The Do’s And Don’ts Of Managing Your Toddler’s Nap Schedule

Beware elaborate sleep rituals.

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toddler taking a nap
<a href="" target="_blank"> flickr / Kourtlyn Lott </a>

The Lochness Monster, Bigfoot, and UFOs are mysterious. The Nazca lines, Stonehenge, and the Bermuda triangle are perplexing. But all pale in comparison to the completely baffling phenomenon that is a toddler nap cycle. Honestly, poltergeists make more damn sense than when and how your kid decides to lay down their head.

So don’t worry. It’s normal to become increasingly mystified by the lack of rhyme or reason in your kid’s lay-down time. Not to mention the nuclear tantrums that can be thrown when you suggest they catch some Zzzs. So is there some esoteric strategy to solving the nap enigma? Not really. But there are some easy things that might help.

WTF Is Happening!?

There are a couple of things that are driving your kid’s nap time schedule off a cliff. The main one is because their meteoric development has dropped off a bit by around 18 months. Previously, they needed a ton of food and sleep to keep going. Now? Not so much. Now they survive on your tears.

Because those sleep needs are less, they might be getting most of it during the night (if you’re lucky). And around this time they’ll drop one of the 2 naps they were probably taking. Most likely it will be the morning nap. You know, the one that let you sneak away for a little mid-Saturday boom-chicka-wow-wow.

Finally, they’re pretty stoked about living in a super amazing world. Asking them to take a nap is like telling you to turn off Game Of Thrones in the middle of a binge. You’d be pretty upset about it too.

What Not To Do

First of all, understand that the changing nap schedule is going to continue to be a bit chaotic until they finally stop napping around 3-years-old. This is normal. You don’t need to panic. Second-of-all, you shouldn’t force the issue. That’s a general rule. Here are some specifics.

Don’t Deny The Nap

Just because your kid’s nap schedule is getting whacky doesn’t mean they don’t need their nap. You may be tempted to skip it so your afternoon isn’t interrupted by an hourlong snooze-fest. Don’t do this. It could simply wind up pushing your kid’s nap later, making them wide-awake at bedtime. Or it could just get them wired, cranky, and impossible. You know, more than they already are.

Don’t Let Them Drag You In

You shouldn’t allow your kid to make you jump through crazy hoops and rituals before they nap. The more you’re drawn into their elaborate scheme the harder it is going to be for them to be able to get to sleep.

Don’t Drop The Nap Too Soon

Your kid still definitely needs their nap. It’s amazingly restorative for them as they continue to grow. In fact, researchers find that stress hormones drop during toddler sleep, allowing them to wake up way nicer than they were when they went down. So make sure to keep an eye out and continue to offer naps. Even in the face of opposition. And what an adorable opposing face it is.

What To Do

Well, the first thing you should do is not get too freaked out about naps during toddlerhood. This will all come out in the wash and, frankly, there’s not much you can do to control it. However, there are some ways to encourage good nap habits until they are gone for good.

Offer A Quiet Alternative

If your kid is fighting the nap, let them know they don’t actually have to sleep. Tell them they can instead look at a book or play with a stuffed animal in a quiet dark room for awhile. It will not give them the benefits of a true nap, but it is still helpful.

Maintain A Schedule

Try to maintain as tight a schedule as you can. Keep the bedtimes and mealtimes as consistent as possible. You may be tempted to keep your kid up and make bedtime earlier, but that may be even more disruptive. In the midst of this structure, let the nap fall where it will.

Address The Atmosphere

Keep the room cool and as dim as possible. Try to put a fan on to add some white noise. This will block the sounds of daily life that must continue during nap time. If they need to cuddle, then offer a stuffed protector to be a comfort object if they don’t have one already.

With some patience, you’ll be able get a hold of the nap time conundrum. And once that’s accomplished you can go ahead and find Bigfoot once and for all. Because if you can figure out toddler naps, you can figure out anything.

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