This post may contain affiliate links. Please refer to my disclosure.
With my firstborn, the 2-1 nap transition was challenging, to say the least. He had been a chronic cat-napper for the majority of his little life. It took MONTHS for the one nap routine to stick.
We got there in the end, but with my second child I was determined to find a smoother process, and that’s exactly what we did!
Each child is different, so as a parent it is vital to do what works for you, but for the sake of today’s post, I’m sharing what worked for us.
1) Wait It Out
I feel as though naps get a little funky after 12 months. Perhaps it is all the developmental milestones pre-toddlers are working through, but it can be tempting to try and change up the schedule in order to fix wonky naps.
My advice would be to wait it out. Wait until it has been at least 2-3 weeks of consistently bad naps before you seriously consider switching to just one nap.
This is the same advice I give in this post where I talk about dropping naps altogether –> How to Transition Your Child From Nap Time to Rest Time
However, if your child is just not sleeping well and you’ve tried waiting it out, then go ahead and move to the next step.
2) Work Out The Nap Timing
When you drop to one nap it can be nerve wrecking. If that one nap doesn’t go well, the day can turn into a disaster. Essentially, the stakes are higher.
Working out your nap timing is important. I’ve heard that 5 hours from their DWT is ideal, and that is what we did with my daughter. Her first nap used to start at 9 am, so instead of that, I was going to be pushing her to stay awake until 12 pm.
However, what works for one child may not work for another. They are not robots.
So, take time to consider the sleep needs of your child. Do they typically need a lot of sleep or not as much as others? If you’ve never read up on this subject, here’s a great post to get started with –> How to Tell if You Have a High Sleep Needs or Low Sleep Needs Baby.
The Baby Sleep Site also has a really handy chart that lists the average wake time for babies and toddlers. Find it here –> Baby and Toddler Bedtimes By Age
3) Keep Them Entertained
If you’ve got a little sleepy head on your hands (like my daughter!) then it is really important to keep them entertained enough so that they don’t fall asleep too early.
Luckily, my son loves to play with his little sister, so he was a good help in that department. Plan some morning activities, but be careful not to spend too much time in the car, because many children cannot overcome the urge to sleep when in their car seats.
During summer time a little outdoor water play is a great idea for keeping them entertained. We love having a water table for this reason. It works well for both my daughter and son even though there’s an 18-month age gap.
Winter can be a bit more tricky, but things like playdoh and sensory activities can work well to catch their attention.
4) Utilize Independent Playtime
What we ended up doing with Annie was having her independent playtime fall during when her first nap used to be. So, from 9-10am. During this time she has music playing and toys to entertain herself.
This worked really well for us because it allowed her to have some quiet time, but the environment wasn’t set up to be conducive to sleep. In saying that, she would still often drift off for 10ish minutes during that time. It wasn’t the end of the world, and I would simply push her main nap back by 30mins or so.
Even now, 3 months after making the switch, she still often falls asleep playing, but it hasn’t hurt the afternoon nap at all.
After the success we’ve had with the 2-1 nap transition, I will definitely be using the strategy with any future children we have. Independent playtime has this magic way of giving my children just the right amount of quiet time that they need in order to feel a bit restored.
Sometimes even when they’re older, I will put them into independent playtime if they’re super grumpy, and they come out so much happier.
I guess we all need some time to ourselves every now and again.
5) Set Your Routine + Have A Back-Up Plan
My son who is almost 3 has his nap time from 1-3pm. It is crucial for me to have my kids naps line up in the afternoon so I can have some breathing space.
Find out my secrets for achieving a great schedule while having two small children to care for –> How to Have a Balanced + Productive Routine as a SAHM
So, when we set up Annie’s new routine, we set it so that both she and her brother would have independent playtime from 9-10am and then she would go down for her nap at 12 pm and I would wake her at 3 pm. However, if she did happen to fall asleep during independent playtime, then I simply kept her up till 1 pm and her nap would fall over the exact same time as her older brother’s.
It has worked brilliantly for us!
There were only a few days here and there where she woke early from her nap. On those days we did early bedtime, and if she was super grumpy I would try to do a trip to town as a distraction for everyone.
If you find that your little one is waking early quite frequently then don’t be afraid to implement an early bedtime for several weeks. It won’t hurt anyone and will maintain the sanity of your household!
Until next time!
Hi! I’m Christine. I am a former registered nurse, turned stay-at-home mom, turned work-at-home mom!
Motherhood has always been my passion and blogging has only added to that and given me a creative outlet to share about the things I love.
As my blog has grown, my desire to share the knowledge of what makes my life less stressful, simplified, and more fulfilled has become one of my driving forces.
I have a heart for mothers that feel as though they are just existing from day to day and are longing for more. You can find out more about me and my family over on my ‘About Me‘ page.
As well as the abundance of posts you’ll find on my blog, you can also find me over at Today Parenting.