How to Make Nap Time Easier for Toddlers

By Nicole Schmoll
Help your toddler learn to love nap time.
Help your toddler learn to love nap time.

Ask a toddler if he wants to take a nap and the answer will almost always be an emphatic and resounding “No!” Research studies show that children between the ages of 2 and 5 can benefit from a daily nap of one to two hours in length. Parents must help their toddlers settle into the routine of a daily nap. Even as children outgrow their need for sleep during the day, parents can still help them enjoy a slow, quiet portion of the day, which will help them have the energy they need for the afternoon and evening.

Think through your schedule for the day. Make a column on a sheet of paper that lists time in hours, starting with the hour your child wakes up and the time he goes to bed. Fill in meals and at least 30 minutes of active playtime during the day. Plan in a time for a daily nap.

Select a time, perhaps in the early afternoon when you notice your child tends to get cranky, fussy or even sleepy. Consider making nap time follow lunch each day. Schedule in 1 1/2 hours for a midday nap.

Prepare your child for his nap time, particularly if he has not had a consistent nap time for awhile. Show him the schedule, and tell him that today you are starting a new habit and that he will have a nap today and every day. Explain that even though he doesn’t want to take one, that a nap is good for him and will help him grow big and strong.

Remind your child throughout the day that nap time is coming and try to describe it as a fun, enjoyable activity. Transition to nap time by engaging your child in a quiet activity after lunch, such as reading or listening to quiet, calming music.

Lay your child down in his bed or on a cot in a quiet room. Choose a consistent time and place for your child’s nap and stick with it. Dim the lights and shut the blinds so that the room is darkened. Play soft, calming music, if desired, for the child. Give your child a hug and kiss. Consider offering a reward, such as the opportunity to go to the park or enjoy a special snack if the child lays down and takes a nap without fighting, crying or screaming.

Help your child transition out of nap time and back into play or awake time by gently waking him after two hours with a calm, soft voice. Plan a quiet activity like reading or sitting on the couch together for 10 to 15 minutes as he wakes. Understand that all children are different and some wake easier than others.

Things You Will Need

  • Quiet, dimly lit room
  • Bed or cot
  • Timer or watch

Tip

Resist the urge to lay down with your toddler to help him fall asleep. Avoid frustration by taking a deep breath, walking away if necessary, and interacting with your toddler in a patient, even tone.

If your toddler refuses to nap after a week or two of enforcing a daily nap time, give him books or quiet toys and train him to use that time to play quietly by himself in his room.