Today we are rounding out our conversation about nap transitions and talking about the very last one - dropping the nap completely. (You can check out the 3 to 2 transition post here and 2 to 1 transition post here) I know this one can be very stress-inducing for a lot of parents, but I have good news - we are going to be talking about not only when this transition is going to happen, but what you can do instead of having a nap time.
When do children typically drop naps completely?
Children often drop their naps completely around age three, some a little bit earlier, some much later, like closer to five. But, I very rarely see that. Most often it happens around the age of three and the signs are very similar to the other signs for every other transition.
It's harder for them to fall asleep for the nap.
Their nap is getting shorter and shorter.
They're skipping the nap completely.
If they have a nap it messes up bedtime or they're having night wakings or they're having early morning wake-ups.
Essentially, the nap is becoming more of a hindrance than a help.
These are great signs that it's time to drop it but these signs need to be consistently happening for at least six weeks. I like to say for that long because we don't want to be dropping the nap for just a period of time and then bringing it back. That gets really confusing. So, we want to be 100% sure that they are ready to completely drop their nap.
Even before you fully drop it, I would start whittling away at the time that they are sleeping. So for instance, a lot of kids that take one nap, nap for a good two hours. Once they're closer to three they don't necessarily need two hours of sleep. So, if they're still taking that two-hour nap and you're seeing the signs above, start cutting back on the amount of time they're sleeping during the day. They may just need less of a nap instead of such a big chunk of a nap. Whittle away until you have nothing left.
Of course, you might just have a child like my oldest, where they're not even napping. They're just hanging out in their crib for two hours, practicing their gymnastic skills.
If that's the case, and it's been going on for a good six weeks or so (not necessarily daily, but consistently), then you know that it is time to be done with the nap. Then we're going to introduce Quiet Time.
What is “Quiet Time”?
It's really an ironic term in my home because it is rarely ever quiet, even during Quiet Time. A better name would be alone time.
Either way, Quiet Time is a time to just settle down and it's a time to replace nap time.
What does it look like?
What it looks like specifically for your family is going to depend on what works best for your family.
For us, like I said it is not always quiet. It's definitely more of an alone time, but it is a time for our children to get some time for independent play. They're not having an adult hovering over them. They're able to rest because even though they're not needing to sleep, we all have a low in our energy mid-day, so it's nice to have a little bit of a siesta.
We can't make our children be quiet, but we can control their environment. So we're going to create a calming, restful space, not so much that it's sleep-inducing, the lights are going to be on they're not going to be in their jammies, anything like that, but it is going to be a place where they're able to rest and their stimulation will be lower.
This is not a time to be watching screens.
Screen time and Quiet Time are two different things.
This is a time for them to again rest their mind and their body.
Quiet Time Activity Ideas
Some options for what Quiet Time can look like for your family:
Look at books,
Listen to music or audiobooks or a favorite show (Mom Hack: Connect an out-of-sight iPad/tablet to a Bluetooth speaker so your child can listen, but not be able to watch it. It's very similar, in my opinion, to an audiobook. Little kids’ shows say just about everything that they're doing all the time, so you don't really have to see the screen to be able to understand what is happening. Plus, I'm sure your child is like my child and watches the same shows over and over and over again and knows what’s going on without having to see it.)
Crafts, (Remember though, that they're going to be in there solo, so no scissors, no glue, anything that you would prefer they would have supervision with while using.)
Magnetic tiles (or “matches” as my oldest calls them. Not actual matches, though. Obviously)
Sticker books are a new favorite in Quiet Time for our family.
Why do Quiet Time?
Some parents like to have the freedom of not having a set thing and don’t want to do a Quiet Time. But here are some reasons I think you should at least give it a good try.
We all need a break during the day! Not just mom, but our children do, too.
This is a great time for them to unwind. Calm down. Have a little bit of a siesta.
It really does help with behavioral issues. I know that for us personally when we're just having a very overstimulating day, having Quiet Time is so beneficial for all of us. There has been such a turnaround when Quiet Time’s over, just having that break.
Independent play is just so beneficial for our children. Letting them learn their environment, trying things out without having somebody else always interfering. It helps them learn that it's okay to be frustrated and to keep working through and figuring things out. It allows for us moms that sometimes put our hand out to offer help a little bit too soon, to have less of a chance to do that.
Where do you do Quiet Time?
Typically Quiet Time is done in the child’s room, but that's not always possible or always desirable. If your child shares a room with another child other arrangements will need to be made since Quiet Time is alone time.
So some other options are any private room that is childproof. Childproof meaning that
all furniture is strapped to the wall because if you have a climber they are for sure going to try to climb.
Cover the light sockets
No loose power cords or window blind cords.
No sharp objects or choking hazards.
Secure or remove anything and everything that could potentially hurt them.
Use a video monitor to keep an ear and eye on them without disturbing them.
So that could be your room, a dining room, or a separate playroom.
You could use a section of the living room but as a last resort. That would likely be a lot harder when you go to introducing Quiet Time, especially if you're going to be out there. But, if the reason you don’t want to use their room is that they share a room with a napping child, I recommend having the napping child move to another dark space during nap time/Quiet Time.
