Naptime is a beautiful time for a mom. It’s when we can recharge, when we can love our child from afar, have some time to ourselves, perhaps eat and use the restroom without clinging little humans…. But then one day your napping child will just refuse to nap.
Sorry. This is when you have to drop the nap and can no longer have any time to yourself! You are doomed with a cranky kiddo and no rest!
NO I’m just kidding- it is not a lost cause! Many moms see that around 2/ 2.5 years old their kid will ‘try’ to drop their nap: they’ll refuse it. Even though they used to just go to sleep peacefully, they may start to play a lot, scream, fight you… this is all pretty normal. It comes with the 2 year-old sleep regression post coming on this someday. But it doesn’t mean your toddler doesn’t need a nap. In fact you may know this more than well as they become overtired by the time dinner comes around and inconsolable by bedtime…
At this point we have two options: 1)play around with schedule and keep enforcing the nap and/or 2)introduce quiet time. I’ll show you how to do both of these things below:
1) A good schedule for one nap is generally a nap that starts 6 hours after morning wakeup and ends 5 hours before bedtime. This, however, may need to change, as they hit 2/2.5 years (or even later). At this point you may need to play around with naptime to see if they may need an earlier or later nap. Try out different schedules for a few days and see if it makes a difference. Even if they had been reliably napping at 12, see when their eyes start to get red under the eyelids. Maybe it's around 11- this is your best cue that they’re getting tired: start nap now! If you miss this cue you may miss naptime.
As you play with schedules they may need more of your presence since sleep feels more difficult for them. I spent a week with my 2.25 year old singing 99 bottles of beer on the wall (while nursing my newborn) so that he would calm down enough to sleep when he was trying to drop his nap. Find something that works for you and doesn’t drive you insane. For a while you may also need to just find a quiet activity he can do for an hour during ‘naptime’ so that he still gets some rest even if he doesn’t fall asleep. This transitions into: quiet time.
2- Quiet Time:
Asking a 2/3/4/5 year old to just sit quietly in their room for an hour is EASY! Just tell them to do it and they will comply! No, not really, it doesn’t work like this. But it doesn’t have to be a huge struggle either:
WHAT? Tell your kiddo that you understand that napping during the day is no longer easy for them but they still need the midday rest, and so you’re going to start a new thing called ‘QUIET TIME!’ This is a ‘FUN’ time where they get to be in their room (crib if still applicable) and listen to a story (audiobook) or quiet songs (bluetooth speaker or Alexa), or play with their stuffed animals in a darker environment!! They’re so, so lucky to be old enough to have quiet time! (hype. it. up.).
HOW? Introduce a greenlight clock. The one we use is THIS ONE. I love it. It’s easy to set up and easy for a kiddo to understand. It’s also rather cute. The HATCH BABY is also a great option but a bit more pricy. (I always go for the cheaper option... but my sister has the hatch baby and every time I see it I ALMOST order one for myself). Tell your kiddo that they have to stay in their room and be as quiet as possible until the clock turns green. Practice with your toddler. Turn the light off, set the timer for 30 seconds, and then as soon as it turns green: CELEBRATE! Turn the light on and say ‘HURRAH quiet time was so fun!” or something similar.
WHEN? Ideally quiet time will be around the time they used to nap so that if their bodies need the nap they’ll just pass out- or they’ll get good rest around that time. The first day put them in their room for about 5-10 minutes before the green light turns on. This way they won’t get frustrated with the amount of time quiet time takes. Every day add a few more minutes until you get to an hour. If they ever get REALLY frustrated and want to end quiet time a little later- it’s not a huge deal, go in, change the clock, and THEN allow them to come into the light. The most important thing here will be consistency: don’t let them come out until it’s a green light.
HUH? Be flexible. If you see they need rest earlier in the day, start quiet time. There’s a reason toddlers can’t tell time ;). If they are ever playing really excitedly and it’s time for Quiet Time… give them 15 more minutes and a warning that it’s almost quiet time. My son loves Winnie the Pooh so we play the music on Alexa in his room. But sometimes he asks us to just turn on the white noise because he knows he’s tired enough to sleep. Follow your kid’s lead and don’t FORCE anything. Quiet time needs to be a good association so that it really serves as a down time for a kid and not something they DREAD.
FOR HOW LONG? Keep quiet time for as LONG as you can. I have a good friend who practices this with her now 6 year old, and it is amazing for both her and her son. Note- nap dropping is ROUGH for a kiddo. It can make them exhausted and still they'll want to skip their nap. So what to do? Take them on a carride around naptime (they may fall asleep for a short nap this way), and make bedtime at least half an hour earlier to compensate for the sleep their body still demands. Also- BE PATIENT. nobody is HAPPY when they're tired, especially not toddlers. Remind yoruself (and your kiddo) that they're tired and it's hard to control emotions when we're tired! Plan for quieter activities that take up less energy in the second half of the day.
Do you do quiet time? What do your kiddos like to do during quiet time? What has worked? Share in the comments here or in Instagram!