Sometimes getting a toddler to go down for their afternoon nap can be trying and exhausting. I’ve run into this recently with my 2 ½ year old son. He has been in a bed for about 5 months and over that 5 month period there are days when I don’t need to go to the gym because I’ve gone up and down our stairs 20 times to tell him to get back into bed. But I must say this happens fairly infrequently because I follow the steps below:
1. Wear them out – Get them outside, if the weather is bad get to an indoor play area. If you’re like me and have another child home napping so can’t leave the house all the time, play tag, chase, hide and seek, ring around the rosey, dance, anything to tucker them out.
2. Bedtime Routine – Every nap time my son knows that we’ll change his diaper (I know, I really need to start potty training him soon), put on his pjs and I sing him a couple of songs to try and transition him into bedtime mode. Any type of routine is good, particularly one that helps them shift gears into a calmer state of mind.
3. Comforting Items – My son puts himself to sleep. I sing to him but I leave his room when he is awake so he depends on his blanket, his stuffed monkey and his aquarium to help him sleep. We had his aquarium in his crib when he was an infant and he relied on it so much that we attached it to his bed and he still uses it every day. This is probably the best piece of equipment we’ve ever purchased.
4. Have Rules – I am big on rules because I believe they are important for safety reasons and for providing limits for my children. Napping rules are that you have to stay in bed. Mommy gets upset when she comes upstairs and I’m not in (or on) my bed (I tell him I’m upset, I don’t actually get upset). He can reach his bookshelf from his bed so sometimes I find him reading a book on his bed, which is totally fine by me.
5. Patience and Persistence – When we first transitioned to a bed there was one extremely frustrating week of trying to get him to stay in bed. I spent a lot of time just outside his bedroom door. Once we finally got through that and the novelty wore off, nap time became easier. However, I still have days where he won’t go down easily. In the beginning I tried negotiating with him or using threats ‘you won’t be able to watch Cars this afternoon if you don’t have a nap’. I have found that threats don’t work for us, so I don’t use them. It never produces the result I want, even though in the past I always followed through on them. What I eventually realized was that I was putting him to bed too early, so since then I’ve modified his nap time to an hour or two later and it has made a significant difference.
I have yet to give up on a nap, I almost did today which is why I started to write this. But I persisted even though I had gone up there 10 times to ask him to get back into bed. I’ve decided that calmly asking him to get back into bed and then getting him resettled is the best way to get him to go to sleep. Getting frustrated or short with him doesn’t improve the situation. The reason he isn’t sleeping is because he isn’t tired yet, not because he’s trying to make me mad. It took me a little while to come to that realization. In the end my patience has always beat his ability to stay awake, so eventually he falls asleep. Sometimes eventually lasts for 60-90 minutes, but its worth it because then I get my alone time. Ahhhhhh…so dreamy.