It’s time to normalize speaking about how we need a break during the day! Toddlers are hysterical and fun, but they are also a lot of work! Naptime is a sacred time where not only your toddler gets that break in the day they need, but so do you. So what happens when your toddler starts refusing to nap? You panic as you see that beautiful break in the day fading away; at least that was my reaction.
So let’s break it down.
The first thing to consider is if they are ready to cut out naps. If your little one can miss a nap and make it through the day without showing signs of overtiredness (more extensive and more frequent fits, falling asleep in the car or other random places, etc.), then I am sad to say it might be that time. However, if you notice that no nap makes a difference in their behavior, they might not be ready.
Here are a few things to consider before saying bye to naps
- Are they too stimulated in bed? Are they playing with toys or stuffed animals instead of sleeping? Though we know these things can be calming to a toddler, they can also be distracting.
- Are they going to bed too early or sleeping in too late? Toddlers need a certain amount of sleep in a day, so getting too much at night could be the reason for not wanting it during the day.
- Are you using a routine to prepare them for a nap? Toddlers have a one-track mind, and if you go straight from hardcore playing to laying in bed, it might be difficult for them to make that quick transition. Incorporating a bedtime routine, calming music, or storytime might be what they need to prepare mentally.
How to stay sane when you realize nap time is a thing of the past.
When saying goodbye to nap I honestly thought my only option would be iPad or TV time, and if you have got there- I GET YOU. After all, we NEED that time so no judgement here. However, I notice with my toddler when she spends too much time watching tv or on the iPad it really affects her behavior. She’s just sluggish and moody the rest of the day (not that we don’t watch tv, mama has to make it through the day). Just long increments of time, especially earlier in the day just doesn’t do well with her. So I was at a standstill between sacrificing my sanity or sacrificing our afternoon when I stumbled upon the idea of quiet time. I originally thought there was no way she’d stay in her room for an hour and a half. However, I gave her the benefit of the doubt and I am so glad (for my sanity) that I did.
Benefits of quiet time
- Your child gets time to play calmly, which helps them break up their day and re-adjust.
- You get a little time to do the same.
- Aids in your child learning to play independently.
How to incorporate quiet time
- Explain it: talk to them about the benefits of quiet time and how everyone needs a break in the day. Explain that even though they aren’t napping, they still need time to play quietly and have a little break in the days.
- Set rules and expectations: Make sure they know the expectations during quiet time. Writing these down, drawing pictures next to them, and displaying them during this time is a great way to do this.
- Incorporate a visual timer: Time is hard for toddlers. When they napped, it didn’t feel like a whole hour and a half, so this aspect will be challenging for them at first. You can download a visual timer or a tablet or get one from Amazon! However, seeing that there is an ending point will help them stay in their area.
- Give plenty of play options: It’s best to do quiet time wherever they were already napping (probably their room). So if they do not have toy options, let them choose a few and bring them up. Just make sure they are safe things, and that will keep them entertained for an hour or so.
- Give praise: Pop in their room (or quiet time area) throughout the time and tell them how great they are doing. Give specific reminders on how they are following the quiet time rules. A simple “good job” can go a long way.
What if they are at daycare?
Your child not napping at daycare can be difficult. As a parent, you don’t want them to have to sit there bored for two hours; I get it. Before going into how to handle it, I want to give a daycare’s perspective, being a prior daycare teacher myself. Parents need to understand that this is a sacred time for daycare teachers, just like it is at home. And no, I don’t mean a time for them to be on their phone or chatting with their coworker. It’s a time for them to lesson plan, clean, or prep arts and crafts. It’s also challenging when one child doesn’t have to nap because the other children (who may not be ready to phase out of naps) will try to follow suit.
So what can you do?
It is entirely dependent on the daycare’s policy and your child’s teacher. If your child doesn’t typically nap at school, it will be a lot easier for their teacher to understand. However, if your child is napping at daycare, they probably aren’t ready to phase out of nap; the fix is probably just a later bedtime. Here are some suggestions for asking daycare to have quiet time instead.
- Ask to offer quiet time 30 minutes into the nap. That way, the kids who need to nap will have the opportunity to fall asleep before seeing your child with other things.
- Offer to pack a quiet time activity bag for them to use on their cot or mat. There are a few benefits to this; other children don’t see them with community toys. The teacher isn’t responsible for creating additional activities. When another child asks to play, the teacher can explain that their parents need to pack them a bag, ultimately leaving it up to the parent instead.
- What to pack in the bag; books, small toys, coloring books.
Just like at home, if you are asking for quiet time at daycare, make sure rules and expectations are set for your child. Explain to them that they need to stay quiet so other kids can sleep, and they need to stay in the area the teacher told them to. The more your child can follow the rules and expectations, the more likely the teacher will continue letting them do quiet time.