Naptime Matters.

Naptime Matters. // jessconnell.com

Naptime. Quiet time. Siesta. :) Call it what you want. But do not underestimate its importance for happy family life, particularly with kids about four and under.

In actuality, this principle of setting aside certain hours of the day for the purpose of rest can serve any family of any age and any size.

CHILDREN NEED REST

This isn’t anything new, and it shouldn’t be a “news flash”… but children need rest. Rest ought to be a regular part of their day. Their young bodies and young minds are growing, and they need their rest to “catch up” with and to cope with the busy-ness of life.

I’ve even heard many moms of little ones proudly say, “oh, she’s grown out of naps”, or “he doesn’t need a nap”, but then the child quickly reveals his own need for it… disobedience, whiny tantrums, and fussy attitudes suddenly begin surfacing.

What that child is saying, even though his words might say otherwise, is: “I need some rest, mom. I’ve run out of steam.”

Recently, in a discussion of homeschooling with toddlers, one mom admitted that she struggled to homeschool at all because of interruptions from a toddler, and that “forced naps” seem too “punitive”.

[Siderant: “Punitive” is a really popular, overused word now to describe anything that in any way seems mean to the speaker. It doesn’t have to be carried out meanly, it doesn’t even have to be perceived as negative by the child, and it doesn’t even have to BE a negative action… there seems to be no consistent definition for it, except that if a woman does not like a particular parenting method or style or choice, or perhaps it was carried out meanly to her when she was a child, and she thinks it sounds mean, then she gets to call it punitive.]

Naps are not punitive. On the contrary, giving rest to a child that needs it (a.k.a, a toddler who interrupts and whines and disobeys and throws fits) is the loving thing to do.

The Lord, our Shepherd, “makes [us] lie down” to restore our souls. He gives sleep to those He loves. Throughout Scripture, peaceful, secure homes, countries, and places are described as quiet resting places. Indeed, a disciplined child gives rest to his parents. God even planned a day of “rest” in the weekly routine.

Here’s a chart with WebMD recommended guidelines:

Is Your Child Getting Enough Sleep? Are You? // jessconnell.com

Regular times of rest are a centerpiece of a well-ordered home.

BUILD A REGULAR HABIT OF REST

This has been a natural part of our home– as infants, our children take multiple naps throughout the day and sleep well at night. Around 5-6 months, they transition to a two-nap routine (a cumulative four-five hours, split between morning and afternoon naps, with eight-eleven hours of sleep at night), and around 12-18 months, they usually transition to a one-nap routine, which lasts around 2-3 hours, and they keep that up until around age four.

Homes that have not built this in through infant routines may have to work at it… but by the time a child is one, he ought to have at least one good long nap every single day. And, please, don’t bring out the tired (get my joke?) old “schedule vs. AP” debate– I’m not saying anything revolutionary. Preschools and kindergartens the world over recognize the value and importance of regular rest for children, so let’s not pretend that this is some kind of radical idea.

img_4280However you go about it, I would encourage you to build in a natural cycle of rest into your family’s daily life. This does mean that you’ll have to be “working at home” and won’t be galavanting around the town each afternoon, it’s true… but there are worse things than having 2-3 quiet hours to yourself.

For example, having 2-3 hours of a whiny toddler throwing tantrums and raising your blood pressure until you pop. That would be worse. Or, having two such children who argue and fight with each other and don’t obey and allow no one in the home to have a moment’s peace. That would be worse.

But getting rest?

Some peace and quiet?

Oh, yes, please! If you don’t already, build it into your family routine. Your kids (though they may not verbally express it) will voice their thanks over the course of time through good attitudes and a cheerful countenance.


BUT WHAT ABOUT EVENTS THAT COME UP DURING NAPTIME?

img_3932Well.

They come.

This is the way life is anyway, and as moms we need to accept the idea that we can not do everything. For us, having our nap time hours set from roughly 2-5pm, every day, DOES limit what I can commit to. I can’t do every:

  • co-op,
  • homeschool activity,
  • $1 summer movie,
  • extracurricular opportunity,
  • ladies’ Bible study,
  • etc.

