May 26, 2024

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What to Do When Your Toddler Drops Her Nap

5 min read

Re-posting this old article with updates. This says 2.5 years old… no way. My daughter dropped her nap at 1 and my son at 1.5. It’s the worst. The only thing that works for the little one now is the car–thankfully we have an electric one with the gas so crazy! Please send me your ideas at [email protected].

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All parents love nap time. It is essential for kids and for us. So, what do you do when your toddler decides to drop her one and only nap? It can happen for kids aged anywhere from 2.5 years old and up. How do you know when they have actually dropped their nap?

Has she really dropped her nap?

During the course of a week, if your child is awake during nap time more days than not, then s/he is probably on their way to dropping the nap.

My kid is going to sleep sooo late at night!

You might actually want to have your child drop their nap if your child doesn’t fall asleep until after 8 or 9 pm.  That’s what we decided after many long nights with our 3 year old, who was chirping all night. She happily took a 2 hour nap from 1-3 pm, but when nighttime came, she wouldn’t fall asleep until 10 or 11 pm. We were going crazy as she popped in and out of his room with increasingly ridiculous requests of an apple, a tissue, the light on… and off and on and….  We lost it and decided to take the bull by the horns.  We reduced her nap from 2 hours by increments of 30 minutes over a course of a couple of weeks until it vanished. My peace and quiet vanished too. That is until I got with it and instituted RESTING TIME.

How resting time saved all of us:

A lot of parents refer to this quiet slice of heaven as either “Resting Time”or “Quiet Time”.  Some kids take to it right away and others don’t…and maybe never do.   It’s like nap time in general- it takes some training, repetition and patience.

Here are some suggestions on how to make “Resting Time” work in your home.

  • Explain it well. This is a whole new concept for them and for most toddlers, not a particularly welcome one. “What? Time by myself? You mean YOU aren’t going to be playing with me every second?”  Show your child what you are going to do during your resting time and ask him what she would like to do for the hour of his resting time.  Help her find the right kind of activities and put them in a pile for her.
  • Set rules. Figure out what rules you want to establish. We had a “no talking” rule- unless she needed help going to the potty. Now that she can go on his own, we have a firm “no talking” rule.  Other parents say “no running, no yelling, no music”, etc.
  • Be positive. Resting time doesn’t work if a child feels like it is a punishment.  Try to tell them how excited you are for your own resting time (which, of course, you are!) and what you plan to do for it.  Tell them how they get to play with their toys all by themselves. This works especially if they have a sibling.
  • Set up special toys for resting time. Sometimes having an out-of-reach basket filled with toys specifically for resting time makes that hour feel special.  You can switch the toys in and out as time goes by.
  • Be consistent. So, this one seems like an axiom of parenting advice in general, but it’s important to remember for resting time too.  Keep the time and location consistent. Once it is a regular part of the routine, they won’t protest. Be patient with them and yourself. The routine will come together and most children start to look forward to resting time. Yes, really.
  • Set a timer. Sometimes it helps everyone if you can set a timer. Your child can watch the time move and know that resting time is half or almost over. It also prevents the inevitable question, “Is resting time over?”
  • Plan for afterward. I like to tell our daughter what we will do after resting time is over so she has something to look forward to after being quiet and by himself.  It doesn’t have to be anything big: time to read a book together, a “tea party”, a trip to the park, etc.
  • If your child isn’t taking to it….. Try this: find a quiet spot in your house where you can lie down with your reading material and find a spot for your child nearby. Set a timer nearby. Modeling how you enjoy your resting time can help them see it is a positive experience. This can also aid with any separation anxiety.  Once you are both comfortable with resting time, the next step is to move them into a separate room.

A side note: Our daughter, 1.5 years later (almost 4 years old) still has at least 1 hour or Resting Time each day in her tent. She plays with her dolls or animal figures, builds with blocks, reads, draws, etc. She’ll stay in there for up to an hour, perfectly content, because she feels like she is kind of hidden from the world and in her special place. Yes, it really works!

A note of caution: don’t count on getting your own break in every day during Resting Time. Somehow our kids seem to know just when we want really need some quiet, and decide that Resting Time is caput on that particular day.

****(Take it from me, all of this goes to hell once you go on vacation or visit someone- so lower your expectations while away.)

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  • A classic post from the original A Child Grows editor

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