Transitioning From Nap Time To Quiet Time

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transition from naptime to quiet timeIs your preschooler’s nap starting to unravel?

Is it taking them longer and longer to fall asleep, or is their nap getting shorter and shorter in length? Are they singing, chatting, and getting up and down instead of sleeping? Or are they napping well on some days but resisting bedtime and taking ages to fall asleep after lights out?

If any of these scenarios sound familiar, and if your child is at least three years of age, there’s a good chance that they’ve started to transition away from daytime sleep.

Like all other nap transitions, the shift from napping to no naps doesn’t happen overnight. Children typically transition gradually over a few months. Many children drop naps sequentially. They’ll need to nap four or five days a week for a few weeks, then three or four days a week, then two or three days a week, and so on until finally they no longer need to sleep during the day at all. Children often need a slightly earlier bedtime to compensate for less sleep during the day during and even after the transition.

If you’re wondering how to help your child through this “some days I need a nap and some days I don’t” phase (and if you want to hold on to that hour or two of downtime even when your child is done napping for good), then quiet time is the solution.

Quiet time allows your child the opportunity to rest and recharge by playing or reading quietly in their bedroom on days when they’re not tired enough to nap. Introducing the idea of quiet time to your child doesn’t mean that napping isn’t an option. 

If you maintain your child’s pre-nap routine every day before quiet time and dim the lights, they’ll be able to relax in an environment conducive to sleep, which will help them doze off on days when they truly need to snooze.

Quiet time usually works best when it takes place in your child’s bedroom. How much freedom you allow them in the room is up to you. Parents with younger children may be more comfortable with a “stay in bed” policy. Parents of older children may not mind if their child moves freely around their room. Boxes or bins containing activities reserved especially for quiet time are a great way to keep children in their bed or crib, and rotating toys and games frequently will keep them engaged and focused. Activities that don’t make noise (or messes!) include:

Establish clear guidelines, and be sure to remind your child of what they are before you leave the room. Keep direction simple and direct. “If you’re not sleepy, you can play quietly in your room—no yelling or jumping on the bed. If you need to use the potty, come to the door and let mommy know. I’ll be back when quiet time is over.” If your child keeps calling and asking, “is it over yet?” you can set a timer or a  child sleep clock to cue them instead.

For children that resist the idea of quiet time, it helps to start gradually.

After their pre-nap routine, tell your child that they can play quietly instead if they aren’t sleepy. Remind them that you’ll be nearby and leave the room. After five minutes, go back and do a quick check-in. Tell them what a great job they’re doing playing quietly and step away again. If your child is having trouble focusing or keeps calling you back into the room, spend a few minutes helping them get started with an activity before you step away again and give them a few more minutes by themselves. Over time, you should decrease the number of check-ins and increase the total length of quiet time. Be patient, and don’t be afraid to call it quits if your child is having an off day. Some children may only play independently for 30 or 45 minutes – others may spend an hour or two by themselves every day quietly reading or drawing. Either way, recharging everyone’s batteries (including yours!) can make the rest of the day much more pleasant for everyone in the family.

Do you have quiet time at your house? If so, what sorts of activities keep your children calm and engaged?  


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