Nap time – when does it stop?
Working moms get tea breaks, a lunch time and an afternoon break. Stay at home moms just get nap time in which they can get a break and sadly, it does not last forever!! It is normal to feel resentful when your child no longer wants to nap, but all is not lost as you can still be creative and have a break, even if it means lying down on the floor and letting your little one play around you.
Naps are very important for young children and some will even continue with their afternoon nap well into 4 or 5 years of age (oh, that I should be so lucky, you may be thinking!!). Sleep is important for your toddler’s learning, memory and growth. Whilst most toddlers will give up their naps sometime between 3 -5 years of age, it can also happen with toddlers much younger than this – my first born gave up the idea of sleeping in the afternoon at around 1 year old! My second son, thank goodness, actually enjoyed his nap until he was about 3 years old. So, each child is different.
Fighting the “sandman”
Toddlers are so interested in what is going on around them and they have so much to see and do and explore that they may fight the urge to rest. They are also at that stage when they start to realise that they are their own person and may want to fight you about sleep as there is not much else they can fight about! It’s a way of asserting their independence and somehow they know that by refusing to take a nap they gain some measure of control over you, the parent. So how do you know when your toddler should still be having his nap or whether it is time to lose the snooze without grumpiness, crying and your toddler generally being out of sorts – especially around supper time?
2 Signs your toddler is not yet ready to give up nap time
Major cognitive changes occur around 18-24 months and again at 36-42 months and this can make some little ones fight off sleep as they want to show that they are in charge and they want to take away some of your power (without conscious thought of doing this). However, you will know that their bodies still need the naptime if:
1: If your child refuses his nap, but the minute you put him in his pram for a walk or in the car to go somewhere, he falls asleep – then he still needs the nap, whether he realizes it or not! If this happens, and your toddler nods off later in the afternoon, it would be wise to wake him by 4pm so as not to have bedtime blues!
2: If your toddler becomes more aggressive, irritable, inattentive or hyperactive on the days he refuses to nap, then his physical body is just not ready to go without that afternoon nap, no matter what he thinks! This is when “quiet time” becomes a necessity.
What can you do if it is not yet time to lose the snooze?
1: If you are a stay at home mom, you could put him in his pushchair and go for a long walk in the hope he will fall asleep in the pushchair and stay asleep if you stop the motion!
2: You could also just introduce a “quiet time” where you provide a few special “quiet time toys” and your toddler stays in his room playing with them on his own, quietly!
3: Another option is for you to also take a break and sit quietly with your child and watch his favourite kiddie video.
4: Audiobooks are also a useful tool for calming a toddler and some may even doze off whilst listening to a story.
Snooze time at daycare or preschool
For the working mom, who leaves their toddler in daycare or at a preschool, nap time is probably at a selected time chosen by the daycare/preschool. If your child is used to this, it is probably a good idea to stick to the same time set by the daycare/preschool over the weekends when you are home with your little one. Again, if he refuses to go to sleep over the weekend, a quiet time will benefit both him and you!
Nap times are both a blessing and, in some cases, a curse. They are a blessing when you want that hour or two to either rest or catch up on some work. They are a curse when you are doing something outside the home, but know you have to be home by a certain time so that your little one can get his ZZZZzzzzzzz’s. Some parents are lucky in that their toddler will just fall asleep wherever they are when they feel tired. But most aren’t so lucky and simply have to make the effort to be home by nap time or face the consequences of a “ratty” little child.
3 Definitive Signs your toddler is ready to drop nap time
1: He takes a long time to fall asleep at nap time and doesn’t even appear to be tired when it is meant to be nap time.
2: Bedtime becomes a problem with your little one really struggling to fall asleep. This is related to the point made above, as, if you put your toddler down for his nap at 1:30pm but he only falls asleep an hour later, then he will wake up an hour later which in turn will make him wide awake when bedtime rolls around! This may also happen even when he goes to sleep at his normal nap time as now that he is getting older, he can handle more awake time and, therefore, objects when his normal bedtime is announced.
3: If your toddler shows no adverse effects (irritability, aggression, hyperactivity) after skipping his afternoon nap then this is a good sign that he is ready to lose the snooze time altogether.
Time to celebrate!
When your toddler is transitioning from needing his naps to no naps at all you should expect some inconsistency – some days he will nap, then maybe go a day or two without, only to nap the third day. Have patience. Maybe try bring bedtime forward by half an hour or so. The time between your toddler needing a nap and being able to do without one will slowly stretch out. Some parents initially miss that nap time but then they find that they have so much more freedom as they aren’t a slave to naptime anymore!!
So make the most whilst the nap times last! Take this opportunity to have a break yourself – sit down with a good book or have a snooze yourself! When nap times are done, although you may miss the parting of peace and quiet, it does give you more freedom to go out and about with your little one to visit friends and families or just go out and enjoy the time with your child.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about nap time – when did YOUR little one give up his or her nap? Do you regret the passing of nap time or have you embraced it? Comment in the box below or email me at email@example.com or just simply use the facebook “send us a message” button!
Yours in newborn photography