So what’s a parent to do if the baby doesn’t want to take a nap? Try and try again. If you’ve been struggling with getting your toddler to take a nap, these tips could come in handy:
Mimic Bedtime Behaviors
It’s bound to be confusing to a child if you tell her to go to sleep in the middle of the day when everything is still bright and alive, unlike the night, which is quieter. Mimic your bedtime behaviors to make napping feel more natural. Dim the lights (and draw the curtains in the child’s room to help cut down on the brightness), read briefly, get a glass of water; do the things you normally do before bedtime. This will help the child understand the transition from being up and running to napping.
Find a Schedule
It might be tough to establish, but a napping schedule is a lifesaver for parents. Yes, your child might tire on her own and crash for a nap, but if she doesn’t, she’ll power through and become overtired, which leads to stress and fatigue. Make sure to try your hardest to put her down for a nap before she hits this breaking point. The schedule might be a rough adjustment at first, but over time, it will pay off. The toddler will come to anticipate the nap, and you can lean on that routine.
Emphasize the Environment
You’d never try to go to sleep with the lights on and music blaring, so it doesn’t make sense to expect your child to sleep in a chaotic environment either. Make sure that, in addition to mimicking bedtime behaviors, you set up a healthy sleeping environment for your young one. Make the room cool and dark, so they can be comfortable, and get rid of any excess noise or distractions that could wake them prematurely or even prevent sleep altogether. You can also set up a machine or digital device to play white noise (or the similar but slightly richer pink noise) to help drown out ancillary sounds from the house and ensure your toddler can drift off peacefully.
Work With Your Other Children
If you’re putting a toddler down to nap, you might find that your older child wants to keep playing or get your attention. This is expected and is easy to fix. To keep your older child from getting the toddler wound up again, make him part of the process. Ask him to help prepare the toddler for nap time and let him feel like he’s a part of the team. It’s a great bonding activity, and your older child can help you keep your toddler calm.
When adults wake up in the night, they can get back to sleep without too much trouble. We’ve learned how to care for ourselves and what we need to do to return to a resting state. Children, though, are still learning this. If your toddler wakes up only a few minutes after going down, he might have trouble with self-soothing. This is when you can teach him that sleep is necessary and that nap time won’t be going away. Your specific method of teaching self-soothing will depend on your style and what works for your child — e.g., crying it out — but whatever you do, it’s important to teach your child the mechanisms of self-provided comfort he’ll need as a growing person.
Use Comfort Items in New Locations
Many toddlers have trouble adjusting to naps in a new location like day care. This is totally normal. One helpful solution is to bring along a stuffed animal or loved toy/blanket from home, the one he sleeps with at bedtime or nap time, to help ease the transition.
Watch Out for Late Afternoon Naps
It might be tempting to take a break and let your child rest, but a nap too late in the day can interfere with bedtime, which throws off the child’s internal clock and makes everybody grouchy. It’s recommended that you have your child awake for four hours before he hits the sack. If you find that your child is drifting to a later nap time, adjust their schedule.
It’s really all about patience and persistence. Your toddler might resist a little at first, but with the right attitude and a good schedule, he’ll be napping like a champ in no time.