Relocate the napping child
You can use the SlumberPod (use code GOODNIGHTFAMILIES20 for $20 off), a well-ventilated walk-in closet, a big-enough bathroom, or another pitch-black dark space where you can move the pack and play into another space and your other child can use their bedroom for Quiet Time.
How to transition to Quiet Time
A lot of kids, when they're done napping but you’re keeping with the nap routine to be sure they’re actually done napping, are just hanging out in the crib, babbling away. So, for those kids, moving to Quiet Time is fairly easy. If they can spend a good two hours completely content in a pitch-black room in a sleep sack in a crib, then they're gonna have a blast in their room with the lights on, not in the crib, and able to play and explore.
If that’s the case, just do a straight transition to an hour and a half, two-hour Quiet Time.
You can either do the direct transition or ease into it.
If you don't think that your child will do well with a long Quiet Time, ease into it.
We want to set them up for success.
If that’s the case, start small. Let the length of Quiet Time be as long as you believe that they can handle it; then stick to it - even if it's 15 minutes. Then gradually work your way longer and longer.
The ideal length of Quiet Time is between 1-3 hours, usually around an hour and a half to two hours. Start where you are most comfortable.
Then treat it like a naptime in the sense that it is something that you're going to be doing every single day, even on the weekends. We want this to be a consistent part of their routine so that they become used to it. They’ll know that it’s what they do right after lunch (the ideal time for Quiet Time). This will help reduce fights about it. Hopefully, they're going to enjoy it since they're going to have activities. At the same time, this is something new, so there may be some resistance.
When the time comes to implement the first Quiet Time, whichever way you do it, jump all in or ease into it, make a big deal about it the day before. Don’t talk about it any sooner than the day before. When you talk to your child about the change say something like,
“You know what? I've noticed you’re having a really hard time napping! And if you do nap, [fill in whatever you’ve noticed.] What that tells me is that you are getting so much bigger; you're getting too old for naps! So, what we're going to start doing now is Quiet Time! [Then explain what Quiet Time is and your expectations around it.]”
Expectations around Quiet Time
Speaking of expectations, the biggest expectation we have in our home (and again, this is whatever works best for your family) is staying in the room except to use the bathroom. (Though, we need to work on this more now…)
Something that’s helpful in keeping that expectation is having a toddler clock like the Hatch. The Hatch or any toddler clock is so helpful for kids that can’t quite read an analog or even a digital clock, yet. Toddler clocks sync with the time and show certain colors that you correlate a meaning to. So, for us, we have the Hatch light blue during Quiet Time and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star comes on with a green light when Quiet Time is over.
I've also heard of using a digital clock for the same concept. The way I’ve heard it used is every day at the beginning of Quiet Time, no matter what time it actually is, set the clock to one o'clock and then let your child know that when the one turns to a three, it is time to come out of Quiet Time. That's a cheaper option, but obviously, your child will need to be able to read those few numbers.
The biggest concern I hear most in regards to worries about doing a Quiet Time is what if they keep coming out of the room.
Preventative measures are best!
Explain to your child what this time is for them, where you'll be, what you'll be doing, and what you expect. You don't need to be laying down the law type of thing, but just going through the expectations of what it's going to look like and what they can do.
Having a Quiet Time routine, just like a bedtime routine, is helpful. Going into their space, wherever they're going to be doing Quiet Time, and playing with them for a few minutes or reading a book together to warm them up and welcome them into that space. You can set a timer so there will be a clear understanding of when it's time for you to go.
If they come out, remind them of the signal (the toddler clock or digital clock, etc.) that’ll tell them when they can come out and kindly return them to their space.
If they continue to come out, implement some appropriate consequences. Some ideas are:
Take away some of the activities that you have left for them to do. “You keep coming out. That's telling me that you're not enjoying this activity or this toy, so I will take it out with me when I take you back to your room.” Then continue to return them to their space.
Another option is to have a baby gate or door lock or latch to create a very clear boundary that this is where they need to be and where they need to stay. (This can also be a preventative measure.)
Staying consistent with doing Quiet Time at the same time every day, even on the weekends, will help so much, too.
Of course, if you're on vacation or your day is completely abnormal, it’s ok to miss it. Though even on vacation, it's nice to have a little bit of a Quiet Time, but it doesn't have to look exactly like it does at home.
One thing that I’ve found to truly love about Quiet Time is it’s so much more flexible than nap time. There's no “sweet spot” (no fear of overtiredness) to get into Quiet Time like there is with nap time. So, on days that we're out and about in the mornings and we get home a little bit later than typical, we still do a Quiet Time, it might just be a shorter Quiet Time, but it's still enough for all of us to get a little breather from each other and regroup.
That’s how you implement Quiet Time! If you have any questions about transitioning at all for any of the naps or if you want more information about what Quiet Time is, feel free to reach out to me in the DMs on Instagram (@goodnightfamilies). I'd be happy to help you out!
If you need more help, if you're really struggling with your child’s sleep, I am here for you as well. I do one-on-one consultations with families. I offer support throughout sleep training implementation from a personalized sleep plan that we work on together. If you want more information about that, I'd be more than happy to chat with you on a free 15-minute discovery call! You can book that free call here.