I started to panic when my daughter, then four years old, stopped sleeping during nap time. After all, I had a two year old and was expecting baby number three any day. The thought of trying to keep my preschooler entertained (and quiet) throughout the afternoon was overwhelming.
Nap time had always been the one non-negotiable time in our schedule; the stretch of time where we’d consistently be at home. So, instead of giving up nap time altogether, we decided to change our terminology and introduce the concept of “quiet time.”
Most toddlers will have one long stretch of afternoon napping until they’re preschoolers. Yet, as children approach those preschool years you may find that they aren’t able to fall asleep as easily (or even at all). What may start as an abnormal afternoon of awake time quickly changes to being unable to fall asleep the majority of the day.
In a lot of ways, quiet time isn’t all that different from nap time. You’re involving the same child at the same times in (ideally) the same location. While, from a parent’s perspective there’s not much change, children transitioning from nap time to quiet time find their world changing.
Luckily, with a bit of forethought and planning, your child can make a smooth transition from nap time to quiet time. Here are six tips to help you out along the way.
6 Tips for Transitioning from Nap Time
1. Provide Structure
One the easiest ways to provide structure is to introduce a wake-sleep clock. These clocks show a visual for when children should be sleeping (or resting during quiet time) and when it’s okay to be awake. This is especially helpful as preschoolers often don’t have a concrete sense of the passage of time.
Also, consider keeping your pre-nap routine the same. Having your child use the bathroom, reading stories, and even tucking her in will provide a consistent foundation for quiet time.
2. Provide a Location
Ideally a child’s quiet time location is the same as their nap time one. This means that if your preschooler is playing and begins to feel sleepy he can just crawl into bed.
If your older child shares a room with a napping younger one this may not be possible. Look for an alternate area that includes space to play as well as a spot to lay down and rest. Provide a pillow, blanket, and favorite stuffed animal for snuggling up with while your child reads stories or catches up on sleep.
3. Provide Activities
The biggest difference between nap time and quiet time are the activities. Plan ahead entertaining activities for your child and gather them into a special location. In general, quiet time items aren’t played with throughout other portions of the day.
Quiet time is not a time to be entertained by adults or electronics. Skip the screen time and let your child learn how to confidently engage himself.
Toys with smaller parts (not suitable for babies) are perfect companions for your child during quiet time. Here are some easy quiet time activities to gather:
- Books - Regularly rotate the book selection or check out new titles from the library.
- Puzzles - Find the balance between a challenging puzzle without causing frustration.
- Learning Games - Alphabet and Number matching games and puzzles are perfect quiet time companions.
- Pattern Blocks - Perfect for building shapes or pictures, pattern blocks are fun to use.
- Pretend Play - Dolls can be fun to read stories to and snuggle with during quiet time.
4. Provide Reminders
Even with pre-planning, children transitioning from nap time to quiet time will need gentle reminders about expected behavior. Consider coming up with a phrase that you can recite together at the beginning of nap time. In our house we say, “Quiet time is a chance to quiet your mouth, slow your body, and busy your hands.”
Teaching kids to slow down and play quietly is a process; don’t give up.
If children emerge from their quiet time area early, walk them back, with the reminder that the wake-up clock will tell them when rest time is over. If this is a continual problem, consider shortening the length of quiet time until your child is finding success for a shortened amount of time. Then gradually increase the time of each day’s rest by 5-10 minutes until you’ve returned to the length that fits your family’s needs.
5. Provide Rewards (if Necessary)
Teaching new routines can be smooth-sailing or feel tedious. There’s nothing wrong with rewarding your child after a successful quiet time.
Here are some easy rewards you might consider:
- Playing a Game Together
- Creating with Paints or Play Dough
- Having Screen Time
- Visiting Your Local Library
6. Provide a Quiet Time Culture
The transition from nap time to quiet time is most successful if it’s part of your whole family’s routine. Resist the urge to pull out the vacuum or do other loud chores and consider sitting yourself down for a bit of quiet while your child rests.
If possible, plan to continue quiet time throughout the weekends. This will give the most consistency. As your children age their quiet time activities will likely change but there’s nothing wrong with having a set amount of time that your family devotes to resting and regrouping.
After all, one of the best ways to stay sane as a mom is to make sure you’ve found a bit of time for yourself.
More Sleep Routine Articles
Starting a Sleep Routine for Your Baby - Linda Scruggs
Teething and Maintaining Sleep Routines - Linda Scruggs
Maintain Sleep Routines During the Busyness of the Holidays - Annie Wiesman