Dealing with the Dropped Nap

It’s every parents’ nightmare – the dropped nap.  What do you do when, after a full morning and early afternoon of vigorous activity, your toddler suddenly refuses to lay down for a couple of hours of sweet, sweet sleep?

Now, allow me to start with a disclaimer.  I am certainly the last person in the world you want to take kids’ sleeping advice from.   Neither of my children sleep.  I love sleep.  They certainly do not take after me in this regard.  However, recently I have had one victory in the sleep department, and that is bringing back my two and a half year old’s afternoon nap (praise Jesus).  Many of my good friends have sleep angels; this will not apply to them.  But I do hope this applies to at least one struggling parent out there who is trying to figure out a successful way to bring back that ever-important, sanity-enhancing afternoon nap.  Here goes:

Logan began to get difficult about naps when we returned to the U.S. for Christmas holidays.  He was exactly two and a half.  I guess you can’t really blame the guy because there was a lot going on:  a full-on twelve-hour time change; snow versus EXTREME Bangkok heat; cousins who no longer napped running around the house (this was a killer); and so many new things to do and experience.  While we tried our best to get him to nap on vacation, it just wasn’t happening.  After a couple of weeks, we decided not to fret over it too much and assumed he’d be back to his napping routine when we returned to Bangkok.  Wrong.  When we returned to Bangkok and kissed jetlag goodbye after a week of readjusting, Logan still refused to nap.  I could lay with him for an hour and he just — would — not — nap.  Parenting is full of joy, but it has its moments of frustrations.  For me, this was one of them.  It was clear to me that Logan still needed to nap.  Without the nap, he would become destructive and difficult in the late afternoon leading to a full-on melt down around 5pm.  That was not fun for anybody.  Plus, I had read that most children nap until at least three; and others – four.  Two and a half seemed a bit young to be dropping the nap, but not altogether impossible, I guess.

So what did I do?  I busted out the baby gate.  Yes, the one still wrapped in plastic that we had never bothered to open.  I put the gate up at the entry way to his room.  When it came time for his nap, I would ask him if he’d like to nap or have one hour of quiet time.  Every time I presented him with the option, he chose quiet time.  Our quiet time guidelines looked something like this:  1. Logan had to stay in his room for one hour (I closed the gate so he could not come out, but I left his bedroom door wide open); 2. he was not allowed TV or music during this time; 3. his quiet time had to be done alone.  I usually tended to Katelyn or stayed in my room with my door open if she was sleeping so that Logan could see I was nearby and having my own “quiet time.”   The first few days went swell and he didn’t complain;  he would only call to ask that I play puzzles or color with him (I responded that I was in my “quiet time” too, and emphasized that quiet times had to be done solo).  After about a week, though, quiet time started to get old (and frankly, very boring) for Logan.  At this point, he played for about fifteen minutes alone and then would come to the gate  and cry for the other forty-five (not fun).  Call me cruel, but I know the only way to be successful in a situation like this is to be consistent, so this went on for a few days.  After the full realization that quiet time was not what it was cracked up to be (about three weeks in), I began trying naps again.  And guess what folks?  It worked.  And since that day in January, Logan has missed maybe one or two naps total.  Sweet victory.  My life and his late afternoon temperament are back to some standard of normal.

Kids are smart; much smarter than we give them credit for.  I’ve no doubt that when Logan realized what quiet time was all about, he settled for the nap instead.  By the way, at what point do you think kids/adults realize that napping is awesome?  If I ever resisted my naps when I was little, I am now kicking myself.

And since my kids are THE WORST sleepers, I thought I ought to provide you with some proof that this actually worked.  This is a picture of Logan napping last week (I promise I did not ask him to pose):

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And this is the real proof; as you can tell I woke him up while snapping away (I need to get my hands on one of those silent mirror-less cameras):

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So there you are.  Good luck to you in bringing back that nap.  You can do it!

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3 thoughts on “Dealing with the Dropped Nap

  1. Rattana says:

    Every kiddos are different. S (now 4yr) dropped her nap @ 2yr, but she was tough to put down even @ bedtime! I remember being on the floor nursing Z & S in her bed refusing to fall asleep, I would try to sneak out of the room, but that can be unsuccessful at times. Now we do the once/twice a week catch up nap with S. Z will be 3 in this July, she started not wanting to nap a week ago, I would tell her that she needs to rest her eyes but not nap;). Z needs the nap so we still have mandatory nap almost everyday. We don’t allow toys in the bedroom, only books & their animals.

    • lobrau says:

      Rattana,

      Thanks so much for this. How do you do a “catch up” nap for S? And does Z buy into “resting her eyes?” I’m so curious how this works for others. I had heard of the strategy to only keep books and animals in the bedroom and I think it’s a good one. I can imagine that it really helps kids to wind down.

  2. Rattana says:

    Well the catch up nap is mandatory, we’ll go a few days (depending on activities of the week) w/o then s will get cranky/meltdown so sometimes I’ll nap in the recliner in their bedroom (realize she refuses to close her eyes so every few minutes I’d have tell her to close her eyes. At times she ends up in my bed b/c z gets over excited at times if we are napping in the room. Z is much more laid back so she’ll just lay down and falls asleep. This occurred once, I guess z wasn’t tired so she just laid in the room jabbering to her animals for an hour then she called for me and said she was finished w/ her nap…I’m fine with that too b/c she had quiet time. Btw, z is still in her crib so it’s easier to keep her contained. I keep the room dark, there’s an air purifier for white noise, I go through similar routine of feeding after preschool, mini play then I recite bedtime story, & turn on the leapfrog bedtime music. Sometimes it’s a little tough b/c s will do everything in her power to not have to lay down. I’m glad the nap is working out for you;)

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