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No More Naps!

Dr. Patricia Nan Anderson

Health, Wellness, & Safety

Considering how much parents like a nap when they can get one, it’s funny how eager children are to give them up. Toddlers who clearly are running on empty resist falling asleep and defiantly declare that they are not tired at all.

It’s not unusual for children as young as 18 months or two years to seem to want to give up all naps. Don’t be fooled. Children up to three years old need 12 or 14 hours of sleep in every 24 hours. It’s unlikely your little person is getting all of that at night. When you get resistance to napping from a toddler, just switch up your napping routine a bit but don’t quit the nap.

Kids used to nap more than they do now. In the 1950’s and 60’s, kindergartens (which met for only half a day) always included naptime. Today, even Head Start programs for three-year-olds have deleted the nap. Part of this can be attributed to the hectic pace of modern life, with something going on every minute. The boredom that used to send young kids to bed each afternoon just doesn’t exist anymore. And part of the lack of napping can be attributed to lack of insistence on napping. Where once preschoolers were sent to their beds for an hour each day at 3:00, whether they were tired or not, now parents hesitate to impose such an arbitrary requirement. Parents also are reluctant to commit themselves to being home each day in time for nap.

But there’s nothing wrong with imposing a nap requirement and there’s a lot to be said for some downtime during the day. If you want to make a nap part of your child’s daily routine or if you think he needs it, then simply plan for it. Clear your schedule each day so a nap can happen; at the designated hour, pull down the shades, turn down the radio and your cell phone, and let everyone rest. Older kids (and you) might not sleep but might spend this time reading, though there’s nothing that says they can’t sleep.

Preschool children who nap regularly will need to wean themselves away from this delightful habit in time to attend full-time school. And at that point, the child’s bedtime may need to be adjusted to add in the sleep that used to be got during naptime. By the same token, children who have trouble getting to sleep at night may not need their naps and should be kept active in the afternoon.

Downtime of some sort is good for everyone. One of the criteria for creativity, after all, is time to think. We all need a bit of a break in order to be at our very best. So instead of rushing you and your older child straight from school to piano lessons on Monday, straight to karate on Tuesday, and so on and so on, try to plan in half an hour or so for your child just to catch his breath.

If you and your child have been living too hectic a life lately, try scheduling in time for nothing. It’s true you might find that this takes some getting used to. But see what new ideas and solutions occur to you when you just hang out and let your mind relax. Naps. Fit one in today!


© 2012, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved.

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Dr. Patricia Nan Anderson

Dr. Patricia Anderson is a nationally acclaimed educational psychologist and the author of “Parenting: A Field Guide.” Dr. Anderson is on the Early Childhood faculty at Walden University and she is a Contributing Editor for Advantage4Parents.