Napping tips for toddlers and preschoolers

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The first time my oldest son started skipping naps was a scary moment. He was almost two and I was worried that naps were on their way out. I remember trying everything I could think of. Milk before bed. Milk in bed. Toys in bed. Extra stories. Rocking. So. Much. Rocking. I’m an introvert and I needed and craved that time to myself. I started looking up napping tips for toddlers. Anytime I was around more experienced mothers, I quizzed them on their own napping strategies for toddlers.

My research came up short. Most of the time I was told, “You just need to start doing quiet time.” But, I felt like my kids still needed their naps. They were grumpy and falling asleep by dinnertime, which left us scrambling to figure out a regular bedtime. Eventually, we figured it out. Naptimes resumed. My oldest took naps until he was nearly five when his preschool schedule interrupted naps. And I’ve had similar success in helping my twins nap until well over age four. Here’s what I’ve learned.

My napping tips for toddlers (and Beyond)

My toddlers haven’t always napped perfectly. Some days your child just doesn’t want or need a nap. I’ve found that the important thing is to try every day. If your toddler or preschooler just isn’t going to nap, adjust. Don’t torture you and your child in a never-ending effort to take a nap. But give it a good try every day. Most of the time, my kids will fall asleep within a half hour of trying. Let’s talk about my tips for great toddler and preschooler naps.

Commit to the nap life

It’s awesome when you have a child who is a great napper. But, it’s also just as awesome when your kids stop napping. The end of naps means more adventures. And day-long trips that can happen without worrying about fitting in a nap. Some moms can’t wait for the end of naps. Decide now your priorities. I’ve always felt that my toddlers and preschoolers needed somewhat regular naps. But, not every mom does. And that’s okay. If you feel like your child does need naps more consistently, commit now to the nap life. It’s a way of life. If you want regular nappers, it’ll require you to carve out a time almost every day.

Create The perfect napping space

As an adult, I can definitely think of the perfect napping space. No kids up in my business. A soft bed, cozy blankets, and a good temperature. No noise and dark enough to fall asleep. Your kids need the same comforts if you want them to sleep during the day. I’ve found that my kids sleep best when I do the following:

  • Add blackout curtains to their bedroom. You could always tack up an extra sheet or blanket if you are tight on money (I’ve done it in a pinch), but there are some really cute blackout curtains out there. We also put blackout curtain liners behind my daughters’ curtains and they worked beautifully.
  • Create white noise in their sleep space. With my oldest, we couldn’t afford to buy anything fancy, so we used the static on a radio. I know some people use a fan. Once we could afford it, we invested in a white noise machine. I’ve found that it just helps balance out the noises that happen in the house. Which is great if you have a dog or older kids who make a lot of noise.
  • Consider the temperature of the room. Just like at night, your toddler or preschooler won’t be able to sleep if they are sweating or shivering. Get a fan if you need, or add more blankets.

Stick to a routine

Most families with young children have a regular bedtime routine. If you don’t, you should make one. Your child’s nap time routine doesn’t need to be the exact same as their bedtime routine, but it should be similar. It should also be the same from day to day.

Each of my kids has been different in what they like before they can take a nap. A song, story, and favorite blankets are almost always part of the routine. I also found that if I was rushed to put them down, I spent a lot more time going in for extra requests than if I gave them plenty of time and attention right before naps.

Remove distractions

One of my most important napping tips for toddlers and preschoolers is to remove distractions. Every family has it’s own specific set of circumstances, but get those toys out of the bedroom. If there are a lot of toys in their bedroom, my kids will play instead of sleep. A boring space makes a sleepy space.

Another critical lesson that I’ve learned is that my kids distract each other during nap time. They do well going to bed together at night, but for some reason naps are different. Having twins has made this difficult. We’ve had to get creative. Sometimes one of them sleeps in mom and dad’s bed or in a playpen in our bedroom. On vacations, we’ve even put one toddler in a walk-in closet while the other sleeps in the bedroom. Whatever you need to do to remove any distractions will help your kids to sleep during nap time.

Know when to give it up

I bet you weren’t expecting me to say it, but there is a time and a season for everything. Regular naps will eventually stop happening for your child. They will stop needing so much sleep. It’s inevitable. And, each child will give up their naps at a different age. Two of my kids have done well with naps at older ages. But, one of my twins started struggling with naps at an earlier age. He simply doesn’t need as much sleep. I always put him down for a nap, but I am much more willing to let him get up and work on a quiet activity than his twin sister because I know he doesn’t need the sleep.

What next?

When your child is done with their regular naps, you don’t need to give up your quiet time! You really don’t. Remember those quiet time activities that I talked about? Now’s the time to start pulling them out. You can even keep a regular schedule with quiet time every day. Even if they aren’t asleep, your kids need time to unwind. Have them read a book, do puzzles, or play quietly in their room during quiet time. Then take some time to yourself too.

How do you get your kids to nap during the day? I’d love to hear your napping tips for toddlers and preschoolers.

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