“Think nap time for preschoolers during the school day might be time better spent in educational activities? Think again. New research shows that a midday nap may play a crucial role in enhancing memory and boosting learning capabilities in preschool-age children.” Dr. Michael J. Breus 2014
I don’t know about you, but I always receive a burst of “I can conquer the world” any time I am able to get a good night’s sleep or take a 1 or if I’m lucky, 2-hour nap on the weekend. My mood changes. I can think better. I am energized. So how do you think naps affect your children? It’s not that children need more energy… It’s the fact that there are several benefactors that stem from a routine, scheduled nap each day.
Check out a study that was reported by the National Academy of Sciences. It’s a fact that classroom naps can enhance memory, problem solving and reasoning skills. Rebecca Spencer, Associate Professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, said that napping should be part of any preschool curriculum. And this is true for preschool-aged children because at this age the ability to remember and recall experiences are important.
As teachers, we are taught how important it is to provide hands-on materials and experiences so that children can retrieve those experiences to help support and create new ones. Well, those hands-on experiences are processed in the brain – the hippocampus to be exact. This part of the brain creates short term memories. When children take a nap, the brain continues to work to store those memories for long term. Once children wake up, their hippocampus is rejuvenated to store new skills and practices. A well-rested mind can recall and use prior knowledge or skills to support new information that needs to be retained.
That’s good information to know, but do you have children that have a hard time falling asleep during nap time? There could be several factors that could keep children wide awake. And many of those factors may be out of your control (ex. A child that arrives to school mid-morning that slept late). But there are some classroom considerations you could try. There are environmental influences and teacher led activities that you could introduce to help children rest their minds and their bodies so that their hippocampus has a midday boost. Here are a few ideas.
Play relaxing music. Before the children transition to their cots, talk to the children about the relaxing music they will hear while they rest their bodies, rest their minds and rest their eyes. Play a snippet of the music so they know what to expect. Talk to them and explain how the music can help them relax, take calm breaths and how rest affects their growth. When they lay on their cots, begin to play the music and provide a 5-minute practice period of closing their eyes, keeping their bodies still and taking deep breaths. Many of your children will fall asleep. For those that don’t, here are more creative ideas that may help.
Provide “Sleepy Cream.” This would be hypoallergenic lotion used on the children’s hands to “magically” put them to sleep. Place the cream in a pump dispenser, decorate a “Sleepy Cream” label with glitter or sequins and allow the children to pump a pea-sized amount into their hands to rub their hands until their bodies fall asleep. Many children like it if their teachers rub sleepy cream on their hands. This gives you an opportunity to spend one-on-one time with them as you rub their hands.
Spray “Dreamtime Sleepy Spray.” This would be good, old fashioned water in a spray or misting bottle. Decorate the bottle by attaching short plastic colorful streamers. Spray the mist in the air and explain to the children that this mist will help them rest their bodies and minds.
Play a relaxing voice recording of your voice. Play relaxing music in the background as you record your voice giving nap time instructions. For example, say “Lay very, very still on your cot. Raise one arm for 3 seconds, 1, 2, 3. Now rest your arm. Raise your other arm for 3 seconds, 1, 2, 3. Now rest that arm…” Get creative. Since children love to wiggle around on their cots anyway, provide an outlet to move before they focus to lay still.
Attach streamers to a fan. If your classroom could use an extra burst of air, use a fan to create a whimsical, magical, dreamy-time atmosphere. The key to this is with the use of colorful streamers. The sound itself produces a relaxing sound that is sure to comfort your wiggly ones and coax them to rest their bodies.
Crawl through the “Dream Hoop”. Decorate a Hula Hoop using mesh and sparkling material. Allow the children to crawl through it and share with you what they will dream about when they fall asleep.
HAPPY REST TIME!