As I’m sure it is in most households, nap time is sacred at our house. The thought of having a two-hour window on a weekend afternoon is glorious most days and losing that time means losing my sanity. I can get dishes done, pick up the toy room, get a couple hours of work done if needed, or on occasion use the time to relax – we can enjoy a nap, television shows that don’t play catchy tunes on repeat, or snacks we don’t feel like sharing.
When our second kiddo came along, nap time became a little more interesting. You can’t predict a newborn’s nap routine, so when we found ourselves having a two and a half hour block of free time one Sunday afternoon because our three week old and our three year old somehow magically synced their napping, I was in heaven. That particular afternoon just happened to coordinate with the Colts game. In those wonderful two and a half hours I got to eat lunch, watch football, AND take an unexpected nap myself (because with a newborn sleep > football).
But like everything else with kids, I know not to get comfortable, because things change quickly.
The very next weekend my three and a half year old decided he was too good for naps. When he went to his room, he looked at me and said the dreaded words, “I don’t want to nap.” The horror!! I asked him, don’t you nap at school? With a grin from ear to ear he said, “Nope! I play on my mat!” *Facepalm* I was shocked. This kid LOVES his sleep, and he NEEDS his sleep, but to be honest, bedtime has recently become an enormous struggle, and I started wondering if this was why. I left his room with us agreeing that he would at least try to nap (and he did), but it started the conversation that things might need to change and my wheels were turning.
What was best for my kid? Not sure yet, but as I mentioned with bedtime a struggle it seemed reasonable to let him try to go without a nap. But I also knew if we completely eliminated naps, we usually had a cranky toddler by dinner time or a ball of overtired overactive energy running through the house.
What was best for me and my sanity? A consistent amount of quiet time to actually get things done on weekends whether that is keeping my house from turning into a disaster or taking care of baby sister – tummy time, naps, pumping sessions, etc.
After considering it, we decided that we’d encourage “quiet time” in place of nap time. We agreed for at least 1 hour, he would stay in his room. He could nap if he wanted or stay awake and play. I say play with caution. He has minimal toys in his room, so this basically means he can look at books, play with stuffed animals, etc. In fact last week he found an extra pillowcase in his drawer and spent a good part of the hour emptying his socks into the pillowcase and carrying it around “like Santa.” Whatever works kid, because momma got an hour to fold laundry and we were both winning.
It hasn’t been all roses, I’ll say that for sure. We’ve had our fair share of days where he doesn’t want quiet time or asks for me to come get him. Some days he calls us to his room to “watch this,” and he runs around or jumps in a pile of blankets. Those days his hour is spent as anything but “quiet.” Other days he lays right down and takes a nap for a couple of hours. If you’re considering making the switch here’s a few things we’ve learned and reasons why we’re sticking with it:
- It lets him have control. Anyone else have a toddler that is fighting for independence? Exactly. It’s every toddler. This enables him to choose how he wants to spend the hour and makes him feel in control. There are very few rules because we know he’s safe in his room. Sleep? Great! Don’t want to? That’s ok too. Just be ok on your own for a set amount of time.
- It gives us all a break. Ever have a weekend where you’re just all stuck in the house going stir crazy? This is a small sliver of sanity for all.
- It encourages his imagination. He literally has an hour with no tablet or tv, no “real” toys, and no one else to play with. This pushes his imagination – like the socks in the pillowcase Santa re-enactment.
- It helps teach patience. This might also be a result of having a second child at home, but he has learned that if we are busy or if his time is not up, we likely aren’t rushing to come when he calls. We try to stick to “only call us if you have to potty” policy, but it doesn’t always work. Being able to tell him he has x amount of time remaining helps him understand he needs to wait for things.
Are there things you have tried at your house in place of naps? Are you mourning the loss of that time to yourself? Or have you embraced the extra hours with your little one? I’m somewhere in between, depending on the day, but this solution has worked really well for us. And in our house, there is magic in seeing what a little quiet time can do.