How to Transition Your Child From Nap Time to Rest Time
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The age at which your child stops napping is different for every single child.
Most parents dread the idea of having to relinquish those few quiet hours during the day. Not only will it mean that you don’t get a break, but your child is often grumpier in the afternoon.
However, it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, I would even go so far as to say it shouldn’t.
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In our home nap/rest time is mandatory. We all need the break whether we all sleep or not. You can read more about why your child needs rest time in this post –> Why Rest Time Needs to be a Part of Your Child’s Routine
Today though, I’m going to walk you through the process of transitioning your child from nap time to rest time. I’ve taken advice from fellow mamas and then worked that into our routine and way of doing things.
Keep reading to find out how to make it work for you.
Has your child stopped napping? Are they napping some days but not others?
Before you make the jump to rest time I would urge you to wait.
How old are they? It is so normal for children to go through nap regressions. For us, those happened around 2.5 years of age and then again at age 3. However, my son has always gone back to napping if we stuck it out long enough.
Learning new skills and reaching milestones can cause sleep disruptions. However, they are only disruptions and therefore the option to sleep shouldn’t be taken away from your child.
When faced with your toddler resisting their nap, my first piece of advice will always be to remain consistent for a couple of weeks and see if it’ll work itself out. If it doesn’t, then you can take a look at their routine and other factors that may be influencing the regression.
Read this post for ideas on how to fix toddler sleep issues –> How to Solve Sleep Problems for Toddlers and Preschoolers
If you’ve tried it all and your child is within the ‘normal’ range of when children drop their nap, then you would be wise to consider making the transition to rest time.
2) Don’t Call it Rest Time
My second tip would be to not call it rest time. Why?
Well, for a couple of reasons. The first is that you want your toddler to still be under the impression that this is downtime. It isn’t time for playing around and being loud. By referring to it as nap time they’ll still be under the impression that the same rules that applied before apply now.
Secondly, if it is a regression, then you’re not going to have to backtrack. That is exactly what has happened to us. My son stopped napping almost completely for over a month. At almost 3.5 years of age, it was totally acceptable for him to be done with naps.
So, we moved to rest time (but kept calling it nap time). He did really well with the transition. However, after a month or two of not napping, he’s actually gone back to having at least a 1.5-hour nap almost daily.
3) Decide What it Will Look Like
Once you’ve decided to make the move to rest time it is important that you intentionally figure out what that is going to look like.
There are no real rules here. You do what works for you and your family.
You decide how long rest time lasts and what your child is and isn’t allowed to do during that time. The only thing I would make sure of is that whatever activities they participate in lend themselves to rest.
That’s the whole point.
Also, they should be independent activities. You don’t want to have to be there monitoring or assisting every five minutes because this is supposed to be your break too.
4) Give Your Child Clear Expectations
As with all changes, you should communicate your expectations to your child clearly and ahead of time. Don’t expect them to just roll with it if they don’t understand what is going on.
There definitely needs to be some amount of rules and boundaries otherwise too much freedom can cause more issues.
We have a Gro Clock that we use for showing our children when they’re allowed to get up in the morning. We’ve always used it for naps and now we use it for rest time as well.
Jack knows that he is only allowed to leave his room if he needs to use the bathroom. Otherwise, he is required to stay in there until ” Mr Sun” comes out.
For the first 30 minutes of rest time, Jack has to lie quietly in his bed with a book or two. This gives him the chance to fall asleep if he needs to.
After that time I talk to him via the video monitor and let him know that he can play quietly with some toys on his bed. The key word here is quietly.
He does that for an hour and then for the last half hour I allow him to watch an episode of Veggie Tales on an old smartphone.
Some parents don’t want any screentime allowed during rest time, and that is fine. For us, rest time is about allowing everyone to rest and have time for themselves. I personally don’t have an issue with my kids having a small amount of screentime if those goals are achieved.
5) Stay Consistent & Re-Evaluate
Almost all changes and transitions require some amount of time allowed for adjustment. If you’ve given your child clear expectations but they’re resisting, don’t turn around and change things again. It is so important that you stand firm and be consistent.
It can be exhausting to have to constantly monitor them while they learn to stay in their rooms and abide by the rules put in place. However, it is ultimately for their own good.
If you put the work in now you will reap the rewards in the future.
In saying all that, each child is different. Sometimes, there are ways to make things run more smoothly. For instance, when we first moved from nap time to rest time and I told Jack he needed to lie on his bed for 30 minutes it did not go well.
He would do summersaults and back flips. There was no ‘resting’ involved and it made us both frustrated and miserable.
So, I tried something out. I put on an audiobook. What would you know but he actually laid down on his bed and rested for the entire time. He actually has an audiobook on for almost the entire rest time now and it works really well for him.
Somehow it prevents him from getting bored but at the same time encourages him to be still and rest.
So, if things are not working, don’t be afraid to reevaluate and see if you can tweak things to make them work better for your child.
If you’re going to allow them to play with toys during that time, then pick ones you know they enjoy and keep them entertained. Taking time to put a little thought into these areas can really make the difference.
Rest time has so many benefits for the entire family. There are no hard and fast rules except to make it work for you and your child/ren. Be patient when you first make the transition. Give it time and be consistent.
Allowing them the time to rest and the opportunity to sleep is what is most important. You seriously won’t regret it.