If you’re reading this, you have probably come to the realization that your child’s much beloved nap time may be disappearing before your eyes. While most kids end up ditching their afternoon snooze by 4 years old, it’s not uncommon for children to stop napping as early as two and a half (please don’t let that be my daughter!). It’s also completely normal for children older than 4 to still need a few naps a week, especially if they are in preschool. What are some common signs that your child may be ready to forgo their nap time? They may have started a new routine of fighting nap and bedtime, as well as a long period of laying in their bed and talking, singing or laughing to themselves before falling asleep at night. If this sounds like your child, don’t lose all hope. Just because your toddler may not need a two hour nap anymore, it doesn’t mean that they don’t need (or that you don’t need!) that time to rest. Here are a list of some great ways you can start the transition from nap time to quiet time!
1. Talk About Quiet Time
If your child is weaning from nap time, they are probably at least 3 years old, and have the cognitive capabilities to discuss quiet time. It’s not like talking to an 18 month old who switches from two naps to one (ahhh, remember those days?). You can have a very basic conversation with your child telling them that they don’t have to lay down and go to sleep, but that they do need to be quiet for whatever amount of time you deem appropriate. If you remove the requirement that they don’t have to nap, you may be surprised how willing they will be to play independently. And bonus: many kids end up falling asleep anyway!
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2. Start Out Slow
Depending on your child’s age, don’t expect an instant transition from a 2 hour nap to a 2 hour quiet time, in which you can lounge around eating bon bons, while your child plays industriously in their own room. This transition is going to take some getting used to, especially as your child realizes the new found freedom they have by not having to lay down. You may need to start out in 15 minute increments, and check in frequently. As your children get used to quiet time and as they get older, you can send them to their room for the required time and feel comfortable that they are ok.
3. Quiet Time= Nap Time Mindset
In your mind, you should treat quiet time and nap time as the same. The purpose is to give everyone a break: an emotional and spacial one for you, and a physical break for your children. It may be helpful to still keep the pre and post nap time routine to signify the start of quiet time, such as having lunch and some milk, followed by a book. Whatever it takes to demonstrate that quiet time is coming will help your child take it seriously.
4. Create Rules
Moving from a structured routine of nap time to a broad quiet time is a recipe for a disaster. As mentioned previously, you can’t expect your child to know what to do and be able to do it for 2 straight hours! Make sure you have rules about how loud they can be, bathroom breaks, what type of activities they can play and how long the quiet time will be. Make sure your expectations are clear and that your child understands them so you can have a successful quiet time.
5. Have a Designated Space
Most people observe quiet time in their children’s bedrooms, but you can pick whatever space works for you. Perhaps they can play next to you as you work in the office, or in the living room within eye sight. Its up to you and entirely depends on your child’s personality. Some kids are just too social to have quiet time and NOT be chatty, so playing alone may be the better option. If there are too many toys that are tempting to play with and defeat the purpose of quiet time, consider moving them or your child to a less stimulating room during this time.
6. Provide Activities
It is a great idea to offer choices about what type of games or activities your kids can play with during quiet time, and may help them be more amenable to observing it. Keep in mind that certain activities may actually rile your kids up, like playing video games or watching action movies, so it’s ok to designate those as post quiet time games. Books, blocks, puzzles and dolls are a few imaginative toys that are quiet natured and will keep them occupied for the length of time you’ve deemed to be quiet time. I have a friend who has “quiet time only” toys for her kids, and a stuffed animal that isn’t allowed to leave their bed. This is a big motivator for their kids, and a great idea to try out!
7. Be Flexible
Just like with anything in parenthood, there are going to be good days and bad. If you have multiple children, then you no doubt have some coordinating to do as you try and get everyone to either nap or be quiet at the same time. Do your best to observe a routine as often as you can, but be flexible for the days when you just can’t get home or get it together enough to set aside that 2 hours of quiet time. Sometimes just having 15 minutes is all we need to recharge our batteries!