When my children were younger, they napped all the time. I would lay them down in their bed at nap time and in the middle of reading them a story they would start dozing off. But lately, they seem to always have a burst of energy and it never seems to wear off. I figured after an afternoon of running around the house or playground, they would eventually crash. But it seems to give them even more energy. Sometimes I just let them skip nap time. But that is sometimes counterproductive, because they would become very tired right before dinnertime and wouldn't be able to eat. I’ve tried different strategies to get them to take an afternoon nap and I have found a few that have actually worked. If you’re struggling with getting your toddler to take a nap, I hope these ideas work for you.
• Keep a schedule. Children need routines. It helps them feel like they have some control knowing what to expect. A routine will also trigger your toddler’s body clock. Create a schedule and stick with it the best way you can. Start with this schedule idea and create your own according to your own needs. Your toddler may not be able to tell time yet, but he understands that nap time comes after play time or lunch. Tip: Allow some time between lunch and nap time and try not to feed him too much sugar or carbs before his nap.
• Stay in the room with your child. I used to walk out of the room to let my child immediately go to sleep. But that would never happen. He would get up several times insisting that he couldn’t sleep. Your child may want to talk or play, but tell him to close his eyes and he will eventually fall asleep. Read a book to your child if that will help.
• I make sure my children, especially my younger children and my toddler gets a lot of exercise before they nap. My toddlers have a lot of energy and this lets them burn it off. Have them run around the yard, and if the weather doesn’t permit it, have them do jumping jacks or play a chase and tickle game with your child.
• Don’t use the word nap. Nap time isn’t something my kids particularly look forward . When I used to say the word nap, they would practically run out of the room and hide. I figured I needed a something with a more positive connotation, so I use the word "adventure" instead. I once told my children that when they go to sleep, they enter dreamland where they can travel to far distance lands and have an adventure. This gives them something that they look forward too when it’s nap time. “It’s time for your adventure,” I’ll say.
• Make nap time a tradition. I tell my toddlers that this is our special time together. If your toddler sees nap time as a special time that the two of you spend together while you read a story to him or sing him a lullaby, transitioning from playtime to nap time will be a lot easier.
• Create a calm atmosphere. Turn off the lights, close the window shades. Play soft music in the background. If you have other children, give them quiet activities to work on while your child naps. If your child still seems restless after you put him in bed, rub his back a little to help calm him.
How do you get your toddler to go to sleep during nap time? I'd love to hear your ideas.