Why Naptime is Important?
Having your toddler take a nap assures that your child will get enough rest. “On top of their boundless energy, children work hard at growing. They really do need the rest,” says Dr. Charles Shubin, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland and director of pediatrics at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, Md.
It’s also important for caregivers. I love naptime, because I get two hours child free, since my other two children are in 1st grade and preschool every afternoon. This is when I get my writing done.
Does my child need a nap?
Toddlers still need about 10 hours of sleep a night plus a nap during the day. Research shows that at about 18 months children usually start napping just once a day. Only 25% of toddlers give up naps by the time they are three (mine will probably be in this 25%), and by age 4 half of toddlers have quit napping. I find that my four year old still needs an occasional nap, usually when I find her asleep on the couch.
“A toddler won’t come up to you and say, ‘I’m sleepy,’ but she will become cranky, whiney and irritable when tired. You just have to watch for the signals,” Dr. Kilkenny, director of the Sleep Disorder Center in Staten Island, N.Y., says. However if a child consistently refuses to nap it’s their way of telling you they are getting enough sleep. Although having a quiet time where a child participates in quiet activities in their room is a good idea. It gives them a chance to unwind, without sleeping.
How can I set a naptime routine?
Usually by 3 months a child has established a biological rhythm and parents can start developing a naptime pattern. (This didn’t usually work for my children until they were 6 months old.) Timing meals and playtimes helps ensure that your child will be ready to nap when you want them to.
To help tired toddlers – and growing infants – get the sleep they need, parents need to make naptime a comforting experience, says University of Cincinnati Pediatrician Caroline Mueller. “Make sure you have a pre-nap routine,” Dr. Mueller says. “Lay the baby down calm and sleepy, but awake, from early on so that he can learn to put himself to sleep.”
I have found that following a routine is the answer. When my son was two years old I ran a daycare in my home. I had four children ages 2 to 3. Everyday right after lunch we would get out their blankets and spread them on the floor. Then I would turn on a tape of classical music. I would sit in the room and read a book while they went to sleep. Because we had a set routine there were rarely any naptime issues.
Every child is different and you have to find what works. When my daughter, Kelsey, began crawling out of her crib, at age two, we moved her to a bed. This ruined her naptime routine and we had to start all over again. She often resists naptime, but falls apart by dinnertime if she doesn’t get one. I have found that I have to lie next to her on the bed and sing to her. It usually takes a half an hour for her to fall asleep.