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Toddlers will survive without naps, but should they? Should their grown ups have to get through the day without them napping? Why are these even questions? It may be an opinion or theory, and not a measurable fact, but there isn’t a doubt left in my mind. With naps, or just one hour of “quiet time” kids are healthier and happier and so are the grown ups who care for them.
I need to point out, I do not claim to be an expert. I did not perform years of academic research. I do have a college education, but what I’m sharing here is from personal experience. I babysit, I have three of my own kids, and I read a lot!
Most of the kids I watch are outgrowing naps, however “quiet time” is just as valuable for them as a nap. Quiet time is just as it sounds, it is one hour out of the day when I have the kids lay in their cots with their special pillow and blanket. During this hour, there is no talking or silly noise making, it simply is one hour of quiet.
I have allowed the kids to try a quiet activity such as coloring or looking at a picture book. Most days they watch a movie with the volume turned down so low, they won’t hear it if they aren’t quiet enough. There is nothing wrong with allowing the kids to try a quiet activity while the grown up isn’t entertaining them. Besides, the lunch dishes don’t wash themselves.
Once in a while, I push the kids a little harder with a field trip or play date and skip quiet time. I’ve noticed these days have an undesirable affect. I call this the Gremlin affect. The kids are moody and have difficulty getting along with eachother. They are also more likely to be cranky, whiny, or pushy with their parents at pick up when they don’t get a period of rest. It can also affect their ability, or desire to participate in an afternoon lesson.
As for the grown up, I watch kids in my home. This is my full time job. That means no lunch hour, no ability to leave the office, and no drive to and from work to ever be alone. When the kids have quiet time or they take a sweet, blissful, quiet nap, I get an opportunity to catch up or take a break. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure it’s no secret that the research and common knowledge will tell you, kids need naps and you need a break during your work day.
Is it easy to get kids to nap or accept “quiet time” rules?
Yes, yes, yes…. Not on the first try, but absolutely yes. There are only a few simple steps:
- Set expectations and be consistent!
- Consistency is easier with a routine.
- When they get up, put them back.
- The magic number is 1! One hour is all that’s needed for the kids and grown ups.
Tell the kids what you expect and if they are still too little to understand, show them by walking them through it. For example, if the child is just a baby lay them down in bed. Babies and kids need to have consistency and this begins with set expectations and continues with follow through. That means nap time after nap time, day after day, lay them down again and again. Kids will do what is expected of them and they know what is expected of them when the grown up sets expectations and is consistent.
Consistency is easy with a set routine. For my group, the very first day I started working with them, I set a routine. The routine for nap time starts with lunch. Lunch is before naps because it’s easier to fall asleep with a full belly. The next step is a trip to the bathroom because little kids (who are potty training especially) will use getting up to go to the bathroom as an excuse to get out of bed. Also, kids are less likely to wet themselves during nap if they have a potty break just before. Then it’s wash your hands (and face if lunch it’s messy) and it’s time to quiet down and lay down.
There are several techniques to help soothe a young child and help them sleep. But all the back rubs, warm milk, white noise, or whatever is just part of having a routine. Once a soothing technique is used, plan to use it over and over. I read at least one book to my kids at nap time, every single day. This became the best part of naps and something the kids looked forward to, every day. It was such a part of their routine, it helped them to fall asleep.
This shouldn’t have to be mentioned, but it’s an important part of being consistent with babies and kids and it shows them what is expected. If a baby is able to sit up or stand and they are doing it instead of napping, lay them back down. It doesn’t have to be forceful, just pick them up and lay them back down. Then go back to what you were doing.
I understand that babies cry and there can be a number of reasons that they are having trouble napping. However, it it’s gas or they need a diaper change or whatever, handle it and lay them back down. If you suspect something worse, call a doctor. At least, the baby might sleep in the car seat on the drive to the pediatrician’s.
With toddlers, when they get out of bed just take them back to their bed and lay them back down. Do this over and over, for at least one hour and do it every day. If it doesn’t work on day one, do it again day two, and so on. Eventually, they will get that you are consistent and not giving in to them.
One is a magic number. To get kids to fall asleep, especially my own kids because other’s peoples kids are so much easier, I had to wait them out. Most of the kids I watch are asleep in 15 minutes are less. But not my own. My youngest was the the toughest of the three. He finds something to play with or fidgets with the covers or just does everything but fall asleep for a nap. He has even outlasted a full hour. However, just having him lay down and be quiet was enough for both of us.
Nap time or just quiet time is great for clean up and prep. If the clean up is done, prep is done, and you have 10 minutes to spare… try to use the time to unwind. Make a cup of tea, read your email or something fun like your favorite magazine, check out Pinterest, or just close your eyes and meditate.
I like to use this time to read a devotional from the Walk the Walk Daily mobile app and meditate on the daily verse. Today’s verse is Ephesians 5: 1-2, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” This verse goes along perfectly with my point because we are God’s children and like children, we need a nap (or quiet time) once in a while. It also doesn’t hurt to have something fragrant in the air to get past the smell of dirty diapers. So, light a candle or melt scented wax while you preserve your mental health.
Thank you for reading and God Bless!