Nap time. It’s meant to be a moment during the day when kids can get some much-needed rest and parents can get some much-needed downtime. But knowing when the time is right for a nap, how long it should be, and just how to get your little one settled is crucial for a successful nap time. Here’s everything you need to know.
When is the ideal time to nap for kids?
If you’re unsure as to when exactly your little one is ready for a nap, take a few days to observe how their energy fluctuates throughout the day. If there are times where they seem more content with quieter activities or appear to be slowing down, take note of the hour and work future nap times around that trend. As a general rule of thumb, most toddlers are ready for a nap around 3 – 4 hours following their last sleep time and preschoolers tend to be ready after lunch.
It’s important that you don’t skip nap time for an earlier bedtime. An overtired kid is a recipe for crankiness. It can also have a negative effect on their self-soothing abilities and result in a more difficult bedtime routine. If you must alter nap time due to unavoidable reasons, like travel, it’s best to either shorten the length of their naps by a small amount of time or even start it a little earlier in the day.
What’s the best amount of time to nap by age?
Babies up to the age of 12 months naturally need more sleep as they’re speeding through development, which takes a massive toll on both their minds and bodies. Most babies will have 2-3 naps a day, ranging from 30 minutes to 2 hours, typically synched with their feeding schedules.
Toddlers aged 1 to 3 typically need around 2 hours of daytime sleep. Younger toddlers tend to have this split into a 1-hour nap in the morning and another in the afternoon, whereas older toddlers do better with a slightly longer nap (1-2 hours) in the early afternoon.
Preschoolers, aged 3 to 5, are usually best kept to a single afternoon nap ranging from 45 minutes to 1.5 hours.
Most kids grow out of naps by the age of 5 or 6, however giving them time during the day for rest is still very important for any age. For kids who are no longer napping, set aside around 30 minutes to an hour in the afternoon for mindful activities like meditation and quiet activities (coloring, reading, etc). This allows their bodies to slow down, recharge, and still get the rest they need.
How to create a successful nap time routine
Routine is vital when it comes to getting our kids to sleep at bedtime, so it makes sense that consistency is a must in regard to nap time as well.
Nap time routines will naturally be shorter than bedtime routines since bath time, teeth brushing, and changing into pajamas aren’t part of the agenda. However, if you have other activities that you partake in leading up to bedtime then it’s important to bring them into play here as well.
Keep the nap location the same as your kid’s bedtime location to provide a sense of normalcy. If you tuck them in with specific stuffed animals at bedtime, do the same for a nap. Reading a story at nap time can help trigger the same sleepy signals that occur when reading bedtime stories. If you use audio stories or soothing sounds to help your little one drift off to dreamland at bedtime, like those available on Moshi, be sure to bring those into your nap time routine as well. Calming nap time music is a great way to help your little one get to sleep quicker and stay on schedule.
Like most things with kids, consistency is key and humans, regardless of age, are creatures of habit. If we as parents provide the same atmosphere and structure for nap time as we do bedtime then our little ones will be daylight snoozing in no time.