Nap Time Across the Ages

What if nap time didn’t have to phase out as soon as your toddler or preschooler decided to stop sleeping?

Perhaps one of the comments I hear most often from parents with older children is fondness for the days their children used to nap and lament for not having napping children anymore.  

But what if napping didn’t have to phase out as soon as your toddler or preschooler decided to stop sleeping? What if you could extend a modified nap time into the early school years?  

In our family of seven, rest time is our normal and something that everyone participates in. Here are some of the things we’ve learned about nap time through the ages. 

Nap Time Across the Ages

Napping Baby 

Nap time for baby is an absolute necessity. Not only do babies require more sleep than older children, but parents need moments to recharge after caring for baby all day.  

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One of my biggest goals with baby’s schedule is to make sure afternoon naps line up across the ages.  

This means I often encourage a shorter morning nap (an hour or less) and then wake baby up for a good stretch of playtime. In my experience, too long of a morning nap decreases the amount of solid sleep throughout the afternoon. Take a look at some possible napping routines for your baby.  

Napping Toddler 

Toddler nap time is quite similar to baby’s, with the exception that toddlers generally have dropped a morning nap and are taking one solid nap each afternoon. 

The long morning with no nap can be a struggle for toddlers, but I find that a small morning snack and focused playtime with an adult helps them stay awake through the late morning.  

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An early lunch, a bit of playtime, and an early afternoon nap are my keys to success. 

Resting Preschooler 

As my children transition from toddler to preschooler, they begin to have days where they’re unable, or unwilling, to sleep in the afternoon.  

This is the golden opportunity to introduce a rest time. 

In all honesty, rest time looks very similar to a traditional nap time.
Same child, same location, same time of day. 

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The difference comes in the activity choice.

We keep a stash of special activities our preschooler only gets to do in the afternoon. Pattern blocks, puzzles, favorite stories, and age-appropriate games are all good options. 

One of the biggest lessons to teach during this transition period is how to play appropriately, alone, for the duration of rest time. It’s a training process for kids to stay focused in quiet, individual play without emerging countless times. At first you might be giving lots of reminders, but consistency with expectations is your key to success. 

We often tell our preschooler that rest time is a chance to quiet their mouths, slow their bodies, and busy their hands. 

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Resting School-Aged Child 

By the time our school-aged children get to the end of a week, they’re ready for an old-fashioned rest time.  

Similar to a preschooler, our bag of tricks includes activities and independent projects that we save for when the house is resting. Building toys, art projects, single-player games, and books are some of our favorites. 

Our school-aged children look forward to this break from their siblings and time to do a project of their choosing. They’ve carved out their own spaces in our house for their rest times and can often be found deep in thought with some invention. 

Rest time has a designated ending time for our school-aged kids and typically lasts between 1-2 hours.  

Of course our days, like yours, are flexible. Family outings, holidays, and playdates impact our schedule. But when we’re feeling strung out and needing some normal, a good rest time is just the fix. 

Has your family experienced the transition from nap time to rest time? How have you made it work?

For more on this and other Age-related topics check out the award-winning On Becoming series of books here.

Jess Wartinger

Jess Wartinger

Jess Wartinger resides in rural New York with her husband and five children. Formerly an early elementary teacher, Jess currently spends her time loving her kids and holding down the fort at home.

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