Having trouble perfecting that daytime toddler sleep routine? Check out our expert guide to finding the optimal nap time & sticking to it!
Navigating the world of toddler naps can be a nightmare (well, OK, a day-mare). Just when you’ve found a routine that works for you and your little one, they hit another milestone and suddenly need more or less sleep, or a life change necessitates a shift in routine. But well-rested toddlers make for happy toddlers, and happy toddlers make for ever-so-slightly-less frazzled parents, so getting their nap routine right is paramount. Need a little help to find the optimal nap time or fine-tune their daytime sleep routine? The Sleep Nanny Lucy Shrimpton is on-hand with a guide to getting toddler nap time right. “Most toddlers will do best on a one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half-hour daytime nap in the middle of the day and between 11 and 12 hours at night,” says Lucy. So, if you don’t feel you’re quite there yet, read on for some gentle sleep training tips.
What is the best time for a toddler nap?
“Little ones usually drop to one nap a day between 13-17 months and it’s usually a transition that can take a few weeks, so try to be patient while they adjust. The one remaining nap sits best in the middle of their day so they’re awake roughly five hours either side of the nap.”
Should I be doing the bedtime routine at naptime?
“A mini version of the bedtime routine is great for nap time. Just five to 15 minutes in length so as to calm a stimulated child and activate the cues for sleep time. If they usually sleep in a sleeping bag it’s a good idea to put them in this at nap time, too.”
What about if they’re at daycare?
If your child is in daycare, it’s worth speaking to your childcare provider about their routine, as they’ll be used to working with children who have different schedules, and will usually try to support your daily routine where they can. Even if your little one has to slot into a new routine – at a nursery for example – you’ll find toddlers are amazingly adaptable. The nursery may even help you crack the routine!
When should they drop naps?
“Some children are ready to drop the daytime nap around their third birthday, while others still need some amount of nap time up until age four and a half. It will vary depending on how well the child sleeps at night as well as their unique temperament. Very alert little ones will have you thinking they need less sleep when actually they may need more than their peers. This is why it’s important for parents to have a good understanding of how much sleep their child needs, because you can’t rely on your child to tell you!
“Many drop the nap too early because it becomes inconvenient or their friends have stopped or they just don’t seem to ‘want’ to nap anymore. Be very cautious if this is before age three – and early nights are usually a must when the nap first goes. If they seem inclined to drop their nap before three, make sure you’re following all of these nap best practices before making the decision.”
How do unplanned naps in the buggy or car impact sleep?
“‘Motion naps’ while out and about can throw the sleep schedule off, so try to plan them into your day when possible. When they happen unplanned, this suggests the little one is tired and so needs that sleep, but you’ll have to adjust the rest of your daily routine to allow for this. It’s not always possible to stick to a rigid nap routine, so be patient if your toddler doesn’t follow the rules!”
Be led by your toddler when it comes to naptime and as long as they’re sleeping between one and two-and-a-half hours in a solid block, they obviously still need their daytime sleep. Just be prepared to reassess as and when their needs change, and remember to schedule their sleep routine around them, rather than your to-do list. Now, what to do with those two, blissfully peaceful naptime hours? Get the kettle on…
Be led by your toddler when it comes to naptime and if they’re sleeping between one and two-and-a-half hours in a solid block, they obviously still need their daytime sleep. Just be prepared to reassess as and when their needs change, and remember to schedule their sleep routine around them, rather than your to-do list. Now, what to do with those two, blissfully peaceful naptime hours? Get the kettle on…