Can Naps Make Preschoolers Smarter?

Can Naps Make Preschoolers Smarter?Napping is a hot topic among parents of toddlers and preschoolers.  Parenting experts from all over the world weigh in every few months about whether or not preschoolers should nap.  Some say that preschoolers can drop the nap around 2 or 3 years of age.  Others are more aggressive; they say to wake up your 3-year-old child if she sleeps for more than 45 minutes during the day.  And some say it doesn’t really matter – just do what works best for the parents’ schedules.

Parents are equally as split.  Some try trading naps for an earlier bedtime.  Some enjoy the respite in the middle of the day that the nap offers.  And some just go with the flow; if the preschooler wants to nap he can, but it’s not part of the normal routine.


But no one seems to be answering one big question:

Do preschoolers benefit from naps?


A recent study indicates that they do in a big way.  It shows that children who take significant naps during the day (over 75 minutes) retain more information that they recently learned.  This is crucial as their brains are absorbing and processing more information than they will in just a few years.  If they can retain more information now, it may give them a head start in education later.

The scientists figured this out by giving preschoolers, aged 3-5, a “Memory”-type test.  Then, some kids napped while others continued playing in their preschool classroom.  Later that day the test was repeated.  The kids who napped retained the information about the game, doing as well with the test as they had hours earlier.  The kids who played, on the other hand, did 15% worse than before.

To determine whether or not the results were skewed because some kids were a little sleepy during the second test, they repeated it the next day.  The kids who had napped the day before STILL did better.

It’s clear that napping has a positive effect on preschoolers’ brains.  Unfortunately, only 50% of 3 year olds still take naps, and the percentage drops even lower as they hit 4 years (35%).  Some blame increased curriculum in preschools and daycares, but whatever the reason, kids are missing out on the sleep that could help them learn.

It seems that by trying to keep that extra snooze time in your preschooler’s schedule, you are setting them up for some extra brainpower.  It’s just another way to get your smarty-pants kid a little further ahead.


Want some fun ways to get your kids learning?  Check out my Pinterest board – “Smarty Pants”!


Do Naps Make Preschoolers Smarter?


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9 Comments on Can Naps Make Preschoolers Smarter?

  1. Stephanie @ From the Burbs to the Boonies
    October 14, 2013 at 3:02 pm (3 years ago)

    Oh boy, I sooo wished my kiddo would nap but he systematically stopped them himself at 2 years old when I was staying home with him. At 18 months he napped only one time per day and he was up at exactly 1.5 hours later, I mean on the dot most days. Then he started not napping 2 or 3 times a week. We still did the same routine, put him in his crib, etc. but he just did not sleep. Then it was every other day, only napping 1 or 2 times per week and by 2 years, he did not sleep during nap time though we continued in-crib quiet time with toys until past 3 years old. And if on the odd chance he did, he would not fall asleep at night until 11 p.m. without fail. Oh geez, and when he was 4 and in preschool and they still had naps it was a nightmare because he never ever could sleep and ended up in trouble. I guess all kids are different.
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    • Amber Schultz
      October 14, 2013 at 3:28 pm (3 years ago)

      It’s so true that all kids are different, especially with sleep habits. I guess adults differ in sleep habits too. Some people just need more rest than others.

      My 3-year-old will nap on some days and will just have “quiet time” on others – whichever she wants. But if she doesn’t get her downtime in during the day, watch out! It will be a tantrum-filled afternoon.

      That’s funny about your little guy in preschool. I’m surprised that they didn’t take the non-napping kids out to do activities during that time. Or maybe the teachers just needed a break!

      • Stephanie @ From the Burbs to the Boonies
        October 14, 2013 at 10:03 pm (3 years ago)

        I have no doubt they need a break, LOL. My poor kiddo just didn’t give them one. We did “quiet time” for a long while and I always called 4 p.m. the “cranking hour.” I can’t tell you how many strolls and walks and playing outside we did at that time. I have to say though, I am blessed with a good night sleeper and have been since he was 6 weeks old. But naps? Forget it! All these babies with their 3 naps a day and he was at 1 nap by 1 year. But I’ll take the nights over the naps :)
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  2. Meags
    October 14, 2013 at 3:29 pm (3 years ago)

    I think most parents would be ecstatic if their 2-3 year olds took a nap willingly. I think that’s when parents are more likely to give up the fight. My 2 year old gave them up when I stopped nursing her to sleep for naps (and even then, she didn’t mean to fall asleep, it just happened). My friend had a baby after her oldest turned 2 and just was too exhausted to fight the fight AND care for a newborn. Kids don’t want to sleep at this age, they want to play. So if you have a preschooler that WILLINGLY naps, please take advantage. I miss nap time!

    • Amber Schultz
      October 14, 2013 at 8:09 pm (3 years ago)

      I definitely treasure nap time while we have it! It’s when I get most of my writing done. :)

  3. Lorelai @ Life With Lorelai
    October 14, 2013 at 6:58 pm (3 years ago)

    I think it depends on the individual child. I struggle with my first born with naps. It was a fight at nap time and then again at bed time. We cut out the nap and suddenly we had no struggle at bed time. It was a good thing for him. My daughter on the other hand needed her nap…sometimes more than one. Every child is different…follow their lead.

    Life With Lorelai
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    • Amber Schultz
      October 14, 2013 at 8:11 pm (3 years ago)

      I’ve known many moms who cut a nap for an easier/earlier bedtime. Going from toddler sleep to preschooler sleep can be such a difficult transition for some kids to go through. It’s so true that following their lead is easiest.

  4. Cindy Howell
    October 15, 2013 at 10:17 am (3 years ago)

    My twin boys stopped napping soon after their fourth birthday. We immediately bumped up their bedtime and that was a big help to make up for the nap deficit. They are six and still sleep at least 11 hours a night!
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  5. Sarah Kohl
    June 14, 2014 at 6:23 am (2 years ago)

    I am so glad you addressed do preschoolers *benefit* from naps. Sleep is such an issue for all of us…so many adults suffer ‘social’ jet lag and have a multitude of poor outcomes too. With preschoolers its not always so easy to get them to willingly go to sleep. Do you have any suggestions to help parents struggling to get their youngster to nap?
    Sarah Kohl recently posted…Test Post 3My Profile


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