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Here's What Your Child Really Needs For Kindergarten–No It's Not Something You Buy
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  • Preparing a child to go to school means the usual start of the school year shopping fun–notebooks, pencils, new shoes, new bag. But it turns out none of these items are a kindergartener’s top essentials, especially for face-to-face (F2F) classes. 

    A recent study published in the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) journal Pediatrics on July 11, 2022 says more sleep is what a kindergartener needs for the transition.

    “The transition to kindergarten requires new social, emotional, and cognitive competencies, significant expansion of children’s social networks, and formal instruction and evaluation never experienced before,” wrote the study authors.

    Why is sleep important in developing children?

    “Sleep can improve focus and concentration, as well as memory, mood, immune function, school performance and behavior,” says AAP.

    The AAP study tracked 221 soon-to-be kindergarteners’ sleep patterns, examining how much sleep they got within a 24-hour period, and whether the childj’s sleep was consolidated to sleep overnight or combined from nap and nighttime sleep.

    Kids who slept at least 10 hours each night at night helped kids adjust to the new learning experiences of kindergarten. 

    “The more consistently children got 10+ hours of sleep during the night, the better the children’s peer relationships, relationships with their teachers, overall academic performance, and sight recognition of words and letters,” said lead study author Douglas Teti, distinguished professor and head of the department of human development and family at The Pennsylvania State University to CNN.

    RELATED: Here Is the Final Word on How Much Sleep Your Kids Really Need

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    The study’s result is important to note because it shows that it’s a child’s consistent overnight sleep time that is the “biggest predictor of successful adjustment”, reports CNN. This means 10 hours throughout the day–like an 8 hour overnight sleep plus 2 hour nap–is not the same as consistently getting 10 hours of sleep every night.

    Teti said to CNN that the study “…suggests that 'making up' for inadequate nighttime sleep by allowing one's child to nap during the day will not help children in their kindergarten transition. It is best to have that 10+ hours of sleep concentrated during the nighttime sleep period, and to try to make this as consistent as possible across nights.

    The current recommendation from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and National Sleep Foundation recommends that children aged three to five years old should get around 10 to 13 hours of sleep within a 24 hour period, similar to what this previous article on Smart Parenting states.

    What other parents are reading

    To nap, or not to nap?

    When is the best time to adjust your kindergartener’s sleep schedule? Before she starts school is the most ideal. 
    "Parents should do what they can to help their children get most if not all of their sleep on a regular basis during the children's nighttime sleep period, said Teti.

    Does this mean your preschooler should stop napping? Teti tells CNN that it does not mean preschool-aged children should wean off naps, because naps are important during childhood.

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    "For many young children, napping in the afternoon is developmentally typical; however, as the kindergarten transition approaches, families may wish to work on cutting daytime naps to consolidate sleep overnight,” said Ariel A. Williamson, pediatric sleep expert in the department of child and adolescent psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and assistant professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. Williamson was not involved in the AAP study.

    Working on a consistent bedtime routine

    Here’s what Teti suggests for kids who are entering kindergarten:

    • Implement a 9 PM or earlier bedtime and work towards having most of the child’s sleep happen at night.
    • In order to do the first, get your kids to eliminate any form of screen time at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
    • Develop or be involved in a consistent bedtime routine that prepares your child for bed. A good bedtime routine may include taking a bath or washing up, reading books, talking quietly and creating a more calm environment.
    • Parental and child sleep habits are often related, so it’s also important to monitor your own sleep habits. It may be a good time to create a more consistent bedtime routine for parents, too.

    Williamson said to CNN, "Establishing a consistent bedtime routine ... could help to encourage a regular sleep schedule and promote optimal overnight sleep duration, especially in early childhood.”

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    READ MORE ABOUT BEDTIME ROUTINES:

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