6 Helpful Tips to Get Your Toddler Napping

Thank you to @the.peaceful.sleeper for this blog post!

Toddlers are a whole different ball game. They’re more mobile and more willful than when they were newborns, and their toddler FOMO is skyrocketing. 

Around two-years old, your toddler will try and fake you out and make you think that they’re ready to drop naps altogether. Don’t fall for it! Naps are still very important for your toddler for a couple of reasons:

  • They need to let their brains rest – Your toddler is growing and learning so much that naps are essential to foster that growth 
  • Naps help regulate everything- their emotions, social and intellectual development, and physical development
  • Gives them quiet time – teaches toddlers to quiet their minds and let their energetic bodies get some rest

If you’re going through this two-year sleep regression, hang in there! Toddlers are more willful and don’t want to miss out on anything that’s happening. Here are six helpful tips to help you get through this sleep regression hump and set up your toddler for success when it comes to naps:

  • Be consistent with your boundaries & routines
Toddlers can be very strong-willed, so it’s important to create boundaries and be consistent with them! They will always try to push them, but stay strong and stay consistent. It’s also important to keep your sleep routines consistent. If you keep their rooms as the sleep space, then they will start to connect their beds and rooms as a quiet place to sleep and relax. They may protest here and there but you’ll probably be fairly confident that they’re not distressed.

  • Be realistic with your expectations

I know it can be frustrating when your toddler refuses to fall asleep for a nap, but you need to let go of the expectation that they’re going to sleep every time. Instead of focusing on whether or not they nap, we need to let go of the sleeping part and just put our attention towards quiet time. Quiet time requires that they are in their rooms for one hour, whether or not they sleep. Toddlers who need naps will eventually fall asleep, but you have to give them the space and time to do so. Again, even if they don’t sleep the quiet, independent play is good for them. After a few weeks their exhaustion will catch up to them and they’ll start to fall asleep during quiet time.

  • Burn off energy before naps

Toddlers seem to have an endless amount of energy, but doing fun activities outside or mentally challenging activities can really tucker your little one out and prime them for a good nap. Try and keep screen time and sugar consumption to a minimum before a nap (and bedtime) as well.

  • Use same sleep space

Again, it’s about staying consistent. Make sure that their bed and room are designated sleep zones where they know that’s where they need to be quiet and sleep, not go nuts and play with all of their most exciting toys. Toys in the room should be more along the lines of puzzles, stuffed animals, and books.

  • Start a pre-nap routine

Having a routine cues your toddler that it’s time to start winding down and getting ready for a nap/quiet time. It’s also important to keep you toddler informed about naps/quiet time. Springing nap time/quiet time on them will catch them off guard and cause them to protest. It could also be hard for them to start winding down if there’s a sibling grabbing their attention, so have them be part of the pre-nap routine too. An easy pre-nap routine you probably already have in place is lunch time. Eat lunch, clean up, and head upstairs.

  • Use incentives!

Using incentives is a great way to make your toddler cooperate during their quiet time/ nap time. Use a system that works with your toddler. With my oldest, we used her “OK to Wake” clock to help set boundaries she could understand around quiet time. There was a lullaby on her monitor that would play for 20 minutes and she had to stay in her bed until the song turned off. If she wasn’t asleep yet when the song turned off, she could play in her room or read until the clock turned green (40 minutes later). If she came out before, then there was time added to the quiet time clock, not as a punishment, but to make sure she got her full hour of quiet. These little benchmarks helped her track quiet time and understand the concept more fully.

They may call it the Terrible Two’s, but it doesn’t have to be! Setting firm boundaries and making sure your toddler gets the sleep and quiet space that they need will help you in the long run and help contain the chaos!

September 14, 2020 — Makel Gardner