I‘ll just call a spade a spade: for parents, naptime is a GODSEND. Yes, I do sometimes spend naptime scrolling through sweet pics of my kids on my phone. Yes, there has been a few days we have just been waiting for them to wake back up either to head to an activity or just to play. And yes, the idea of a household with no naptime schedules to work around sounds absolutely amazing for many reasons.
But naptime? It’s amazing. Sometimes, it is the first time I really SIT all day. It is time I could choose to catch up on a little laundry, dishes or cleaning (but let’s be honest, Michael and I religiously protect the time that the kids are sleeping and almost never use it for those tasks). Sometimes, it is the time I can squeeze in a tiny bit of extra “bonus” work time (read more about that HERE) since I work a more than full time job in part time hours! And sometimes, it is just so I can sit in silence and watch a little tv show without anyone needing me right at that moment (until it ends…the moment I sit down…amiright?!).
So with naptime being such a glorious time of day (and one that as a stay at home mom for most of the week, I get to experience 4-5 days a week!), it is always a hard change when nap goes away, especially since kids tend to want to do things way before they are actually ready. So the first month or two of transition into no nap ends with a tired crabby toddler by 6:00 PM (at the latest!) because they are so tired who much more resembles a small terrifying dictator than 2/3/4 year olds usually are!
SO WHAT IS A PARENT TO DO?!
Well, we are 2 kids into this (with a 3rd hitting this stage soon) and we feel like we have done a great job keeping a bit of that sacred afternoon quiet time by instilling “quiet times” for our kids. It has looked a little different for each kid, and will for our 3rd as well just because when you add shared rooms and other kids into the mix, things are bound to change! So I am going to share what we did with kid 1, as though you also were dealing with your first or only child, and then will give a quick explanation for how it changed for 2 and will change for 3!
The key: Don’t ever, not even for a week, “give up” nap and just let your toddler stay up. For us, the sign that nap needed to be done for BOTH kids was that bedtime got harder and harder. While we went through plenty of bad bedtime stages, this one wasn’t terrible- both kids just go to the point where they did an hour+ of singing and playing in their cribs/beds instead of going right to sleep like they had before, and that cued us in. I think it got a little harder to get them down during the day too, but the bedtime behavior was the real sign for us.
So when we decided it was time to try to make nighttime quicker, we immediately one day just explained to our first that he was still going to be in his room resting in his bed, but could stay up and play or read if he wanted. He was 3, and was able to comprehend that in general. He was already in a big boy bed (thanks to little sister), so the first few weeks it took a lot of redirection to keep him in his room. We started small with time (25 mins), and increased 5 minutes a day until we were comfortable. For us, that was about an hour (and then once he was old enough for tablet time, we did another 30-45 minutes of tablet activities, pretty much equaling the previous time of naps- this is what you are seeing in the photo in this post! They always chose to do this activity together, which made my heart sing a bit!).
We quickly learned that the quiet rest time was much more successful if we procured activities and toys that he hadn’t recently seen to play with during that time, so each day I would find 4-5 things that he could do on his own in his room and bring them to him at that time. I have friends who made “quiet time boxes”, one for each day of the week, for this purpose and that’s genius…I just never had the time to do it.
While it changed a bit over time (for example, our older 2 started sharing a room at ages 2.5 and 5, and the younger was still napping for just a few more months so the older would do his quiet time in our room or in the baby nursery that was being prepped!). Our oldest kids are now 5 and 7, and we don’t push for it every weekend anymore (they are in full day school during the week). When we do have them do it, we let them play together either in our girls bedroom or in the playroom since our E3 is sleeping in our boys bedroom (it is actually really sweet time for them together). I probably will during the summer week days just for a little break, but now it’s more like reading books and doing big puzzles/etc. But I’m guessing late fall/winter, E3 will also be done with his daytime nap and then we will have to readjust again and see what the next phase is.
It is so nice to still have the break, it is good for the kids both to be in charge of their own activities for a bit (I’m one of those old fashioned people who thinks it’s good for kids to be a bit bored sometimes!) and also have some down time. If they fell asleep, we let them. But that happened rarely and it was a win for everyone- parents get a little break, kids get a little relax time and also have an easy bedtime!
This ended up really long so I will say quick: we did the same thing as our babies dropped morning naps around one year. We put them in their cribs with a few books and their pacifiers, and let them rest. That one was typically only 20 minutes, but it was the same concept- keep the expectation from them that they are in their rooms/cribs at that time relaxing, and with some persistence it can work! If your toddler gives up nap extra early, it will be harder to establish- but I would still do this the same way! Kids can learn to enjoy that time without too much trouble… and it is so worth it!