Toddler and naps go together like pillows and blankets. But on some days, your toddler just refuses to nap at all. Sounds familiar?
Here’s why sleep is important for your little one and useful tips to help your little one settle into her nap like a dream.
TODDLER SLEEP PATTERNS AND NEEDS
Because so much is going on in a toddler’s rapidly developing brain, she has a biological need to sleep during the day, as well as at night. Most toddlers have dropped the morning nap by 18 months but continue with an afternoon nap until sometime between the ages of 3 and 5. By 2, your toddler should be sleeping about an hour and a half during the day, plus 10 to 12 hours at night. It’s smart to try to keep your toddler’s daily routine consistent, with bedtime and naptimes happening at about the same time every day.
In fact, sleep is as important as nutrition to a growing toddler. A study of 2- and 3-year-olds at the University of Colorado found that those who missed a single afternoon nap showed more anxiety, less joy, and less interest. They reacted less positively to happy events and with more frustration at negative events.
WHY TODDLERS RESIST NAPS
She’s just not tired enough. Sometimes, your toddler may simply not have expended enough energy throughout the day to be really tired. She may fuss about resting, and then eventually fall asleep.
She’s too excited! Your toddler may also refuse to nap because she doesn’t want to miss anything. Sometimes things like TV, light or noise may overstimulate her and distract her from napping.
She’s asserting her independence. As toddlers get older, they may say no to everything, even things they love (cookies) or enjoy and need (sleep).
She’s getting ready to drop naps altogether. Sleeping needs vary by individual. Although most toddlers continue daily naps up to age 3, it’s possible that your toddler will gradually transit out of nap if she has consistent quality sleep and is more well rested.
HOW TO GET A TODDLER TO SLEEP
Try these tactics when your toddler refuses to sleep:
Watch for signs of sleepiness. If she says no but rubs her eyes and gets cranky, your toddler quite likely needs sleep.
Keep to a naptime routine. Going through your set nap routine can cue your child to sleep. Read a book, darken the room, or play soft music. She will remember and follow the routine.
Insist on a quiet downtime. Even if your toddler doesn’t fall asleep, have a quiet hour or so when she can get up and look at books or do something else quiet.
Try adjusting bedtime. If your child continually says no to naps, going to bed a little later but waking up at the same time may make her more tired for the next day’s nap.
Stick to a regular schedule. If you let your child sleep in on weekends, that can interfere with her napping routine and regular schedule. Disruption to a sleep pattern is not constructive to a child’s growth.