Ah, the beauty of a nap – peaceful, serene, comforting. For a child, however, it may seem like a sentence of doom that’s cause for fits of crying and protest.
According to WebMD*, "Napping conserves energy," explains Charles Shubin, MD, medical director of the Children's Health Center of Mercy Family Care in Baltimore and an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland. "When going through a growth spurt, an infant or toddler will sleep more and eat more because the energy demand that growth creates is tremendous," says Shubin, also an assistant professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
Naps are not only beneficial to children, but to exhausted parents, who may take those quiet moments to catch up on a few winks themselves.
Some things to note: babies will need more sleep than small children, every kid has different sleep patterns and needs, and there is no magic answer to hasten the journey into dreamland.
So how can you make it happen? From where does that fountain of Zen-filled peacefulness spring? When kids are fighting naps, there are plenty of ideas floating about.
1) Make a routine.
– Try to figure out what time(s) of day are best for a nap. Schedule other consistent things around nap time, like story time or snack time. Keep everything in the same order and be consistent.
– If even the word “nap” sets off a storm of protest, attempt using words like “rest” or “sleep” or “quiet time” to help avoid whatever negative connotations “nap” may incur.
– Make the 10-15 minutes before nap time a “prep” time. This should be a transition of going from doing activities into becoming calm and settled.
2) Staying in bed.
– Even if your little one isn’t drifting off right away, make nap time a commitment to quiet time, leaving him or her in bed for the entire nap cycle.
– Try to keep nap time to a set time frame. Don’t cut it short, or let it go longer than your standard time.
3) Environmental factors.
– No toys or distractions in bed, including a bottle: these can draw focus from rest time.
– Don’t use a TV as a soother, it’s really just another diversion from sleep.
– Darken the room, like it’s night time.
– Keep a comfortable room temperature: sometimes a little cooler is better.
– Make sure the area is quiet.
4) Don’t fall for it!
– Stall tactics such as needing that drink of water or needing to find another stuffed animal should be dealt with lovingly, but firmly.
What are some of our Facebook Friends saying about getting kids to nap???
Emily O – A reward system always worked pretty well in this house!!! "When you wake up, we get to…"
Christina W – Music! A CD.
Laurie PH – We had a sticker reward chart. So many “sleeps” meant getting to do an activity or to get an item they wanted. We also used the same CD of Chinese lullaby’s for bedtime or nap time. Consistency and similar rituals help with sleep. We also used the same CD of Chinese lullaby’s for bedtime or nap time. Consistency and similar rituals help with sleep.
Jeanette F – As he became older, it wasn't "nap time" it was "rest time" where as long as he stayed in his bed he could look at books while listening to music. He lasted a few minutes and then was snoring away. Keeping it at a consistent time every day (including the weekends) really helped.
Gordon W – We use music to help Bella sleep. They do it at the day care center, also, as something that calms them down. Bella listens to music that she listened to in the womb and on her day of birth.
Jesse S – The only time my kids take naps is if we go for a 20 min or more drive in the car… they wake up most times when transferring them from car to house. They do take naps when they have real active days, but that is usually late in the day and more likely going to bed early, which is better, I think (trading nap time for early bedtime).
Regardless of tactics, consult with your family physician if you are concerned about your child’s napping habits – parents know best when their gut is telling them something is "off". If you're uncertain, check out possible medical issues that could be hindering a child’s sleep.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons- http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/10/Louis-%26-Chanel-taking-a-nap.jpg