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Parenting dilemma: giving up naptime


I remember a time when my son took two, sometimes three naps a day and I would wonder if I’d ever be able to get out of the house for more than two hours at a time again.  Then around age 18 months he stopped his morning nap and settled on a long afternoon nap.  Over time, that nap shifted from starting at 12:30pm to starting at 2:00pm and lasting until 5:00pm if I didn’t wake him.  He loved to sleep all afternoon.  I loved it too!  While it meant not being able to stay out long during the day, it worked out well for us.  I could get all my errands or activities done in the morning and then know I’d have a few hours in the afternoon to catch up on writing, emails, reading, or house chores.  Then the winter of 2011 hit us, along with my son really settling in to being age 3.  Sometime shortly after Christmas he began falling asleep later and later in the afternoon.  Waking him up was terrible.  It would have been easier to wake up a hibernating bear.  Dinnertime was miserable most nights.  Suddenly, around 7:15pm every night my darling boy would get his second wind and be completely pleasant, cheerful and full of energy.  Trying to get him to bed by 8:00pm was impossible.  We had a great bedtime routine that we started when he was a baby.  He started stall tactics and every method of delay he could think of to interrupt bedtime.  By the time we got him into bed we were all frazzled, angry, and exhausted.  (Well, the parents were exhausted!)  Then he would play in his bed until 10:00 pm or later.   Every morning he would wake up the same time, around 7:00 am, no matter what time he fell asleep.  It was a crazy cycle that was not working.

After talking about my frustrations with my son and his napping/sleeping schedule with a dear friend she dared to suggest giving up naps.  After a lot of thought, I decided to give it a try.  My theory was that if he didn’t nap, he would fall asleep earlier at night and get a longer period of sleep in a row and therefore feel better overall.  My son was completely happy to not have to nap.  I first encouraged him to have “quiet time” in his room for an hour, but trying to get him to his room was a huge fight or he would end up falling asleep and we were back to our original problem.  With all of the snow/icy weather we had in January, we were stuck home more than usual.  This compounded our problem, because now my three year old had cabin fever.  I decided to have quiet time after lunch each day in the family room.  We would settle on the sofa with blankets and cuddle while watching an appropriate kid’s show or movie.   This is a treat, since I limit television.  This has been working well for us most days, but more recently he wants less quiet time and more active time.  I suspect that as soon as the snow finally melts and the playgrounds are available again, we’ll be spending  more of our afternoons out playing.

During this transition, we had several problems pop up that were not anticipated.  The first was dinner time.  When my son was napping and waking at 4:30 or so, he would have a snack and then eat dinner with us when my husband came home from work at 6:30.  Now that he isn’t napping, he is hungrier earlier.  It took me over a week to realize this!  Duh!  So now I try to have dinner ready for him earlier, as early as 5:30 usually, and I try to sit with him while he eats (unless my meal is ready too and then I eat with him.  He is ridiculously picky with eating so he usually gets his own meal and a sampling of our meal if it’s ready in time.)  Eating earlier helps.  After he is done, he has some time to play before bedtime.  It is also a nice time for my husband to play with him when he gets home and we have dinner after our son is in bed.  (That tends to happen more on weekends.)  Another problem was that while we stopped naps, we didn’t shift bedtime earlier, so my son was still sleep deprived.  Over the course of a week we slowly moved his bedtime up earlier.  Now we work towards the goal of starting the bedtime ritual around 7:00pm, sometimes a bit earlier or later.  My goal is to have him in tucked into bed by 7:45 so that he can take a bit of time to settle in and still be asleep by 8:30pm.  He has been more tired at bedtime now and is less resistant to the bedtime routine.  This has had a tremendous impact on his attitude.  He has been more pleasant during the day and hasn’t had a temper tantrum since we implemented earlier bedtime.  We are now having a problem with bath time, but that is another blog post all together!

Ironically, I discovered that most of the kids in my son’s preschool playgroup are going through the same thing lately.  I wonder if once the warmer weather is here and there is more time to play outdoors and to tire out in the sun my son will want to nap again.  The one thing I’ve learned from parenting is that nothing lasts forever.  He keeps me on my feet with the continuous changes!

How do you handle nap time/bedtime issues?  Has your preschooler given up napping yet?  How are you handling it?  Please feel free to leave comments here to continue this discussion.  I’d love to hear tips from other parents.  It never hurts to have new tips to try out when something stops working!

Mama Diane

February 15th, 2011 | Tags: , , , , , | Category: Bloggers & Blogger Events, Bucks County, Children, Family, Moms, Montgomery County
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