How Can We Get Our Toddler To Nap Outside the Car?

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  • November 20, 2014

Would you like me to answer your baby sleep problem in my next video? If so, scroll down and submit your question in the comment section below. I will pick several questions a month to answer and post them here on the blog!


Hi, Kim West, The Sleep Lady and in today’s vlog, I’m going to answer this parent’s question:

“How to get our 2-year-old to take naps? She sleeps great at night, 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. but just won’t nap unless she’s in a car riding around. We took away her pacifier at Christmas and it’s going well, but she stopped taking a nap and she gets so sleepy and wakes up during the night if she doesn’t nap. We’ve tried your method and she will play for a solid hour in her room and scream sometimes. Should we be forcing a nap by riding her in the car everyday almost just to get her to nap?”

First of all, I’m so happy to hear that she used to have great sleep. You know, it is a tough time to take away the pacifier at 2. Sometimes (with a doctor’s support), I have even encouraged a parent to keep it a little longer until their child has language. But nonetheless, you did it and good for her and for you, but you can see this is hard for her.


Talk to Your Toddler


If your daughter is pretty verbal for a 2-year-old, talk to her and see if there’s something else that she could snuggle with, or even suck on to help replace the pacifier. Now, I’m not saying another pacifier of course, but a blanket or even a stuffed animal. Once you’ve got that figured out, I really would continue to try every day for an hour nap in her room. You can check on her, but I would recommend that you get a toddler clock and tell her, “We have to stay quietly in our room until the wake up light comes on.” You can’t force her to go to sleep, but let her know that, “We’re going to have that same bedtime routine, with a room darkening shade. We have to lie quietly in our bed and try to go to sleep.”


Dramatic Wake Up


Question of the week (1)If at the end of the hour, she’s still not asleep, then do what I call dramatic wake up: nap time is over, and it’s time to have a snack. I usually find at this age that after about 2 or 3 (maximum) days with no nap, children start to have a personality change for the worse, and you’ve already seen that with her starting to wake at night. Becasuse of this, I would take a car nap every other day, but only after you’ve tried the 1-hour in her room. Be careful not to say, “ You didn’t sleep. So, now we have to get in the car,” because I’ve had children say, “Oh, going in the car now?” Children are so smart!

Again, I would have a snack after her hour. You need to break the association. After her snack, maybe say, “Oh, we’re going to go run some errands. Come on, let’s get in the car.” Try not to make it too late in the afternoon and then allow her to nap at least 45 minutes so that she’s not falling apart at bedtime. You might have to give her a slightly earlier bedtime during this period, moving it back to 7:00 p.m.

I hope that helps.

Video filmed by In Focus Studios

If you have experienced a similar situation, please share! Supporting each other makes parenting so much easier!

Kim West
Kim is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been a practicing child and family therapist for more than 24 years, and the creator of the original gentle, proven method to get a good night’s sleep for you and your child. She is the author of The Sleep Lady's Good Night Sleep Tight, its companion Workbook and 52 Sleep Secrets for Babies. Click here to read more about her.

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