If your little one is determined to stay awake, nap time can turn into all out war. Thought you may be tempted to forsake the nap for the sake of peace, hold your ground. He may cry, scream and chuck every blanket and stuffed animal out of his crib, but keep in mind that a tantrum is just more evidence that he needs a nap. Don’t give in; eventually, you will hear the sweet silence of sleep.
Toddlerhood is the age of rebellion. Sleepy or not, your child might not want to lay down for a nap just because you told him to. Don’t get frustrated; simply practice reverse psychology. Tell him he doesn’t have to take a nap if he doesn’t want to, and then, as you lead him slowly to his comfy nap space, explain about “quiet time.” Give him a couple of toys or books and tell him that “quiet time” is when big boys sit by themselves after lunch, and play on their own. Tell him that big boys can do whatever they want to do during this time, but the only rule is that they have to be quiet. Your child will likely conk out during “quiet time,” but don’t fret if he doesn’t. If you remain consistent and form a routine, he’ll eventually succumb to sleep. For your part, quiet the entire house during this time so your child doesn’t fight sleep out of fear of missing all the fun.
Children need to take naps at approximately the same time every day to help regulate their internal schedule. A routine-less child is a grumpy child. If your toddler goes to daycare during the week and stays at home with you on the weekend, keep to the babysitter’s nap schedule as much as possible. Of course real life will interfere — you might have play dates and soccer games or a million errands to run — but remember to make your toddler’s nap a priority. If possible, schedule your activities around nap time. If your child resists because he’s used to taking afternoon naps away from home, perform an abbreviated version of your nighttime routine. Give him lunch, wash up, change into some “nappy PJs,” read a story or sing a little song, and then put him down. If his room gets a lot of natural light, consider buying blackout blinds to make it as dark as possible.
Going from Two Naps to One
Babies take at least two naps per day, but toddlers only need one. Making the transition can be difficult; your child might be fighting his morning nap, but be too cranky to last until the afternoon. To accommodate his new sleep rhythm, move the afternoon nap up a couple of hours. For instance, if he usually takes a morning nap from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and then an afternoon nap from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m., start giving him lunch a little earlier in the day and put him down for his once daily nap around noon. Whether your child takes one nap or two, remember that his last nap of the day should end at least four hours before bedtime, otherwise he won’t feel tired enough to sleep at night.
Regardless of your intended nap schedule, use your child as your main guide. If you notice that he’s nodding, rubbing his eyes, zoning out or cranky, put him down for a nap, no matter what time it is.