But having that daily time set aside also frees me up to commit to other things. I am free to:

  • take the bath or shower that’s difficult to come by in early days after having a baby
  • take a nap with my 2-4 year old,
  • enjoy some much-needed quiet time
  • get some needful cleaning or cooking done,
  • finish up any one-on-one lessons with the older kids,
  • hammer out an article to share with moms here, and
  • sit on my deck and drink in the sunshine and heaps of cold water on beautiful summer days.

There are trade-offs. But here, 14+ years into living as an at-home mom, I am so thankful to have had this regular rhythm that feeds the souls of my children, and the soul of their mama.


WHAT DO THE KIDS DO DURING REST TIME?

Well, the obvious first thing they do is rest.

I strongly believe that until a child can cheerfully occupy himself for the 2-3 hour quiet time AND control his own attitude for the remainder of the day, he needs a nap.

Every day.

And yes, sometimes that will mean that you try giving up naptime, only to find that little Sally isn’t ready for nap-free life yet (which will be evidenced by her emotional fragility and tantrums thrown throughout the remainder of the evening). So, the next day, back down she goes.

Trial and error.

But in general, this is how nap time goes around here. In the next article, I’ll share what our older kids do during nap time.

 

IN THE COMMENTS, please share: What does nap time look like in YOUR home?

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Jess Connell

Jesus-follower, Happy wife, Mom of 8 neat people. Former world-traveler, now settled in Washington. Host of Mom On Purpose podcast (momonpurpose.com). I write and wrangle kids.

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19 Responses

  1. Maribeth Scott says:

    So I WHOLE HEARTEDLY agree. However, my middle child (2.5) does not go to sleep at night anymore if she has a nap. But she cannot make it through the day without one! What are your thoughts? My 4.5 year old stopped napping a few months ago and she goes right to sleep at 8 pm. They share a room.

    • Jess Connell says:

      I would personally keep pushing through. Sometimes they hit a glitchy spot when they’re going through a growth spurt, not in a growth spurt, whatever… but for us, sleep is non-negotiable. So I’d work to find other solutions:

      1) Possibly make sure she’s not sleeping too LONG at nap time. Sometimes a super-long nap can inhibit nighttime sleep.

      2) Do what you can to make nighttime sleep easier:
      * maybe a book on tape?
      * Make sure she’s getting PLENTY of physical activity throughout the day (even a before-or-after dinner walk/bike ride)
      * bath/quiet activities 30 minutes before bed
      * not too much faux stimulation (i.e., devices, go-go-go commitments & entertainment, to where she’s overstimulated before bed)

      So, for us, especially at that age (I might be more apt to let it go and not make it an issue if she was 2 months away from turning 4), mid-day nap is not optional, and bedtime is not optional. So then I would analyze practical solutions until I found the right approach for this child, to help her get healthy sleep & facilitate healthy attitudes.

  2. Mary S says:

    Seriously! Nap time is sacred in our house. ❤️

  3. Amber says:

    I really whole-heartedly agree with naps, and made them a priority for my for children. However, I’ve always struggled when someone says that you must make a child nap until they are four (or whatever). All of my children stopped taking naps between 2 1/2-2 3/4 years old. I wanted my two oldest to nap longer b/c I worked part-time from home, but they would not sleep…though they did have quiet playtime in their rooms. Some of them did go through a couple weeks w/o naps when they were younger & eventually began napping again, but not after the 2 1/2 or so mark. In fact, if two of my children even had a 20 minute nap in the car or something, they would not go to sleep until 10-11 at night. This was almost always the case for my one of other children as well. My 1st has literally only napped, since she dropped naps, when she is sick…never even a catnap in the car. I much preferred to have them go to bed by 8 & sleep well, then be up late at night. I still see value & enforced a quiet rest/play time, but a blanket statement that all children need to nap until 4 years old just isn’t true for every child.

    • Jess Connell says:

      That would be fine here, too, if they could make it through the afternoon being quiet, AND make it all the way to bedtime with a good attitude. :) For us, that’s never happened until within a couple months of 4 years old. For a couple of our kids, they didn’t drop naps until 5/6.

