Naptime Wars: Your Guide to Less Stress, More Sleep
posted by: Elissa Sungar
The rubbing of eyes, crying over a tumbled block, and more whining than usual… it’s nap time! Even when it is obvious your child is exhausted and in desperate need of a rest, sometimes they still kick, scream and fight when it’s time to go down for their nap. By two years old most children have transitioned into only needing one nap a day, typically in the afternoon. As they get older, 25% of children by the age of three will no longer need a daily nap. Another 50% of children will no longer require a nap by the age of four and the remaining 25% of children may still need a nap until the age of five or six.
Mayo Clinic in Minnesota recommends that toddlers get 12-14 hours of sleep, in a 24-hour period. If your child sleeps 10 hours at night, then aim for approximately a 2-hour nap. If your child sleeps 12 hours at night, they might not need an afternoon nap, or possibly just a short 30-45 minutes. These are just guidelines to think about while planning naps around what your child needs.
Naptime can be one of the most stressful yet needed times of the day for both child and adult. So, as parents, how can we make this a less stressful and even pleasant experience? Make the nap time routine something you and your child can do consistently. This routine is important both for your child’s development, and it will help your child have an easier time falling asleep everyday. Plan on putting your child down at the same time everyday and establish a pre-nap ritual. Reading a book or two, quiet playtime or cuddling while listening to soft music are some ideas. Pick what works for you, but try to stay consistent. If your child is in day care a few times a week, try to keep the time of the nap the same at both places and provide your child with the same stuffed animal or blanket at each place.
When you child is napping at home, try to let them wake up on their own- this ensures they are well rested. However it’s recommended not to let them nap past 4: p.m. or they might have a difficult time falling asleep at bedtime.
And for those days when they just don’t want to nap…try doing something that can be soothing. A walk in a stroller or drive in the car, some children find movement to be calming. If leaving the house isn’t an option, try placing a few toys in the crib or bed and insist on “quiet time.” Close the door and let them know this is quiet playtime. Hopefully they will end up falling asleep, but even if they don’t, at least they have rested and quieted their bodies, which is better for them and you!
Each child is different. How much sleep they need, what time of the day they need to sleep, how they fall asleep etc. Above are just some tips that we hope are helpful in regards to naps in your household but remember to always adapt to your child’s individual needs.
Elissa Sungar is the Co-Creator of If Not You, Who? a free website that offers easy and fun in-home educational activities that help prepare children for kindergarten and life. Her passion for early childhood education grew out of her experience as a pre-school teacher at Stanford University’s Bing Nursery School. Elissa loves hiking, running, tennis, yoga, cute workout clothes, good cheese, great baked goods and exploring Denver! Twitter: @ElissaINYW.