We worship it, we crave it, it’s sacred.
Everywhere mothers congregate, you are guaranteed to hear grumblings of moms talking about if their kids still nap or when their kids stopped napping.
After eavesdropping on my fair share of these conversations about when kids stop napping, I naively convinced myself that this was impossible and kiddos take naps until kindergarten.
I’ll be honest and admit to you that I wholeheartedly believe that I am on track to accomplish just that, although I know I am really just kidding myself.
A month after their 4th birthday, I found myself fighting them to sleep in the middle of the day. If I did miraculously get them to nap that day, we were having bedtime battles until 10 p.m. The reality of it is, I had been fighting this battle for several months, but was unwilling to admit that we were beginning to transition out of taking any naps at all.
If I had only been more aware of the signs that were warning me that nap time was on its’ way out the door, I would have saved myself a TON of frustration and stress.
Now that I have grieved the loss of nap time in my house, I can tell you mamas, that if you can answer YES to these questions, you may be looking at kiddos who are about ready to stop napping.
- Are you finding yourself, more often than not, wondering if your babes are going to nap today?
- Is your child’s energy beginning to fade by the afternoon, ensuing crankiness and epic meltdowns by dinner?
- Are their naps taking place too late in the afternoon, causing them to be cranky when they are awake?
- Is bedtime getting later and later? And if they, gasp, fall asleep in the car you can almost guarantee that no one is going asleep until midnight?
Making the transition from having one nap to no naps at all will be the longest daytime sleep transition that you will experience. Rather than lasting a few weeks, it may take you a few months or more to say that your kids are non-nappers.
Before you go cold turkey and cut out naps all together, be sure that your kiddos (without napping all day) remain happy through the afternoon into the early evening, go to bed easily, and sleep well through the night.
The day your kids stop napping is rough stuff.
Employ these few simple tips to ease yourself and your kiddos through the transition to nap-free days:
Roll with the Punches:
When kids won’t nap, forcing them to sleep just makes the situation worse. It is frustrating for both you and your babe when they fight a nap. Roll with it….they make take a nap some days, but not others. Let your child be the guide.
The key is to understand your child’s sleep needs. If you begin to see that a few consecutive days without a nap is beginning to take a toll on your little one’s mood, work a little harder that day to get them some daytime sleep.
A good rule of thumb is to offer a nap everyday…AT THE SAME TIME. If they sleep, great, and if they don’t, that’s okay too! Set some parameters around this time so your child knows the goal is rest and relaxation. For 30 minutes each day, my twins have to lay calmly in their beds (in separate rooms of course), with the sleep environment set up the way it is for bedtime (room dim and noise machine on). Surprisingly, they usually nap 60% of the time.
Tweak This or That:
Is bedtime a battle or are your kiddos taking FOREVER to fall asleep at night?
Are they cranky if they wake up too late in the afternoon?
Transitioning to days without naps usually isn’t a cut and dry deal, which means you may have to make adjustments to their daily schedule from time to time.
- If your kiddos do take a nap, consider shortening it. Instead of a 2 hour nap, maybe cut them off closer to 45 minutes or an hour. Play with time to determine the nap length that best suits your child. A longer nap equates less nighttime sleep, typically making bedtime later and more challenging.
- Bedtime may need to shift a bit backwards or forwards depending on the days’ naps. To easily determine an appropriate bedtime for your child take the average amount of sleep your child needs based upon their age (found here in this post) and count backwards from their usual morning wake time. You make be working with two different bedtimes for a while, an earlier one for no nap days and a slightly later one for days when they miraculously take a nap!
- Observe your child’s temperament when they wake from their nap in the afternoon. If they are beginning to wake up grumpy, shift their nap up to happen a bit earlier in the day so they aren’t sleeping so long in the afternoon.
Now wait…just breathe and pour yourself a healthy glass of wine, mama! It’s okay be feel flabbergasted and panicked, but just because your kids stop napping doesn’t mean you can’t have a moment alone to recharge for the rest of your day.
I need NAP TIME, so what DO I DO without Naps:
Maybe you’re a stay at home mom who depends on those few precious moments to catch up on bills, housework and your DVR.
Maybe you’re a work at home mom who uses that time to get work accomplished.
No matter what your circumstance may be, we all need those uninterrupted moments where our kids are quiet and occupied.
That’s where establishing a quiet time routine is a necessity for all!
And like every other routine that you have created for your family, successfully having quiet time, everyday, for an extended period of time, requires some patience and consistency.
So remember this…
- Decide with your child on a quiet place where quiet time can occur every day, separated from their siblings.
- Consider implementing a few minutes of mandatory rest time, where they have to lay quietly and settle their bodies…even 10-20 minutes could potentially mean they fall asleep.
- Have a number of activities that are reserved ONLY for quiet time and make sure they have plenty of options. We have a Pinterest board (click to access) full of quiet time ideas to inspire your quiet time planning. If you’re not into the DIY approach, Melissa & Doug has fantastic puzzles and games that will keep your kiddos occupied for hours. My twins are obsessed with their geoboards, see & spell puzzles and pattern block cards.
- Remember that the goal of quiet time is to have a few uninterrupted moments…so choose the activities you offer wisely. I say this as a warning to all moms because an hour of freedom with a box of markers will most likely end in epic disaster. I learned that lesson the hard way!
- Getting acquainted with quiet time requires patience. Expect that there will be interruptions. Start off slowly and work up towards longer periods of time. Set clear expectations for your sweet babes and stick to them. Putting in the work on the front end only allows you to reap the benefits long term.
Hang in there during this transition! It can be a bumpy ride when your kids stop napping, but like all things in parenting, it will become easier…then you will adjust and roll with the next thing life throws at ya!