to nap, or not to nap that is the question

Johanna asked a question in the comment section of my last post which I felt was worthy of a post all it’s own. Nap time.

My children all stopped napping by the time they were two and a half. Not by my doing. I wish that they would still nap. Two naps a day would be nice! So perhaps I am not the best person to give advice on how to make your older children nap. Though really, I don’t think you can make your children do anything.

For me, however, the daily struggle became too much work for not that great of a pay off, especially when there was a younger child who was sleeping and would be constantly woken up by the older child. That alone would drive me to the brink of insanity.

I have tried allowing the child to look quietly at books or listen to a CD of stories in bed. This worked really well with some of my children. Others wanted nothing to do with it. It definitely had to do with their personality types.

And now that I have older children who are involved in activities, we are frequently not even home when it would be naptime.

When I was a child my mother made me nap until I was in first grade, even though I didn’t need to nap. Though she will insist to this day that I did. I also had to go to bed every night at 7:00 when I could look out my window and see all the other children still playing outside for hours. But that is another issue I suppose. I would lay there at naptime for two hours, wide awake, bored out of my skull. Does anyone else besides me remember how slowly time passed when you were a child? I swore that I would never do that to my kids.

My daughter, who is 3.5 years old now, frequently has “couch time” in the afternoon. I tuck her in on the couch with her special blanket and turn on a movie or show that will hold her interest. If she is tired enough she will fall asleep.

In the afternoon when my youngest son takes his nap, and my daughter has “couch time” I am off-duty for an hour. I tell the children that it is my time. I am not playing games, mediating fights, fixing snacks, etc etc. Usually I sit and check email, compose posts like this one, read other blogs. They get it. They understand that I need to have time to do something I want to do, just like they have that time during the day.

The upside I have found is that bedtime is usally earlier and smoother if there isn’t napping happening during the day.

16 Responses to “to nap, or not to nap that is the question”

  1. Wendy Says:

    This post makes me feel a little better. My son, who is almost 8 mos old, doesnt sleep as much as my daugther did. Of course, I have been fighting with this since he was born, because every baby needs to sleep. Amber would have 2 naps until she was about 9 mos old, then she went to 1. All these naps were 2 hours long. She would go to bed at around 530-6pm every night. If she didnt get this sleep she was a bear to deal with and would be up most of the night. This worked well for her. Even at 4 yrs old, she needs her sleep, kinda like her mommy. She doesnt nap, but she does like to lay in her bed with her storyreader for an hour. She still goes to bed at 630-7pm, especially when going to school.

    My son doesnt sleep according to what the books or other professionals think he should. Believe me I have talked to everyone. He would take cat naps and if you move him he is awake. I have been told that every child can be moved while sleeping, if they are really tired. I wont go into what I think of that. At this point, we can get one good nap in, which I think he needs, but one nap is all he needs. He had 2 naps, yesterday, and was a nightmare at night. So, no more 2nd naps for him.

    It is nice to know that it is normal and that they will sleep when they need to. It took awhile for me to realize how different kids were. I guess I needed a brick to hit me in the face.


  2. debby Says:

    I also remember being in bed while it was light outside watching other children play. And I never wanted to do that to my children, either.

    When they stopped napping, around 2-1/2, I didn’t force them to continue. I did, however, insist that they play in their rooms quietly for an hour or so in the afternoon. I love my kids, really I do, but I’m a much better mom when they aren’t hanging on me every. single. moment. My son would build legos while his little sister napped, my daughter would play with toys and sing, and I would do nothing particularly exciting, but I would be doing it ALONE! This continued until they were about 5.

    My children are nearly grown (15 & 19), proving that they didn’t die from this terrible neglect.

  3. hannah Says:

    My first child napped so well I took it for granted. My third child (17mths) will only nap when his body finally gives in, to his great frustration, and can carry him no longer. I wish he’d have a proper nap because now, unlike with no.1, I could really use that spare time better. When I tried to *make* him have naptime I found I used to get frustrated with the other 2 for not being deathly silent because he is such a light sleeper or will not go to sleep if he thinks there is something better to do with his sisters. I didn’t think that was fair on them so I gave up the expectation.

  4. Kimmer Says:

    My 4.5 & 7.5 year old both still have “quiet time” almost every day. They rarely nap, but are expected to play quietly for an hour or so after lunch. “Quietly” is a relative term, and the payoff is more for me than for them, but it’s working for us. Since sleep is rarely involved, it doesn’t affect bedtime.

  5. Leslie Says:

    What I don’t understand is that my 3 year old will dutifully nap at daycare with all the other kids for 2+ hours but fights me tooth and nail at home on the weekends. There is one instance where peer pressure is good!! :) BTW, I couldn’t see anywhere to email you — I’d love if you addressed the question of bathtimes — I hate bathtime and avoid it until I can see the fumes coming off my kiddos. How do you handle so many bathtimes and how often does everyone get a bath? Thanks, I LOVE your blog!

