preschool were that he let me know clearly that he's unhappy with the naptime situation (although he loved everything else about the school), and b/c of his occasional (unnecessary) naps there, his nighttime schedule was erratic, driving me crazy. Two hours is a long time to ask any preschooler to lie still awake. Yes, it was an adjustment to the new school, but now at 4, he's doing so well and is happy at his new school. He's very happy with the rest time at his new preschool, which allows him to play for 1 hour and has him rest for 30min. As your son moves onto 4, it's really the social interactions with the other kids that will become important. I realized that the most important thing about preschool is a safe, well-supervised environment that nurtures positive social interactions with peer. In my son's case, I know I made the right decision although it was a tough decision. Kim

Hi, I'm also the mom of a three year old who hasn't napped since he's been two. He goes to a full-day preschool several days a week that has a long nap time, but they recognize that many children won't sleep during that time. Their solution is to offer several quiet activites like reading or listening quietly to books on tape (I think the kids have to be sitting or lying down). This ensures that even the non-nappers wind down and relax during this time and don't disrupt the kids who are sleeping. Might your preschool consider this? It's hard to believe that they manage to enforce two hours of staring at the ceiling on all the kids who no longer nap. Mine doesn't nap either

For more than a year now, my daughter has been attending a preschool that also has a two-hour nap time. I knew going in that she'd never sleep during that time. And I knew that laying down staring at the ceiling for two hours was going to be torture for her (I remember it being that way for me too when I was in preschool and kindergarten). But I also believe that kids need their own downtime, regardless of whether they nap. When my daughter stopped napping at home, nap time turned into quiet time, where she goes into her room for about two hours and reads and plays quietly on her own. She has come to enjoy this time very much (as have I!!!). Now this is a far cry from nap time at school, which is one of the reasons she has such a problem with it. I too was annoyed at first with the severity of laying on little mats with nothing to do for two hours. I figured the least the teachers could do was give her some books to look at, especially when she started becoming disruptive. But I just let it go, as did my daughter eventually. The teachers also came around when they realized she was never going to nap, and she is allowed to look at books or finish any projects that she started earlier in the day. So I guess my answer to you is to also let it go. And be happy that your kid is okay with his preschool's nap time and is not causing any trouble (as mind did). And FYI, when I asked about the nap time requirement at my preschool, I was told it was some sort of universal preschool mandate. I never did any research to check it out though. jo

I went through this problem with my son, now 3 1/2. I completely understand your concerns, but I think it's great that he seems happy. My son was miserable because of the enforced period of staying on his mat. The school was unable to offer any alternative, so I did end up switching to another preschool, where he currently attends 5 mornings, instead of 3 days. If your schedule is flexible, you may want to consider something like this. I am thrilled with the change - he's much happier, learning more, etc. Many schools in our area seem to require that children lay down for a while (30 min or so), but let those who do not sleep move into a different room after this. Also, some offer a 9 - 2:30 schedule with no nap. These are typically just preschools, not daycare facilities. Many 3 year olds stop napping, so I'm sure other parents share your concerns (even if the school denies this). Since you're otherwise happy with the school, perhaps if you got together with some of the other parents, you could convince the school to offer another space for the non-nappers. My advice is to go with your gut feeling. I'm sure you won't regret it. Sharon


3 1/2 year old doesn't nap anymore but preschool requires it

Oct 2007


Our 3 1/2 year old son began preschool this year. There are many great things about the school, but one big problem we're having is that he doesn't nap (and hasn't for more than a year). During naptime, he's expected to stay in the room with the sleeping kiddos and stay quiet for an hour and a half while the others sleep. Needless to say, this hasn't gone very well. Daily, the teachers report that he has disciplined because of his lack of sleep/inability to keep quiet. Am I being ridiculous to think that this is a rather unfair situation for everyone? Anyone willing to share how their kids' preschools handle naptime? Thanks! Frustrated (and tired) mama

Each preschool has a different way of handling their non-nappers. In my school, for example, we have two options: in one room, children actually sleep or try to sleep. In another room, children have an hour of quieter, indoor play, but do not need to even attempt to sleep. In other schools, however, all children MUST lay down and be quiet for an hour or two. I have worked in many places like this. Often, this is partly a space issue (there are not two separate spaces for children) or a staffing issue (preschool teachers really do need lunch and rest breaks, and this often happens during nap times). At such places, it is possible that the staff would consider letting your child look at a book or play with quiet toys at that time. It is also possible that they will feel this is too distracting or disturbing for other children who really do need to sleep. Certainly, try to talk about this issue with the teachers. It's really best for you to approach them from a positive perspective: ''What can we do together to help Johnny at nap time? He doesn't nap at home anymore.'' However, ultimately you may have to choose: if you otherwise love the school, then you will have to help your child to cooperate with their nap policy; if the nap policy is making your child and therefore you miserable, perhaps it's time to move on. Preschool Teacher

