I watched the video monitor with a mixture of hope and dread, muttering “please sleep, please sleep” under my breath.
Lately, my 3-year-old, who had been a world-class napper, no longer wants to sleep. Sure, some afternoons he curls up with his stuffed puppy and falls soundly asleep. But on other days, he hangs upside down from the bed while singing loudly before wandering out to announce he’s “all done!” with his nap.
Nap time is as essential to me as it is to most caregivers. This is when I can do standard tasks such as send an email uninterrupted, unload the dishwasher, or use the restroom alone.
No matter how much I dread it, I have to accept the truth: my toddler is growing out of the consistent nap phase. Enter: quiet time.
The naps will eventually end, but the quiet time routine that I have set into place will help us both hit the reset button in the middle of the day.
Our first attempt at quiet time resulted in my son emerging every few minutes to ask if he could come out of his room yet. It was not a success.
Start slowly if the concept of quiet time is new to your child. Your child will likely only be able to spend short increments of time within their room for the first few days. The first attempt may only last about 10 to 15 minutes, but then you can slowly add more time each day.
Create rules around quiet time. At Jerica J.’s house, her three children can leave their rooms to use the bathroom, but she adds a few minutes to the required time whenever they leave for unnecessary reasons.
If your child is like mine and has difficulty calming down, try this catchy strategy song from “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood:” “Give a squeeze, nice and slow. Take a deep breath and let it go.” I have my son take deep breaths and snuggle with him to help him relax before leaving him for quiet time.
For kids who don’t quite understand time, a child-friendly clock may be the answer. There are “tot clocks” that can be programmed to either light up or play sounds to alert a child when quiet time is over. We use one for naps, quiet time, and even for waking up in the mornings.
You can also take inspiration from Dad Tiger. When Daniel excitedly wakes up early because it snowed outside, Dad Tiger reminds him that it’s too early to be up. So he adds stickers to Daniel’s clock to show him what time he can get out of bed and start the day. Additionally, this can serve as a lesson about clocks!
Katie D. uses technology in a different way. Her 4-year-old son listens to music or story podcasts during quiet time via a smart speaker device, which she says “is a lifesaver in our house.”
Don’t have a way to play music for your child during quiet time? You might try playing calming music before (possibly during lunch) to mentally transition your child into the resting period.
Give your child freedom.
Quiet time is the perfect opportunity to let children exercise independence. Letting your child choose where or how to spend their quiet time will help them embrace this new routine and get into the rhythm of mid-day rest.
Jerica’s children can hang out in their bedroom or the playroom during quiet time. Now that her kids are older, they can even choose to be in the same room. Of course, that privilege is lost as soon as any fighting begins.
My son puts a lot of thought into which three toys he’ll take into his room for quiet time. By empowering him with choices, it’s much easier to get him interested in participating in the activity.
Help your child be more receptive to quiet time by making it a unique experience.
Special “quiet time” toys such as books or puzzles can make this an event your child anticipates, rather than dreads. I leave a small box of toys in my son’s room that he plays with only during quiet time. For kids that love an audience, consider the stuffed variety. Tatiana K. made a corner for her son with stuffed animals that he could share his books with during quiet time.
It’s inevitable that every child eventually stops napping (though I wish someone would tuck me into bed every afternoon). It can be as much of a transition for us as parents as it is for our kids. Make sure you have a plan in place to move from consistent nap time to quiet time. Your child will get the rest they need and you can benefit from a few minutes to yourself.