Updated: Oct 25, 2021
I'm not crying, you're crying.
Actually, we are all crying.
No mother is ever truly ready for the day when daytime naps need to be over! That break right in the middle of the day you could always count on. Poof. Gone.
Most children will be ready to drop the nap between 2.5 and 3.5 years old. Sleep needs change over time, and as your child matures, they simply don't need as much sleep as they once did - but that doesn't mean they don't still need a break or some downtime (you too, right, mom?)
Here to save the day is...drumroll please...Quiet Time!
Implementing quiet time will be key to helping your child get through the day, especially if they don't take a nap.
How do you know when it's time to drop the nap?
Well, as a sleep consultant, I always recommend prioritizing night sleep over naps at this age because night sleep is more restorative. Nighttime is when all the magic happens, so we definitely want to make sure it's quality sleep, and sometimes, in order to do this, we need to drop the nap. If your child is fighting bedtime or taking a long time to fall asleep, it might be time. Also, if a nap during the day is pushing bedtime later and later. For example, if your child is waking at 7:00 a.m., napping from 12:00-1:30 p.m., and you want bedtime to be at 7:00 p.m., chances are this lovely schedule won't hold up forever as their sleep needs change. Eventually, that 1.5-hour nap right in the middle of the day is going to give them enough of a boost to not be able to fall asleep at night, causing bedtime to get pushed later and later, maybe even 8:00 or 9:00 p.m. Ideally, we want our children to be going to bed between 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., all dependent upon when they need to wake for the day. Shoot for 11-12 hours of nighttime sleep.
So, now that we've identified that it is time to pull the nap to ensure quality, restorative nighttime sleep, we need to have a plan. No worries, I've got you covered in four easy steps:
Set clear expectations.
You can (and should) share with your child that you no longer expect or want them to nap during the day anymore because their body is growing and doesn't need quite as much sleep as it used to. Go through examples of what you want them to do during this time, as well as some non-examples. Act it out. Have fun with it and be silly! "Should we quietly read some books during quiet time? Yes!" "Should we have a dance party during quiet time? No!" "Should we snuggle with our dolly during quiet time? Yes!" "Should we bark like a dog during quiet time? No!" "Should we stay in our room until the timer is done? Yes!" Repeat your expectations often.
Get a visual timer.
A visual is ALWAYS a good idea with a young child. I love the Time Timer brand for this reason. You can get one on Amazon here. Your child can then see the time slowly moving. When the colored portion is gone, quiet time is over! Give a reward if necessary. Over time, you won't need to do this anymore.
Start small and work your way up.
When you first start implementing quiet time, you'll want to start with just 10-15 minutes on the timer. This will help your child work their way up to a longer and more restful time. Baby steps, though! Each day you can add a few more minutes to help them build their quiet time stamina. Work your way up to 60-90 minutes, whatever works best for your child.
Have special toys just for this special time.
Quiet time should be restful. I'd recommend having a special bin or basket of books just for this time. Swap them out weekly. Allow your child to do puzzles or color. These activities should be reserved solely for this time of day. Perhaps they'll be able to use smelly markers only during quiet time or have a coloring book that is unique only to this time of day. Remember, we want them to be motivated and stay engaged in these activities for the whole time.
Start with low expectations, and with time, consistency, and by implementing these tips, you will find that you and your child quite enjoy quiet time!
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