Establishing a consistent nap routine is one of the best things you can do for your child’s health. Here are some tips to help you as you determine the best nap routine for your preschooler.
Pick a time for their nap and stick to it
If you aren’t putting your child down for a nap at the same time each day, this gives them the impression that nap time is flexible and negotiable. For example, if you put your preschooler down for a nap at 1 pm, then the next day you plan a playdate for 1 pm, then the next day you expect them to nap again, your child will resist that naptime on day 3 because you didn’t stick with it on day 2. You have to set a routine and do it every single day. Planning your day around your child’s nap time sounds restrictive, but a well-rested child is worth that extra effort!
Put your child down for their nap before they are tired
Overtiredness is one of the biggest killers of a good nap time. When children get overtired, they get cranky and emotional and have difficulty settling down for a good nap. It’s best to start the pre-naptime routine before your child gets to their breaking point. About fifteen minutes before their nap, go ahead and have your little one use the bathroom one last time, read them a book snuggled up in bed, then put them down for their nap. If you do naps just after lunch, they will have just eaten so they won’t be “hangry” and they shouldn’t be overtired at that point.
Don’t “spring” naptime on your preschooler
How would you like it if you were watching your favorite TV show after dinner and someone turned it off and said, “Okay, you need to go to bed now”? You’d probably be infuriated that someone had interrupted your fun and was now forcing you to do something you didn’t want to do! The golden rule applies, yes, even to establishing a consistent nap routine for our preschoolers: treat them the way you want to be treated! Give them a fair five-minute warning, so they can mentally prepare themselves for what’s ahead.
Opt for a quiet rest time vs. a nap
If your child just refuses to sleep in spite of all of your efforts, they may just need a break from the noise and commotion versus a nap.
Stick to the usual wind-down routine, but allow your child to play quietly in their room for a few hours instead of sleeping. Set some quiet activities up for them like puzzles, books, or Legos and tell them you’re setting a timer and will let them know when they can get up. Even though they aren’t sleeping, this quiet time can still give your preschooler the reset they need to make it to bedtime.
Adjusting bedtime for preschoolers who are no longer napping
Keep in mind, however, you may have to put your child to bed a bit earlier than usual if they start doing rest time in place of a nap. The Sleep Foundation says, “It is recommended that parents make bedtime earlier for children who are no longer napping so that they have the necessary amount of sleep. Because preschool-aged children need up to 13 hours of sleep, bedtime may need to be moved up to 6 p.m. or 6:30 p.m., depending on what time your child needs to wake up.”