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Talkin' Sleep

Why won’t my toddler take a damn nap!

As a parent, one of the biggest challenges can be getting your toddler to take a nap. While some toddlers fall asleep easily and stay asleep for a good amount of time, others simply refuse to nap, which can be frustrating and exhausting. There are a variety of reasons why your toddler may not be napping. In this blog post, we’ll explore some of the common reasons why toddlers resist napping and offer tips on how to help your baby nap. Whether you’re a first-time parent or a seasoned pro, you’re sure to find some helpful advice to make naptime a little easier for both you and your child. Now, let’s get your toddler to take a damn nap!

They’re tired but they won’t nap

Okay–it’s naptime. You see your toddler is getting sleepy, and so you start to prep for your naptime routine. Only…just that hint of going for a nap seems to have made your toddler convinced they are NOT sleepy. UGH! Why is your toddler fighting naps? 

Is your toddler’s nap schedule off?

Have you ever seen your toddler playing, and they start to slow down to an almost slow mo halt. The sleep is just overtaking them. You finally get a chance to put down what you were working on to put them in their nap location, only to be met with a toddler ball of energy! If you’re wondering where the hell did that come from–that is the second wind. Although less likely than the previous solution, when this happens, your toddler is experiencing over-tiredness. 

In this scenario adjust their nap timing earlier. So we typically see this kind of scenario when a toddler has had to be woken up earlier than their normal routine. This early wake would adjust when their naptime is needed (for optimal sleep). So this wouldn’t typically be something you see every single day. This is more on those off days where life is dictating your schedule (and waketimes) for you. 

Although it could be that whatever they’re doing right before, naptime is actually way more exciting and again, if they’re not tired enough to for their nap. So if the thing they’re doing is really exciting, they’re going to want to continue doing that really exciting thing. Some little ones have a really strong case of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). So the first step to prepare them for a nap would be to transition to an activity that’s not as exciting as that activity that’s keeping them going before the nap, a good a good sign that the activity is one that might result in a form of resistance for a nap, is if they’re playing independently completely. So transition to something that you’re doing together, maybe reading a book, something that comes before their nap routine. 

Create a predictable naptime routine

Toddlers (well most humans honestly) love routine. They want to be able to have a predictable series of events each day. So if naptime is a struggle at home, but they nap extremely well at daycare, it could be that there isn’t a predictable flow to your day when they’re home. So just make sure that it’s predictable when their nap time is coming up. Also that your expectations of them during nap time are very clear. What I mean by this is figuring out the right timing. Just like we’ve mentioned above, there is a finesse that happens with naptime timing. You want to balance your toddler’s nap time at a time during the day where your toddler is sleepy enough, without going into “overtired” or “undertired” territory.

Most likely, you would need to move the nap back a little bit later, unless it’s a day when they woke up really, really early and they’re just extra tired and extra cranky. 

Apply less pressure to naptime

The biggest struggle we have as parents is also the most important part of helping your toddler at naptime– remove the pressure to sleep. Yes you read that right! let me explain because this can feel counterintuitive to many parents.. As an adult, we might feel that it’s our responsibility to make sure that our little one gets the sleep that they need. Sometimes we take it very literally like, “I have to make sure that they actually sleep”. But what if you shifted your mindset and saw your role as giving them an opportunity to nap.

So your job is to set up the environment so that they have the best chance of napping if their body is tired. Setting up a boring environment, moving them to their sleep space during nap time, but removing the pressure to sleep. What I mean by that is let them know, right now it’s nap time or you can even call it quiet time to remove the pressure to fall asleep. 

Setting Expectations with those toddlers that won’t take a damn nap!

Say, at this time the expectation is that they have to be quiet and they have to stay in their room or in their bed. If you’re staying with them for the nap, you may even lay down and just model how you’re going to nap. And you might be surprised to see that eventually your toddler will actually settle in right beside you. 

Stick to your rules. It might just be that it has to be quiet or it might just be that they have to stay in the room or in their bed. Just stick to the same rules and remind them what they are. Then model what you would like them to do. If you’re staying with them for the nap and if you have not transitioned to independent quiet time then lay down. Show them that right now it’s time to rest our bodies. 

What to do when your nap didn’t happen at all?

If it’s been like an hour or more and your toddler is the same level of energy, that is completely fine. It’s okay to let it go. Next time maybe even have an earlier bedtime. Maybe they just don’t need to nap that day. 

The thing to always remember is sleep is a biological function. Your toddler will know if and when their body needs sleep. But sometimes the level of support and encouragement varies depending on their personalities and individual needs. But no matter their personalities or individual needs they most likely would need you to set up the environment. They need you to lead them and let them know it’s nap time. And they need you to put them in a more boring environment. Ultimately, whether they sleep or not or whether it’s time to relax, it’s really up to them and how their body feels. There’s not much you can do about it.

Let me know if you try these tips out and if they worked for you. I’d love to hear if you have any struggles when it comes to toddler nap times. If you’d like to learn more what’s normal when it comes to toddler sleep, such as: 

  • How many naps do they need? 
  • How long should those naps be?
  • Approximately the total amount of sleep that they need. 

I have a free guide called the normal toddler sleep guide. Make sure to stay up to date on our social media. We give daily tips and advice for parents like yourself. 

Looking for further support? Check out our courses or our 1:1 support for more guidance on baby and toddler sleep. Don’t forget to check our social media for daily tips and advice on parenting.

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