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Quiet Time: How to Drop the Afternoon Nap Without Meltdowns (From You or Your Toddler)

Boy playing in the roomEvery parent knows that sinking feeling you get when you realize the toddler dancing around in her tutu and tiara at naptime just isn’t going to be sleeping in the afternoon anymore. That glorious break you used to get with some precious time alone to read or clean or just relax…it’s all over. And, even worse, while your toddler might seem perfectly happy pirouetting through the living room, her energy will still crash at some point. But instead of going to sleep, she will be stubborn and whiny and miserable. Sigh.

Don’t fear. There is a way to bridge this gap, and it will work for both you and your sleepless toddler. To help prevent late-afternoon meltdowns, just implement a daily afternoon “quiet time.”

When it becomes clear that your child is just not going to sleep at the usual time every afternoon, commit to ending it cold turkey rather than waffling back and forth trying to make your child nap on the off chance it might work that day. This will just cause frustration for both of you. It’s better for your child’s body clock to just be consistent from the start.

It usually takes about a month for the body to adapt to any significant change in sleep habits, so don’t panic if you have a few rough weeks while your child adjusts. And in the meantime, to preserve your sanity and give your child some downtime, try having an afternoon quiet time.

Here’s what to do:

(You will need a timer. You can use a small kitchen timer or an alarm clock.)

  1. After lunch, take your child to his bedroom and help him become engaged in a calm, quiet activity like coloring, reading, or playing with cards or blocks.
  2. Once he’s busy and interested in what he’s doing, tell him you’re going to take a rest and will come and get him when the timer rings.
  3. Set a timer for 30 minutes and encourage your child to stay in his room until the timer goes off.
  4. If he comes to find you before the timer goes off, just return him to his room and remind him he needs to stay until the timer rings.

Return him as many times as it takes until he gets the message and stays until the timer goes. This might not be the longer break you got when he took naps, but it’s good for both of you and will help take the edge off so you can get through the afternoon and evening.

And the bonus is, he will be exhausted and ready for bed nice and early. Once your child drops his naps, you can start bedtime as early as 6:30, which leaves you with your evenings free!

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Dana’s Sleep Blog

Straight talk about sleep, parenting,
babies, toddlers, relationships… and
just about anything else!
My blog is a great place to find opinions, advice, the occasional rant, and some great videos about sleep.

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