Nap time is halfway over and you can still hear the sound of your toddler talking and singing through their bedroom door. This has been happening more and more often lately, and you are starting to get the feeling that the day you have been dreading has finally come: It's time to drop the nap. #toddlerquiettime #toddlernaptimegone #mondaymorningmoms #verywellfamily
We have good news though—although your little one may no longer need that mid-afternoon shut-eye, they do still need and benefit from a daily rest time. Read on to learn about how to transition your toddler from napping to playing independently for a stretch of time each day.
When Do Most Children Stop Napping?
Most kids will stop napping somewhere between 2 and a half and 5 years old. "Less than a tenth of kids are still napping at age 5, though many 4 year olds still nap," says Leah Alexander, MD FAAP, a board-certified pediatrician in New Jersey and the senior editor of Amy Baby Review.
There are a few signs that may indicate that it's time to shorten or completely cut out your toddler's nap. If your child starts fighting their nap or waking early from it, it might be that they aren't tired enough to need it anymore. Alternatively, the nap might still be happening, but you'll start to see early morning wake-ups or your toddler might wake in the middle of the night.
"A child has a certain amount of sleep in her 'sleep tank,'" says Heather Wallace, a certified pediatric sleep consultant, postpartum doula, and the owner of Braveheart Consulting. "If she is getting too much sleep during the day, it fills her tank and there won’t be enough space for night sleep. The nap must be dropped in order to re-balance daytime and nighttime sleep."
Why Quiet Time Is Still Important
Even if your child is no longer napping, it's important to have quiet time during the day. "This gives them a chance to rest their bodies and minds and can help prevent them from becoming overtired," says Dr. Alexander.
You might imagine quiet time as an hour when your child lies in bed with a dim lamp, playing with a book or a stuffed animal. But quiet time doesn't necessarily need to look like that.
"I find that children need time alone in the middle of the day without extra stimulation or interaction with parents or other children," says Wallace. "Their body doesn’t necessarily need to be still nor do they have to stay quiet. But alone time can help refresh them and keep them in a good mood the rest of the day so they can make it to bedtime without the drama."
Activities That Promote Rest
Here are some restful and restorative activities that your child can do during quiet time.
Listening to audiobooks can be both relaxing and entertaining. It's a good alternative to screen time for kids who need to lie down and veg out. Audiobooks can also be played while your child is working on another activity. Hearing a story read aloud is beneficial for literacy development as well.1
Coloring books have a special appeal to children of a certain age. Coloring reduces stress and promotes relaxation.2 It is also beneficial for fine motor development.3 Drawing on plain paper with crayons or colored pencils is another alternative.
Dolls can be dressed, cared for, or role-played with. Any figurines, including actual dolls, superheroes, or pretend animals tend to work well for imaginative play during quiet time. Some kids especially like to act out "parenting" their baby dolls.
Building toys can keep your toddler's mind creatively engaged. Start with something simple like Duplo Legos and swap the toys out periodically for other options, such as Magnatiles or plain wooden blocks. As your child's fine motor skills improve, they can manipulate and build with smaller pieces.
Puzzles can keep toddlers happily occupied as long as they are neither too difficult nor too easy. Start with chunky puzzles that have big pieces and work your way up to more complex ones. Make sure you don't exceed your child's frustration level though. Choose puzzles they can complete confidently on their own.
Don't be alarmed if your toddler doesn't transition easily to playing by themselves. It's normal to take some time for them to get used to. Use a visual timer to show when quiet time will end. Start with a time as short as five minutes and slowly work up to 45 minutes or an hour.
Keeping your child busy is also half the battle. Try having special toys and activities that only come out at quiet time, and rotate them as needed. "I suggest picking toys and activities that have a high interest level and that the child can do independently without getting frustrated," says Wallace. "Only choose one to two toys so their room isn’t a disaster and they remained focused without getting overwhelmed."
A Word From Verywell
Nap time might be over, but your child still needs a daily rest time to unwind (and you probably do too!). It may take time and patience to implement a new routine, but it's worth it. Spending some time alone each day helps your child get a mental break and prevents them from burning out in the evening. As always, if you have concerns or questions about your child's sleep patterns, be sure to reach out to their pediatrician or healthcare provider.
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