Are you a parent, grandparent or caregiver of a child who doesn't want to take a nap? I know just how you feel. My three children were each twenty months apart from one another; there was always one who didn't want to nap. Just when one would get to sleep, another one would wake up when the dog barked or the phone rang.
In the beginning, I found naptime to be the most challenging time of the day. I would wake in the morning and plan my day around naptime, how about you? Oh, the things I dreamed I would get done on my list; and you know what they say about best-laid plans. That's right, they often didn't happen when I had three toddlers.
As parents, we know that each child is unique. When that bundle of joy arrives, we have no idea what type of personality will appear in the first few years of that precious life.
Since the onset of Covid-19, a little one not wanting to nap can be agony for parents working from home. Sometimes it requires using a loud fan to muffle the screams coming from the bedroom. So what can we do after every suggestion and friendly recommendation has been exhausted?
Think about the personality of your child. Is your little one overly active and has a difficult time winding down? I had one of these. Maybe your child is a leg grabber. This is the child who doesn't want to miss a minute of being with you and finds transitions more difficult. I had one of these too; she stuck to me like glue. Someone always gets an obstinate child - A child who believes that he/she is in charge and too big for a nap. Ah yes! We all get one or more of those as they begin to develop their individuality. A fortunate few have the wonderful child that loves to nap. If you have one of those you are indeed blessed!
How do we foster a successful naptime? Consider these steps for success to help your little one settle into a regular naptime routine.
1. Establish your naptime routine.
First, establish a routine such as washing hands, then saying a prayer, and next eating lunch. After lunch, it’s time to settle down by reading a calming book. Routines make your life easier, and they provide early learning opportunities for toddlers as you interact with them. Research also shows that routines provide structure and security to young children. A naptime routine will be similar to a bedtime routine.
2. Adjust your little one's room for napping.
Create a cozy and calming place for your toddler or preschooler to rest. Draw the blinds or curtains to make the room dim and conducive to sleep. Be sure the favorite cuddly animal or character is close by with a snuggly blanket. Playing soft music is soothing for children and a wonderful way for them to hear classical music as they wind down. A favorite of mine is Baby Mozart: Essential Classical Lullabies for Sleeping Baby.
3. Be as consistent as you can.
There will be days when a routine goes sideways because that is the way life goes.
I remember rushing home to get my three little ones down for a nap. I had a station wagon with three car seats in the back. There was nothing worse than looking into my rearview mirror to see one, two and sometimes three little ones sound asleep. When that happened, I just kept driving. Like most parents, I did not want to risk everyone waking up when the car stopped at home.
Every day is different with children and routines will be missed, simply adjusted as needed. That's okay; don't beat yourself up about not getting home in time for your regular nap routine. You might do two out of the three steps and still have success!
Grace is a wonderful thing.
4. Make naptime fun.
This can be a game-changer. I'm not suggesting a tickle time or a pillow fight! Sit down on the floor with your little ones or in a rocking chair with just one and have a precious time reading before naptime. There are so many wonderful calming books to explore with your children including my new book, "The Nodders What! You Don't Want to Nap?"
As an elementary educator, I understood the importance of reading which helps develops a child's vocabulary by naming objects, animals, shapes and colors in any book. Reading also increases a child's imagination. Be animated when you read by making funny sounds and changing your voice with the different characters in the story. Little ones will giggle and learn when we make it fun!
When I was at my wits' end, I remembered my mother telling us that if we took a nap, a Nap Fairy would deposit a treat into a shoe sock that hung on the door of our bedroom. As s child, I loved that Nap Fairy and was excited to see what was in the shoe sock when I woke up! With that memory, I had the Nap Fairy come to our house! For my children, I used a Tupperware snack container for each child. They couldn't wait to take a nap in order to see what might be in their container when they woke up.
At last! I had a successful naptime in my home and I could finally get my To-Do list partially completed. As my older boys outgrew a nap, I told them that if they rested in bed and read books the Nap Fairy would leave them a treat. Today, my daughter and I share this napping process with her son with great success.
Now you are thinking...what type of treats?
A treat can be anything you would like it to be! Variety is the spice of life, so I periodically changed their treats. Today, there are so many options from sweet to salty as well as healthy snacks for toddlers. As your children begin to grow you may find that treasures and trinkets from Etsy or Oriental Trading will better motivate your older napper to continue to rest. Another idea would be to leave a small card written for a special outing such as a trip to the zoo. Be creative, but don't stress yourself out because children are usually happy with any surprise!
During Covid-19, I decided to write a new napping story. Something I have wanted to do for 20 years. The book's name is "The Nodders What! You Don't Want to Nap?". The Nodders are unique creatures with curlicue tuners who can hear children talking around the world. When children say they don't want to nap, the Nodders are stuck in their beds and can't play. Thank goodness, Old Nonny Nodder came up with a plan to encourage children to nap. It was announced: Any child that goes to sleep will wake to a Nodder Treat, found in the NapPouch hanging on their door.