Getting Young Children to Nap

            Good sleeping habits are crucial for promoting healthy child development. Along with providing the energy needed for appropriate growth and development, adequate sleep patterns improve behavior and other cognitive processes that support learning, memory, emotional regulation and attention. When children are not getting enough sleep, physical ailments like hypertension, obesity, depression and other bodily injuries can occur. Even in times of disruption to their daily routine, it is important that parents, as well as caregivers, encourage a daily routine that supports adequate and restful sleep patterns for children. 

            The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends infants aged 4 to 12 months sleep on an average of 12 to 16 hours per day. The Academy also recommends that children aged 1 to 2 years should sleep a total of 11 to 14 hours a day. Children aged three to 5 years should be sleeping approximately 10 to 13 hours a day. All sleep recommendations include hours for both overnight sleep; as well as, a consistent schedule for napping at least once throughout the day.

It is normal for young children to fight napping on a daily basis. The following tips can help parents and caregivers figure out the best ways to get your young child to nap:

Stick to a Routine

Even if your child claims he or she is not tired, make it a point to allocate the same period of time each day for “relaxation time”. Whether that is laying your child down in a quiet room or playing relaxing music; incorporate this time into your child’s routine so he or she knows to expect it each day.  Even if they do not actually nap during each relaxation period, it will still give them the chance to calm down and take a break from the day’s activities. 

Nap-Bedtime Balance

Although we try our best as parents to maintain a set routine for our children, unexpected disruptions are bound to occur, and that is ok! What is important is that the gap between nap time and bed time gets back to normal as soon as possible. One solution to restore normalcy is to slowly push forward bedtime the following night by 15 minutes, then the following night by 15 more minutes, until the gap between nap time and bed time is restored. 

Make it A Family Ritual

Nothing gets in the way of a child’s nap time more than an older sibling keeping that child stimulated by not being willing to fall asleep. Get around this challenge by having the older sibling assist in the “naptime” ritual—this can include having the older brother/sister help make the child’s bed or even help lay the child down for his or her nap. In addition to making that older child feel competent, he or she will also appreciate the extra attention given to them now that the younger child is napping. 

Be Persistent

As we all know, not every child enjoys napping; many would much rather climb out of bed and wander around the house during nap time. When this occurs, be firm with your child and remind them that “nap time” is for napping. When this occurs, it is okay to lead your child back to his or her bed during nap time, even if he or she does not seem to enjoy it – tantrums are expected during this time. Ideally after a few weeks of firm redirecting, the child should begin to get the idea.

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