      It’s not so much (for me) about the number, but about the attitude/ability to be a content, obedient child who makes it to bedtime without emotionally falling apart. I think too many people are apt to say “my kid doesn’t need one” but the attitude of the child belies the truth.

      • Amber says:

        That makes sense. For the most part, my kids were able to do well in the evenings. Sometimes on especially tiring days, we would put our children to bed earlier than normal which would allow for a little extra sleep. We’ve also said no to a lot that would make us late for bedtime, or we’ve left early. This is getting more difficult and tricky as my kids are getting older, but still have a 4 year old that needs to be in bed fairly early.

  4. Jesse says:

    I agree with Jess. My older boys stopped napping right around 3 but still had a quiet rest time and went to bed early. (Around 7) The older boys now (6+8) still spend about 2 hrs in the afternoon with a movie, book or story on CD. My little guy is 2 and my best napper. What a blessing. I am pretty sure he will nap longer than the older two because he is generally a better sleeper. With my first 2 every nap was a lot of work but worth it. Now my 2 year old is a joy to lay down. Children are all different so it is important to understand their temperaments but they all need sleep!!! I too grow tired of hearing mom’s complain about their grumpy toddlers but they don’t enforce naptime or even downtime! I enjoy my quiet time and even have time for myself to sew, craft, or even watch a show!

  5. Amber says:

    What are your thoughts on cat nappers? When my son was a baby he would only nap for 30-45 minutes TOPS. On the extremely rare occasion he slept longer I actually worried that he had died in his sleep or something! When he was closer to maybe a year old he started sleeping for an hour or two and it was a miracle. I still have no idea why he started sleeping longer. Anyway, that’s behind me for now but I just wondered what you thought of that. He always slept super late in the morning, so I figured his sleep cycle just worked that way: lots of sleep at night, a little sleep during the day.

    • Jess Connell says:

      A lot of babies struggle with the 45-minute thing and that’s why, often, I’ll keep my littlest guys next to me on the couch or in a rocking bed near me, and help get them over the hump of that first wake period. (I do that by gently patting their back, shh-shh-shh-ing rhythmically, and/or rocking the bed slowly when I notice them start to stir.) For some reason, that 30/45 minute period is a time of easy wakefulness, so I help them through it so they can take longer naps and get into REM sleep.

      I’m big on getting our infants into good sleep rhythms, early… and part of that is helping them learn to take good day naps, as well as the nice 11-13 hour block of sleep at night ASAP. It makes us all (baby included) happier & more sane. 😉

      • Britt says:

        I was just going to ask about cat naps! With the time change, my almost 5 month old switched to catnapping. And it’s right around the 45 min. mark that she wakes up. Then she gets sleepy and grouchy before her usual nap time, and then is back up after 45 minutes. She used to take a 2 hour morning and afternoon nap and a 1 hour evening nap. Now it feels like she’s grumpy and fussy all of the time. :( Any thoughts on reversing babies’ bad sleep habits?

  6. Melissa says:

    I’m totally a nap/quiet time believer, but 2/3 hours seems long for the non-sleepers… and even some sleepers (I have 5 kids from 2 mo to 7 yrs so we run the gamut on daytime sleep needs)… I do 1 hour quiet time for the older ones but it almost seems mean to make them do more…. yet, sometimes *I* am not quite done resting after 1 hour I know!! You really do 3 hours some days? I am curious what your older ones do!

    • Jess Connell says:

      Come read about it on Monday! :) it’s not mean; I promise! It’s delightful for us all.

      It’s a fabulous way for extroverts to learn to entertain themselves and be content with quiet, and I think it’s a real ministry to the introverts among us.

  7. Diana says:

    Love this article! I totally, totally agree. Naptime is for their happiness, and my sanity. I could not live without it, and it really makes family life possible. Otherwise we’re exhausted and snappy without having a break from each other. We do one hour for older children and two hours (minimum) for youngers. I use the second hour for school work with the older children, and I take the first hour to nap myself. It is a total sanity saver!

    Can’t wait to read tomorrow’s post! :)

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