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My toddler was down for her nap, and all was quiet. The baby was sleeping too, and in a unicorn moment I was about to settle into a bit of quiet me-time.
Then I heard it.
The white noise machine in the toddler’s room suddenly changed from “pink noise” to “rushing water.” Then it continued changing, all the way through the cycle of 8 different white noise choices.
She’s still awake! I felt the disappointed groan from my throat down to my gut. This is so not OK! Go to sleep child!
She had suddenly come into the “fighting the nap” phase, and I was less than thrilled about it. Ok, I was pissed. I really didn’t want to give up that afternoon calm.
I also wasn’t ready to be in the phase where my toddler stopped napping altogether. So I set out to solve any nap issues I had allowed to disrupt her nap flow.
RELATED: If you’d like your toddler to be more polite and quickly learn to say “please” and “thank you,” grab this cheat sheet with 8 Keys here:
Here Are 7 Common Napping Mistakes (And How To Undo Them):
Mistake #1: Not Having A Set Toddler Nap Time
Kids need consistency. If you’re putting your little one down at random times (such as 11:00am one day, then 1:30pm the next), you are practically begging your child to have trouble napping.
This seems like a no-brainer for the first child because you can cater to his/her needs. However, with second and third, it’s easy to start dragging them around town to the bigger siblings activities (I was guilty of this!).
When I buckled down and carved out a more set nap schedule for her, her naps (and moods) got way better.
Mistake #2- Trying To Force Sleep For A Toddler Fighting Nap
If your toddler is resisting nap time, it’s a sign that they are needing less sleep in the afternoon. They may be getting close to dropping the nap for good, or they may just be going through a phase.If your toddler is resisting nap time, it's a sign that they are needing less sleep. They may be getting close to dropping the nap for good, or they may just be going through a phase. #toddlernaps Click To Tweet
I learned that it’s good to push through the “fighting it” phase for a couple weeks and see if they will fall back into an easier napping pattern. My oldest went on to nap for a few months after this phase, though both #1 and #2 dropped their naps between 2.25 and 2.5 years old.
If you keep trying for a consistent nap and the nap-fighting drags on, they may just be done.
Mistake #3- Prioritizing Your Own Needs And Desires Over Your Child’s
As I mentioned above, when my middle needed more consistency, I had to carve out time and stay home during her nap.
The tough thing was that I had to sacrifice errand time, which sometimes felt like “me-time,” especially if I went to Target. But I knew napping was important for her health and for everyone’s sanity, so I bit the bullet and cleared my schedule.
When it came time for my toddlers to give up their naps, I had a similar conflict: What about my couple hours of quiet, “me-time” in the afternoon? I cannot give that up yet! Nooooo!
It’s agonizing to realize that your free time is slipping away even more.
Not only that, but when they’re awake, you’re fully ON. Two and three-year-olds need a ton of supervision, so it’s no light task you’re adding to your plate.
You might have to process it and even grieve the loss of that time. But sometimes we gotta take one for the team and give up a little free time for the sake of our child’s needs.When your toddler drops his/her nap, you'll have to process it and maybe even grieve the loss of that time. #toddlernaps #toddlermom Click To Tweet
With our oldest, dropping the nap became the lesser of two evils. If she fell asleep in the afternoon, she would stay up past bedtime. I would lose downtime on the couch hanging with my hubby as we tried to get her to bed.
Ultimately, we chose to drop the afternoon nap for our own sanity in the evening.
Mistake #4- Making It Too Dark For Nap Time
I use blackout curtains at night, but during the day I just pull the regular curtain in the room. I have done this since infancy with them because I didn’t want them to rely on a pitch dark room to nap in.
We travel quite a bit and we don’t always know what situation we’ll have for the kids’ naps, so I trained them early to go down with some light in the room.
If you’ve been making the room too dark, you can gradually start pulling the blackout curtains back a few inches at a time to help them adjust. Or, you can go cold-turkey and stop using black out curtains during nap time.
This might be a good transition to a quiet time too, especially if they’re ready to give up the nap altogether.
Mistake #5- Putting Your Toddler Down Hungry
I’ve made the mistake of rushing home and trying to put my toddler down for a nap without giving them lunch or a snack first. I would think, “If I can just get them down quickly, I can feed them afterward and then they’ll get a longer nap.”
However, this always seemed to backfire.
They would either cry and whine excessively from the start of the nap time, or they would be quiet for 10 or 15 minutes and then start complaining.
Either way, it was a huge pain and I learned to get their tummies all tanked up before putting them down.
Kids tend to be super demanding when they’re hungry, too. But you can still use that time to train good manners. If you’d like your toddler to be more polite and quickly learn to say “please” and “thank you,” grab this cheat sheet with 8 Keys here:
Mistake #6- Driving Them Somewhere Late In The Day
When my middle daughter dropped to one nap, she cut out her afternoon one first.
I’d always been told that kids nap in the afternoon, but both of my older children clung to the morning nap and didn’t need the afternoon one after about 18 months.
It worked well for us but the issue became this: if I had to go anywhere later in the afternoon, she would just be starting to get tired again.
She could hold out until bed-time if we stayed home, but if we ran an errand or drove to a dinner place across town, odds were that she would conk out. If she took a late nap in the car, she would stay up way past bedtime, which threw off our evening as well as her routine the next day.
No one needs that kind of struggle!
Since we now have TWO toddlers, we try hard not to go too far in the late afternoon if we can help it. Case in point, the below pic.
Mistake #7- Keeping Distractions In The Room
If a two or three year old is out of the crib and able to walk around their room, distractions can keep them from settling down for a nap.
The train set in the corner, the stuffed bears from Grammy and the diffuser high on top of the dresser all seem more appealing than laying down on a boring bed.
If you have to take all the toys out of the room to get them to nap, I’d say it’s worth it for your sanity. But don’t waste your time lugging all those toys out if your toddler is actually ready to give up their nap.
You have enough on your plate!
Tools To Prevent Your Toddler From Fighting Nap Time
Getting My Toddler To Sleep… Finally
When my middle played with the white noise and entered the nap-fighting phase, I ended up having to sit with her so she could fall asleep.
That only lasted so long because I had an infant and an older child in another part of the house that I couldn’t ignore for too long.
Even though I made a few adjustments to try and help her sleep better, we ended up dropping her nap after a couple weeks of her fighting it. Having a toddler fighting nap time is a challenge for any mom.
You know your kiddo best, and if they’re not responding to your “fixes” they may just be done. I always suggest hanging onto the nap as long as you can but when it’s time to let go, it’s time to let go.
Good luck! And don’t forget to grab my free download below, “8 Keys To Teaching Kids To Say Please and Thank You!”