  6. marta Says:

    Although so different, all my 3 children nap. My oldest, who’s 6, stopped napping at school when he was 4 and 1/2 but would voluntarily nap at home until he was… well, til now. On our summer vacation, at the beach, he’d lie down under the shade and sleep for two solid hours. He still does it on weekends, occasionally, and even if he sleeps for 2 hours (say, between 2 and 4pm), he’ll easily fall asleep at night by 10pm. My daughter, who’s 4 and 1/2, is the only child in her class who’ll ask to be allowed to nap. My youngest, at 18 months, naps for two and 1/2 hours everyday (between 2 and 4-ishpm). During school time they all go to sleep at 9pm, without any fuss. In fact, they’ve never fussed over going to sleep. I don’t want to sound smug but I’d say it’s really a matter of luck and chance. In my family we’re all good, long sleepers, so maybe that’s a bit genetic or something.
    Mind you, as I’m always expecting to have those 2 hours for myself everyday, if something goes wrong (ie, one of them won’t sleep or wakes up earlier than usual), I go bonkers. Sometimes I think I wouldn’t have survived til now if it weren’t for the naps and my ALONE time. And then I realize it’s just a question of luck and I thank whomever for making me so lucky. And they’re adorable and energetic, which is kind of a plus, isn’t it?

    Love your two blogs!

    Marta from Lisbon

  7. Jennifer Says:

    My four children were pretty much done with naps by the time they were 2.5. With my oldest, I fought it tooth & nail, but as each child came, I became less and less concerned about keeping up the nap, especially if the nap meant that the oldest 2 kids were down at 7 pm and the napper was up until 9:30pm!!! So what I learned to do, was, as soon as 2 yr old gives up the nap, just move up bedtime a little earlier, maybe an hour or so. It really was a much better trade off, especially if you have older children who have homework and stuff to do in the evening.

  8. Sue Says:

    my first son gave up napping at 18 months… from about 15 months the whole thing was traumatic because he did NOT want to sleep directly after lunch, and at that age refused to be left alone if he was not asleep. But he would then drop off around 4pm, have a lovely siesta, and then wouldn’t get to sleep again until at least midnight. So it was a great relief when he gave up the daytime nap and then fell asleep around 8pm. He never has needed much sleep; even as a tiny baby he never had more than 14 hours in a day when he was asleep.

    My second son, however, continued napping until he was past two, much to my amazement. And insisted on being tucked up in bed by about 7.30 at night. They are, indeed, all different.

  9. Brenda Says:

    I think kids know how much sleep they need, if you let them fall into their own schedule. However sometimes that schedule is impossible for you to do, so then what?

    I try not to get into any “bad” habits. I try not to have baby rely on a) white noise to stay asleep b) no noise to stay asleep c) TV to fall asleep (Yes my 6 month old likes TV, how did I become such a bad momma?) I *think* that one of those soothing tv thingies in the crib would help him fall asleep HOWEVER he goes through spurts of falling asleep on his own and I would prefer he keep that habit and not rely on some “thing” if he can’t fall asleep alone there is always momma’s milk, momma’s snuggles or momma’s bouncing.

    However I really truely miss the schedule, we used to have one, now we are teething, eating solids and generally all over the place. So is everything else in my life. Oh well it was almost time for the christmas craziness anyway

  10. The Lazy Organizer Says:

    Who cares if THEY nap as long as I get one!

    I take a ten minute nap on the couch and I force my six and eight year old to sit by me and read while I sleep. It’s the only way I can keep them quiet for 10 minutes!

    My one year old takes a FOUR HOUR NAP! Have you ever heard of such a thing? It’s Lovely.

  11. jody2ms Says:

    That sounds much like how we do things at our house. If Mia sleeps, she sleeps. If not, well, I try not to fight her.

    My biggest problem is that sometime she falls asleep so late in the afternoon that I have to wake her to pick up the boys from school….waking Mia is a no-no. She is a bear.

    Will have to try your couch time.

  12. Mama T. Says:

    My 14 month old still takes 2 naps a day and goes down by 8 p.m. She shows no signs of dropping the morning nap and I’m just fine with that because it gives me that time to shower/start laundry/clean/get things done that I can’t do otherwise.

    She didn’t get in her morning nap at daycare the other day which led to a long afternoon nap and going to bed at 7:40 and sleeping until 7:20 the next morning when I finally had to rouse her. Which is fine and all, but we leave for the day at 7:30 and it made things a bit hectic. My daycare lady asked me if I wanted her to stop putting her down for her morning nap and after thinking about it for a second, I told her no. I’ll take my 1 1/2 hour morning and 2 hour afternoon free time for now thank-you-very-much.

  13. Christina Says:

    My 5 and 3yo have given up daily naps, but the 3yo will put herself to bed after lunch if she’s tired. My 17 mo naps almost every afternoon, but if after 1/2 hour in his crib awake he gets to come out and play and just go to bed a little earlier that night. They are all different, too.

  14. Nic in Australia Says:

    I think quiet-time is really important for kids to learn to spend even 30 minutes on their own, amusing themselves. It is also essential in our house because we have a rule “Happy mummy = Happy family” and I NEED my quiet time (read - time on my own) just like Chris.

    I’m so glad I found this blog!

  15. Jen Says:

    If I’m still taking a nap at 35, my children sure as heck will be taking them until they are old enough for college. That’s all I have to say about that.

  16. My Full Hands Says:

    Ah, I read this post as I just got my 2.5 year old twins to sleep for their first nap this week. For my older childern things have usually gone as you described, with a quiet time replacing nap time as they no longer need it. I’m afraid I am going to have to get creative with these two, however. One can get by just fine without an afternoon nap, the other will fall asleep in his dinner.

    We just put them in their “big beds” so of course they now have free range of the room. Todays trick was to wait outside of the door and peak in every time they get out of bed. Not very fun.

    I may have to resort to seperating them for nap time. Not sure how that would go over.

    I wish my one that needs a nap would just fall asleep while watching a video (he hasn’t yet)! Then his sister could get her quiet time in and he wouldn’t be the king of crabbiness by 6:00pm.