Damn the state nap requirement! We too are struggling with our previously non-napping 3.5 year old. Her preschool handles naptime pretty much the same way as your son's, although her teacher is very willing to work with us and with her (we have the added ''bonus'' of her sometimes falling asleep for the entire naptime and then not going to sleep at night until 10 or 11pm). Sometimes she has to be moved to another room, sometimes she does great, sometimes she falls asleep and they wake her up early. Her teacher and I talk about the sleep thing almost daily - seems if one of us has a good sleep day, the other has a terrible sleep day. Blame it on the state

My reading of the state requirements on napping is that the preschool must have mats for all children under 5 and make naptime *available*, but there is no requirement that says the children must take naps or must stay in the nap area. I've had three children in two different preschools, and I have never heard of requiring *all* the children to either take a nap or be quiet for and hour and a half. My experience was that most of the children no longer took naps. Mats and a quiet space were available to the children who needed or wanted naps. All the other kids (the majority of 3 and 4 year olds) did normal preschool activities during that time. I wonder if your preschool doesn't have the space to provide naptime for some and playtime for others?
If it were me, I would change preschools. I would feel really bad about my 3 year old being expected to be quiet for such a long time, and then disciplined for not doing it. Even I, a grown-up, wouldn't be able to do that!


Preschool requires naps every day, 3-y-o doesn't

Dec 2006


My son, who will be 3 in February goes to a full-day preschool 2x per week. In general, I am quite happy with the school and teachers, but napping is becoming an issue for us. He typically skips naps every other day or so at home, but the school requires naps. If kids don't nap, they are expected to occupy themselves quietly, in a fairly dark room (next to the nappers). My son is often miserable during this 2 hour period, and I think it is making him dislike school. It seems a bit much to me to expect a 2 1/2 year old to sit quietly for 2 hours. Is this normal? I had planned to send him for 3 days/ week starting in January, but I'm getting nervous. The school seems to think that this will help him deal better with nap-time. I wouldn't be surprised if he stops napping completely fairly soon. Any advice would be much appreciated. Thanks! Sharon

Our daughter started going to preschool when she was 3 and I specifically chose a preschool that did not have nap time, because she had already stopped napping. Her current school's position on napping is that most 3-yr olds don't need it and that it is a cheap way of ''entertaining'' them for a couple of hours. If they don't need a nap, they shouldn't take one.

Change schools! Don't make him be miserable. Since he is still in the inbetween stage of napping sometimes, you can find a school that doesn't force the children to nap or have quiet time and you can give him his nap when he is home JOJ

California State Law governing licensed preschools and daycares says that programs lasting six hours or longer per day (including full day kindergarten), must have a nap or rest period for children age 5 and younger. -- good info to know


3-year-old not napping at preschool - she needs it

Feb 2004


I need some advice on how to help my three-year old daughter nap at her preschool. She used to go to a half-day preschool and took a two hour nap when I brought her home, and still needs that nap. Since January, she has been going to a preschool until 3. The nappers are placed in a dark, reasonably quiet room from approx. 12:30 until 2. My daughter and the teachers have told me that she naps, but her evening behavior suggests the opposite. What to do? Karen

try putting her to bed earlier anon

The first thing to do is talk to the daycare provider about your concerns. Chances are you don't need to do anything, because your son will develop new habits tied to the new routines at daycare, and your caregiver should be able to reassure you that she has dealt with many children just like your son and can help them learn a new naptime routine with no trauma. (In fact, I'd be very leery of any caregiver who asked me as a parent to change *my* habits in order to make *her* job easier!)

We had some of the same concerns when our son entered preschool, since he'd had no consistent nap routine at that point and his nanny usually got him to sleep by going for a long walk with the stroller, which obviously the preschool teachers, as caring and attentive and willing to hold or cuddle the kids as they are, could not do. But the preschool *does* have a very structured daily routine and the kids all seem to adapt to it very quickly. Our son had no trouble whatsoever with it and now naps more consistently and more easily at school than he ever has or does at home. Based on what my parent friends tell me, this is entirely typical. Holly