When your toddler doesn’t nap it can be a fast route to crankiness for both you and your child. After all, napping is supposed to be a peaceful time for your son or daughter to recharge. Equally, it provides us mommies and daddies with precious relief from our child’s seemingly endless need to go, go, go.
Even more importantly, though, is that the sleep your toddler receives at nap time is critical to his or her overall physical and mental health. During the first few years, a child’s body is growing at such a rate that added sleep is needed to keep up with cognitive, emotional and physical development.
Of course, just because that’s the case, it doesn’t mean that your toddler will be willing to simply shut off at nap time. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to help to encourage sleepiness at nap time.
- Stick to a schedule – toddlers are great with a consistent routine. This is true for eating, activities and also sleeping. Keep a schedule to set and maintain your child’s circadian rhythm (sleeping and waking clock). Have a bedtime at night, wake time in the morning, and naptime (start and finish) during the day. Many toddlers nap most easily in the early afternoon.
- Wait a while after eating – give your child the chance to burn through the initial burst of energy after eating lunch. Try not to load his or her meals with too many sugars and avoid caffeine altogether.
- Create the right environment – if the naptime environment is full of bright light and is highly stimulating, your toddler may find it challenging to calm down and fall asleep. Turn off the lights, use blackout blinds or curtains, and shut off all device screens. If the room isn’t naturally quiet, use a white noise machine or play some gentle, quiet music to help create a steadier and more soothing background sound.
- Choose the right pillow and blankets – a Little Sleepy Head Toddler Pillow is just the right size and snuggle level to both soothe your toddler to sleep and to support the head and neck no matter what sleeping position he or she chooses. When it comes to blankets, don’t overdo it. The goal should be to achieve the cooler side of warm. An overheated toddler is far less likely to sleep.
- Relax your toddler with a naptime massage – if your toddler is restless, rub his or her back and legs in a slow and gentle motion. This will help to soothe and ease muscles and lull your child to sleep.
- Enjoy quiet activities during naptime – make sure everyone in the family, including older children, know that your toddler’s naptime requires quiet in the whole home. Noisy activities will need to wait.
Keep in mind that some naps will be better than others and there will also be times when your toddler simply won’t fall asleep. It happens. At the same time, a half hour of quiet resting will still be helpful to your child and to you for that matter. While the goal is ultimately a sleep time, the occasional wakeful but restful time is perfectly all right.