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