Toddler Naps: Transitioning from Naps to Quiet Time

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  • September 06, 2009

quiet timeNaps to quiet time can bring a big transition for the whole family! Many families ask me at what age do children give up their naps. On average children give up their afternoon nap at 4 years old. That being said, I have worked with many 3-3 1/2 year olds who successfully give up their daily afternoon nap (these children are sleeping through the night). Watching your child’s behavior is of course more important than averages.

With the two-and-a-half- or three-year-old, you still need to be vigilant about daily naps. He can skip an occasional one, but put him to bed earlier that night. Naps also remain essential for older children who aren’t sleeping through the night or who are obviously tired during the day. Even when your child stops napping, quiet time in the late afternoon or before dinner is a must for three and four-year-olds, and a wise idea for five-year-olds, unless you actually like watching your child melt down.

The simplest way to tell whether a preschooler or kindergartener needs a nap is to watch him. If your child is getting about eleven hours of unfragmented sleep at night and seems well rested, cheerful and easy going during the day, it may be time to go from naps to quiet time. You might want to cut out naps every other day, rather than eliminate them completely, or you may find that he naps great on the days he’s with his sitter or at preschool but won’t nap on days he’s with you (or vice versa). If he is cranky or teary or frequently melting down, he probably needs at least a few naps a week. Car behavior is also a good clue. If he conks out every time you start your engine, he probably still needs that afternoon snooze. Children who were good nappers but who now take a very long time to fall asleep in the afternoon may also be ready to phase out the nap and start quiet time.

Quiet time is exactly what it sounds like, about forty- five minutes of structured, solitary play, preferably at about the same time every afternoon. It’s a time for children to rest their bodies and, to a lesser extent, their minds. It helps pave the way for a peaceful dinner hour and easy bedtime. Good activities include looking at books, watching an age-appropriate, calm children’s video (leave fast-paced, action-packed cartoons for another time), coloring, or playing in their room with dolls, trains, trucks, or the like. The activity should not need a lot of adult interaction or supervision, so make sure the child is in a safe place. Some parents use a timer or alarm clock in their child’s room or in the hallway so their child knows when quiet time is over.

Remind your child that in all-day preschool, all children have to lay down on a cot for quiet time- to read, relax their body and brain or snooze if they need to! Don’t forget quiet time can be a powerful tool to recharge parents, too! Make sure you take time to practice what you preach and enjoy the quiet time away from your child. Dishes and laundry do NOT recharge our minds and bodies no matter how hard we try! Find a quiet space to go to and enjoy your own piece of peace!

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photo credit: mliu92 via photopin cc

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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3 Comments

  • Tacy says:

    My five-year old has trouble falling asleep unless I rub her back and talk to her as I have been doing for the past few years. It takes her about an hour to fall asleep. She sleeps on an elevated bed so this means that I am standing for a full hour. I leave her room exhausted and resentful. Any suggestions?

  • […] If your child is getting about eleven hours of unfragmented sleep at night and seems well rested during the day, it may be time to go from naps to quiet time. You might want to cut out naps every other day, rather than eliminate them completely, or you may find that he naps great on the days he’s with his sitter or at preschool but won’t nap on days he’s with you (or vice versa). Children who were good nappers but who now take a very long time to fall asleep in the afternoon may also be ready to phase out the nap and start quiet time. […]

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