The toddler years are a period of rapid growth and development. All of this activity requires your child to get plenty of sleep, but nap time battles are common at this age. To establish a positive nap time routine, you’ll need to have a clear understanding of your child’s sleep needs.
Toddler Nap Time Needs
All children are different, but it is common for naps to decrease during the toddler years. Around 18 months, many toddlers will transition from two naps per day to one. However, some children may still prefer to take two short naps instead of one longer snooze. Overall, 1 to 2 hours of daytime sleep is typical.
The CDC recommends that newborns get between 12 and 18 hours of sleep per day. By the time a child reaches his first birthday, 12 to 14 hours of sleep is sufficient. For children ages 3 to 5, 11 to 13 hours of sleep per day is recommended.
Signs of Sleep Deprivation
Toddlers react to sleep deprivation by becoming cranky, frustrated and irritable. In fact, the temper tantrums and meltdowns that are known as part of the “terrible twos” are often caused by trouble finding a suitable sleep schedule.
Many parents will also notice that a sleep deprived toddler seems less physically coordinated than normal. Trouble walking, climbing and playing during the midday hours is a strong indication your toddler is not getting enough sleep.
Setting a Routine
Ideally, a nap after lunch is best. Eating tends to relax a toddler and most children are in need of rest by late morning or early afternoon. Make it a habit to read a story together and to settle down in a dark, quiet spot for nap time. Sleeping in his bed is preferable to napping in a car seat or stroller.
If he insists that he is not sleepy, quiet time resting with a book or listening to soft music can offer some of the restorative benefits of a nap.
Dealing with Distractions
Toddlers who have older siblings at home during naptime might find it hard to sleep due to the extra stimulation. Consider having big brother or big sister help you put your toddler down for a nap and then using this time to enjoy special one-on-one quiet activities with your older child.
If your toddler is beginning day care for the first time, he might find napping when he’s surrounded by other children to be problematic. Bringing a reminder of home, such as a favorite blanket or a special stuffed animal, might help.