Transition to Quiet Time
Let's be honest...nap time isn't just for children; it's for the parents too. During nap time, parents have the chance to enjoy some peace and quiet, or get some tasks done. The transition to no nap at all is one that most parents are nervous about. It means they have to give up that hour or two of quiet in the middle of the day...or do they?
When to Cut the Nap
Most children are ready to cut out their one nap completely between 3 and 4 years old. The signs are the same of any nap transition:
fighting nap or bedtime/not being tired enough for one or the other
waking at night more frequently
waking much earlier in the morning ready for the day
If your child is experiencing one or more of these signs, it may be time to cut the nap. However, you can first try shortening it and see if that improves his sleep. For example, if your child normally takes a 2-hour nap, try shortening it to a 1-hour nap. If that improves his sleep troubles, then stick with that for a while. If he starts showing the above signs again, shorten the nap to just a 30-minute cat nap. Once that is no longer working, and he's showing the signs above, it is time to cut out the nap for good.
Continue with Quiet Time
Even though you need to cut out the afternoon nap, that doesn't mean you can't still have a little break. Quiet time is a period of time when your child plays by himself, in a separate location, until the set time is over.
As an aside, there are lots of other benefits of quiet time. When kids are faced with entertaining themselves - without screens - true creativity can happen. Little ones need unstructured, independent play in order to grow and develop healthy minds. Quiet time can also provide little introverts time to recharge and relax even though they don't need a nap.
Here are my tips for easily transitioning from a nap to quiet time.
Keep the timing and location the same.
If your child is used to a 1:00 pm nap, then make quiet time at 1:00 pm. The idea is that quiet time is replacing nap time. You may need to start with a shorter period of time than a normal nap would've been, but you can always work up to a longer quiet time. For really little ones, 20-25 minutes may be all they can handle to start. Gradually add more time to it as they get more and more used to it.
Assuming your child previously took his nap in his bedroom, this is also the best place for him to have quiet time. It is a separate place (rather than in the living room where you are, for example), it is likely already child-proofed, and he is already familiar with being quiet in this space. Keeping the time and location the same as nap time will help for a smoother transition. Consistency also means that quiet time should happen on the weekends too.
Explain what quiet time is.
Most small children aren't naturally quiet for long periods of time. If you just put your child in his room and say it's time to be quiet...you may have a little resistance. Instead, sit down with your child, at his level, and explain what quiet time is and what you expect. Tell him that because he's getting so much bigger, he no longer needs a nap. However, his body still needs rest even if he's not sleeping. So instead of taking a nap, he's now going to have quiet time.
You will also want to explain what you expect. Tell him he needs to stay in his room during quiet time and play quietly on his own. Allow him to ask questions and talk about some activities that might be good for quiet time, like reading, puzzles, or playing with non-electronic toys, like blocks and dolls. Art supplies are also a great activity to provide.
Close the door and use a timer.
If you leave things up to his decision, he will likely want to come out of his room after just a few minutes. This is especially true the first few days, before he's had a chance to get used to quiet time. Closing his door will provide separation and show him that he needs to stay in his room. If you have a resistant little one, you can even put a child-proof door knob cover on the inside, so he can't open the door and come out.
There should also be a preset duration for quiet time. Use a kitchen timer or toddler clock to show him how long he needs to stay in his room. When it goes off, or changes color, he knows that quiet time is over and he can come out and resume other activities.
If you have a video baby monitor, don't put it away just yet! Using this during quiet time will help you be able to keep an eye on him and make sure nothing crazy happens behind the closed door. It can also give him a peace of mind if he expresses any concerns about it. Just show him how the monitor works and explain that you are keeping an eye on him.
Provide activity ideas.
Quiet time should be exactly that...quiet. It's not time for loud, electronic toys, TV watching, or play with siblings and friends. Treat it as if it is nap time, meaning set aside the time for it each day. Make sure your child has lots of quiet things to play with in his room. You may choose to lay out certain toys and activities, rotating through them. Or you can simply let him have free play with all of the toys in his room. In this case, keep anything really noisy in another location.
Quiet time is beneficial to little ones for so many reasons. It also gives the parents an opportunity to still get some down time as well!
What are your favorite quiet time activities or practices?
~Ashley Bell, pediatric sleep consultant