Hanging on to Nap Time
As your child grows out of babyhood they’ll gradually decrease the amount of time in a day they spend sleeping. The average amount of sleep may go down from 16-20 hours a day for babies up to 6 months, to 13 hours a day on average for those 1-2 yrs old, and then 12 hours for the 3 year old. At around the 3rd year mark your child may just – gasp! – abandon nap time altogether. For parents who stay home with their children, the notion of that sacred 1-2 hours of child-wrangling-free time in the afternoons disappearing may just be a saddening prospect. Not to mention that although your child thinks they don’t need that nap anymore, the way they get cranky close to dinner-time tells you that they could still benefit from a short nap, even one for 30 mins. So how to hang on to that nap time?
- Make nap times as pleasant a routine as possible. Don’t turn it into a battleground. Don’t make it a stressful period for your child. Just as bedtime is filled with a soothing ritual, so should that afternoon rest be as soothing and routine as possible. The routine can include putting toys away, washing hands and face, singing a nap song and then going under the covers. If your child resists, remind them that this is what you do every day around this time, and remind them of the routine.
- Create a soothing environment. Make their bedroom or area of nap a sanctuary where they can retreat from the noise and activity of the day. I know moms who have created a dim room environment to reduce stimulus. Some play soothing lullabies, white noise, or sounds of the ocean. Fill their bed with familiar bedtime objects like their teddy bear, and tell them that teddy needs rest too.
- Tire them out. If they just spent their whole morning in front of the television they probably haven’t expended that much energy and consequently wont be tired enough for a nap. Fill their mornings with meaningful activity. Even intellectual activity can be very tiring for little ones.
- Take them to the park
- Let them ride their toddler bikes
- Arrange playdates for them
- Go to story time in your local library
- Go swimming
- At home they can build forts in the living room, play tag with with you or siblings and playmates, help with baking or even cleaning.
Your child will enjoy activities that make them feel helpful, useful, and like a “big kid”.
- Don’t let them stay up too late. If your child goes to bed late and wakes up late, they may not be tired or sleepy enough in the afternoons. If you’ve gotten to a point where your schedule has been thrown off-kilter, it’s best to skip that afternoon nap, let them go to bed early, and start them on an early to rise routine the next day. That should make them more amenable to an afternoon nap.
Sometimes no matter what you do, your child will outgrown that nap. I don’t blame you if you mourn the loss. 🙂 Your child still does need down time during the day though, and you can replace nap time with quiet time. Emphasize to your child that she doesn’t need to sleep, but she must pick a “quiet” activity for 30 minutes. This can be anything from just lying in her bed, read a book, do puzzles. How quiet they can be will vary, but emphasize that they must not be loud or start running around. It’s helpful to have a timer. For some kids, staying still for 30 mins. is an impossibility, but this can be the start of disciplining them enough to get them the break that they need. If they agree to their quiet time in bed, you may be surprised to peek in on them and find that they’ve actually fallen asleep!