So how exactly does one do this "quiet time" thing?
From one nap to NO nap. What is life?!
If you’ve been following me on instagram a while, I think you would have noticed that I have been transitioning my (almost) 4 year old from one nap to NO nap for the better half of the last year. Sorry parents of babies. This can be the nap transition that takes the longest to carry out of all of the transitions you have handled to this point.
She would still go willingly to nap each day if I let her. Yup. She would probably nap all the way through elementary school, right into her teenage years sucking her thumb all along the way! Ha! I know you’re judging me somewhere you judgey parents you! Yes she is going to need braces. No I am not going to put hot sauce on her thumb. Yes I'm a tiny bit insecure about this.
But, bedtime was becoming a disaster over here. I actually felt sorry for the poor kid. She wanted to sleep. She wanted to uphold the expectations we had set for her around bedtime wishes, desires, and boundaries, but she just couldn’t. She wasn’t tired. Was not tired at all. Not at 7. Not at 8. A little bit tired around 9.. and then would usually pass out hard just before 10!
Most moms are at their computer in the evening after kids are in bed. 8:00 pm is my work power hour.. so this bedtime flip flopping escapade was just not working for me! We cut her nap down to 1 hour. No difference. 30 minutes. A little difference. But still, I needed my evenings back, and I wanted bedtime to be easier on her little body as well.
I truly took some time to mourn this loss. No more kid-free time in the middle of the afternoon? How am I going to sneak my chocolate chips without anyone looking? No scrolling my newsfeed in the middle of the day? Okay. Less scrolling my newsfeed in the middle of the day? Emails left unread? What about laying my head down for a good solid 5 minutes after getting both kids down to nap at the SAME time? Nope. Gone. Nada. I had myself a little cry over it, and then I put my big girl pants on and moved forward.
Is it a phase?
Prior to this transition, we have had several “no nap” phases along the way. Lucky for me they were just phases, some lasting a couple of weeks, and others just a few days at a time, because she was truly not ready to go without a nap. Protesting nap. The “I’m NOT tired” and the occasional, 20 minute nap have happened. But, they were few and far between. This is just not my child’s sleep personality. She LOVES to nap! For age appropriate nap goals check here!
When I did want my daughter to hold on to her nap as long as possible, and figured she was not ready to go without, I insisted on quiet time each day in her room. I don’t do this now, because quite honestly, I do not want her to sleep. As I mentioned above, napping is really her thing. So I have to do the opposite and keep her as busy as possible ALL DAY LONG. It really is exhausting. Feel sorry for me, please.
What about us? The ones who do want to convince our children quiet time every day IS a good idea?
For you people, here are my quick and easy tips on getting your child to spend some quality alone time in their room each day.
- Convince them this is a good idea
How you pull this one off is really up to you! Think about your child and think about something that would be intrinsically motivating for them. Talking about them with it is also a good idea. “What do you think we will have more energy to do after we have some quiet time? Perhaps we would have enough energy this afternoon to make some water balloons, or go on a special walk to that park you love with the BIG slide? If we don’t rest.. we will probably be too tired to walk that far. Let’s see if we can rest!” If the suggestion comes from your child, even better! They will be much more likely to work towards something they envisioned as a good idea themselves.
- Start off small
Rome wasn’t built in a day people. Sure you have the option of locking your child in the room, setting the timer for an hour, and refusing to take them out until you hear DING! But, if you’ve been following me a while you know this probably would not be my first go-to strategy as we make an effort to consciously parent our children here, and treat them how we would want to be treated. When was the last time you were caged willingly? College maybe? hehe.
My daughter was super into music, as well as, books read aloud. I used these to my advantage at first, and convinced her to stay in her room for one song. We built a special fort outside her bed with some pillows and stuffies, and she laid in her new “special spot” for quiet time. I asked her to rest for 1 song. Just 1 song. Not 2. Not 5. 1. She did so willingly, easily, and I came in to congratulate her after it was done.
Read your child on this one, and follow their lead. They may need you to stay with them the first few times and that is okay. Hey! Downtime for toddler and downtime for mom at the same time, that is a good thing!
- Coach them through
Congratulate them for a job well done. Great quiet resting today! Let’s see if we have enough energy now to make it to the special park!
- Help them along through quiet play
Each day you will try to extend the time that they can be left alone in their room. Songs are great for children to be able to have a tangible focus, and some amusement. Having an old CD player that can play children’s music, or books on disc is great to have in your child’s room.
See if with each passing day you might be able to add one song, or one story. If they come out and tell you they are done, I would just roll with it. Better not to push your luck! Think short term pain for long-term gain. Yes today may be a long day if they don’t rest as much as you wish. Yes you may need to utilize some TV time to make it through the rest of the afternoon, but tomorrow is a new day, and tomorrow they just might do better!
Encourage some quiet play with some safe toys in between each song. You can come in and do this with them. Ensure whatever toys you do have in your child’s room are completely safe to be used unsupervised so that when they do get better at this, you can leave them alone to play.
- Fulfill your promises
If you said you would check on them, check on them. If you said you would go to the park after quiet time, go to the park. Meet their need for power and attention before they call out to you to have that need met!
6. Be consistent
You can't just do this on the days it works for you. If you are setting an expectation that this is part of your daily routine, it should truly happen each day, and not just when it is "convenient" for you.
And most importantly…
Don’t let it become a power struggle. Once you are in a power struggle with your toddler, you’ve already lost. Try to keep the expectations super small at first so your child can be successful! The more successful they are, the better they are likely to do on the days that follow. Yes you may need to stay with them at first. And yes you may need to start off very small. But your little one might really surprise you as to how much resting time they are able to do when they feel that they have been heard and validated in making this choice.
People often ask if I work with many toddlers or preschoolers? The honest answer. No. I would say for every 5 or 6 infants, I will get a toddler or preschooler client. But I can tell you, when you do have toddler sleep challenges MY OH MY can they be challenging. This is a great place to utilize the mini consultation option I have available, or just book me for an hour to brainstorm with you. Two heads are better than one, and you might be really surprised at what we come up with together to make your life a whole lot easier!
Good luck mamas and dadas! Soldier on good parents.
Thank you Astrid Miller Photography for these beautiful images of my sweet and zesty Halle.