I am a huge believer in the necessity for naps for babies, toddlers and children until they start kindergarten. Not only do children benefit from napping, so do their parents and caregivers who also need a “break” and some time to get ready for the end of the day.
During check ups I routinely ask parents if their children are still napping? While some children may not fall asleep, everyone can spend some “quiet time” in their own room or bed. Most children will nap well until the age of 3-4 years. After that some children just don’t need as much sleep and “want to give up their afternoon nap”. Those words do not typically make a parent happy….as they realize that their child typically is cranky and whiny before dinner, bath and bedtime….not a fun way to end the day.
So…I had to laugh the other day when I asked a 3 year old if he was going home after his check up for lunch and a nap? He looked right at me and said, “I don’t take naps, I am a big boy”. I paused a minute and about that time his mother said quite calmly with that knowing look in her eyes, “of course he doesn’t nap….he just takes a rest”. Clever right?
While you can’t make a child fall asleep, you can set the routine that your child spends some quiet time for an hour or so in their bed reading, playing, singing or just talking to themselves and their favorite stuffed animal. I have often found that while a 2-3 year old may stop falling asleep during nap time for a few months they may suddenly start napping again…it just happens. But, you have to continue the nap time routine…with or without the sleeping. No choices on whether or not they “rest”…just part of the days routine.
Even children in day care, preschool and most kindergartens have afternoon quiet time on their mats. At the beginning of the school year many kindergarten children will fall asleep during the afternoon story time, until they become accustomed to the long school day. It is funny to hear 5 year olds discuss who fell asleep during quiet time….never realizing that they too had “snoozed” for a bit. A lovely thing to re-set your brain for the rest of the day!