Toddlers are unpredictable, but that makes having a routine and establishing consistency even more important when it comes to naps. Of course, a routine doesn’t guarantee things will always go smoothly, especially with factors like sleep regression, teething, and separation anxiety just to name a few. Still, a routine will help tremendously with successful naps. Routines are imperative with successful parenting in general.
Keys to a Successful Nap Routine
In our household, I’ve generally been to one to put both my sons for naps (though my oldest has outgrown naps for over two years at this point). In the years that I’ve been doing this, I’ve learned a lot about what works and doesn’t work. So, I’d like to share with you some of this information.
Dos for Naps
Be consistent with nap time
Perhaps nothing is more important than the consistency of nap time. Sure, it may be a pain to schedule your day around your toddler’s nap time, but too bad. You signed up for this when you became a parent and your child is the priority. That means maybe you can’t make that birthday party or grocery shopping will have to wait until later. At the time of writing this, my 18 month old naps from around Noon-2:00pm each weekday at daycare. On weekends, we keep the same routine. Since that’s right in the middle of the day, it does often impact our ability to go out and do activities, but we’ve made a point to plan around this.
Certainly, there are times where it’s not possible to keep the same nap time such as if you’re traveling or there’s an emergency. The point is that as much as possible, you need to establish a consistent nap time.
I have a routine of reading books for 5-10 minutes as part of our nap time. It’s a calm activity and lets my 18-month old know that we’re getting ready for sleep. I don’t think you have to have the routine of reading books, but it is a good idea to have some calming activity that your toddler associates with naps. There are times when my 18-month old is quite fussy as I bring him up for a nap (just today in fact). Sitting down and saying, “Let’s read books,” can often help settle him.
If your child loves vehicles, check out this list of wonderful vehicle-themed picture books.
Use a sound machine
We’ve used a sound machine for white noise since both our sons were babies and my 4 year old still uses one. It serves a couple purposes. One is obviously to help drown out other noises that may wake him, but the other is again to be an item that is associated with naps. The routine I have is that once we finish reading, I turn on the sound machine and he knows it’s time to rest.
Have a consistent method for putting your toddler down
Here is where you need to come up with what works for you. I honestly don’t have guaranteed ways or “tricks” that I know. I really hate the headlines that say something like, “Put your child to sleep with this surefire trick,” or “Get your child to nap in under one minute every time”. It seems like most of those headlines are simply clickbait. Could there be some “tricks” that work? Sure. But none are guarantees, so try them if you wish and figure out what works for you and your toddler.
My method is after turning on the sound machine, I hold my son with his head resting on my right shoulder and I walk back and forth in his room. Usually in 5-10 minutes, he’s asleep and I put him down in his crib. Sometimes, my son has trouble getting settled, so he’s very squirmy on my shoulder. If this goes on for a few minutes, I put him down and calmly say to him that because he’s squirming, daddy can’t hold him, and I walk out of the room. I let him cry for 30 seconds to a minute and come back in and pick him up again. Most of the time, he then rests nicely on my shoulder. If he squirms again, I repeat this cycle. It very rarely takes more than three times, and most of the time, I don’t even have to do this.
Have Patience and a Good Attitude
I truly believe having a positive attitude is so important. One of the reasons I’ve been the main one to put my sons for naps is because I’m more patient than my wife. I’m just a pretty content person and don’t get frustrated very easily. So, when it takes 30 extra minutes (or even in the very rare instance where it takes even longer) to get my son down, it honestly doesn’t bother me. I think of it like an errand that took longer than planned and not a big deal. But for my wife, she may get really frustrated that it was difficult or that she just “wasted” 30 minutes. It’s just a personality difference. I certainly can get frustrated too, but I accept the fact that it won’t always go smoothly, and I can usually brush off those difficult times.
Don’ts for Naps
Logically, the don’ts would be the opposite of the dos.
– Be inconsistent with nap time
– Get your toddler amped up being nap time
– Not have a process so your toddler can’t associate something with nap time
– Be overly stressed or hung up with the bumps along the way
I want to expand upon the last point above. I’m a firm believer that the internet and general advancement of technology has been positive and negative when it comes to parenting. We now have the ability to access resources and find support for parenting like never before. This is fantastic, but I also think it leads to us over analyzing our parenting. Even worse, I think it’s led to us regularly comparing and rating ourselves as parents.
You don’t need to feel like a subpar parent because you can’t get your child to nap with this “surefire trick” or in under a minute. Take a step back and realize that in almost all cases, your child will turn out fine even if naps don’t go well. Sure, it may make the day or days rougher, but in the overall scheme of things, it’s a small period of time. Trust your gut, smile, and embrace the extra crazy time you get to spend with your toddler that day who isn’t napping 🙂
Share Your Tips and Thoughts
What do you do that works well for getting your toddler to nap? Please feel free to share your ideas and thoughts via the comments below.
If you enjoyed this post, here are some similar-type posts that may be of interest.
– Don’t Be A Lax Parent With Your Kids’ Screen Time
– A Dad’s Guide To Toddler Meals and Food
– 6 Teaching Practices That Make For Effective Parenting