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Sleep, that knits up the ravelled sleave of care...for a three-year-old?
November 13, 2008 5:34 AM   Subscribe

How can I get my three-year-old to take naps again?

My three-year-old daughter stopped taking naps about a year ago. Recently (say, the last three months, off and on), she's been a whiny, cranky pill to varying degrees most of the time, especially in the afternoons and evenings. (Compounding things is that about 3 months ago, her sister was born...) We've been to the doctor (when the crankyness was really bad about a month ago, it turned out to be an ear infection), and everything checks out ok (as much as they check in a 2 minute visit!). So our guess is that she's just really tired a lot of the time and needs naps. She goes to bed at 7:30-ish and usually sleeps until 7-ish, but typically will wake up in the middle of the night with some crying and upsetness.

So: any suggestions for actually getting her to take a nap in the afternoon? She's in daycare three mornings a week (8 - 1) and home the other two days with me. (The all-day daycare kids do nap, from 1-3, for what it's worth.) She doesn't want to stay in her room for the naptime, and I'm less thrilled with gating her in (although that's an option), in part because of the potty issue (namely, that she needs to be able to get to the potty in time!). I'm not averse to some option that involves bribing with a half-hour of Diego (we've got TiVo, so there's always an episode), but I'm not sure how to make that work. I'd be happy to buy a timer, if that would help.

Advice would be appreciated---she (and we) will be a lot happier if she gets some more sleep!
posted by leahwrenn to Human Relations (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Everybody's experience with kids is different, as are individual kids, but for what it's worth: Consider giving up on the nap, and instead putting your daughter to bed a little earlier to see if that helps. When my son was three, we noticed that he was cranky in the evenings but had trouble getting to sleep. I had been insisting on a nap that was, quite frankly, more for me than for him. After we gave up on the nap, he went to bed earlier in the evenings and fell right asleep. To give us both a little break at the old nap time, we had "quiet time" instead, which usually meant he got to watch PBS for half an hour while I took a nap :)

And one word on the daycare kids: They're not really all napping.
posted by Shoggoth at 5:49 AM on November 13, 2008


Call it quiet time. Allow her to look at books, etc. Be mindful she could be using going to the potty as an excuse for getting up.

Nobody wants naps at that age, but they need them, and you need the break. You are the mommy. Therefore, she needs "quiet time." Period.

Betcha she falls asleep!
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:57 AM on November 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


One of my daughters went through a patch of regular crankiness in the afternoon; we eventually found that she wasn't drinking enough, especially when she was at nursery. An extra couple of drinks in the afternoon made all the difference.
posted by Phanx at 6:47 AM on November 13, 2008


I vote for the "quiet time". Worked on my niece who always insisted (between the ages of two and five) that she wasn't sleepy. My mom would tell her she didn't have to go to sleep and could look at a book and as long as she was quiet on the bed. 95 percent of the time she fell asleep, at least for half and hour.

I have friends who have a 3 year old and a 4 1/2 year old and they kids have "lay downs" in the afternoon. Kids need naps.
posted by socrateaser at 8:13 AM on November 13, 2008


So is the question "does she need a nap" or "how can I make her take a nap"? Differentiating between what your child needs and what you'd like your child to do is important. As much as we like to think that we can control our kids, or make them do things, this thinking is problematic and sometimes causes more heartache.

My experience mirrors Shoggoth's in our second and third children.

As much as it sucks, some kids just outgrow a nap. Especially if she's sleeping 11.5 hours at night.
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 8:45 AM on November 13, 2008


Thanks for the responses so far! A couple comments:

--We've tried Quiet Time, with not a lot of success, but will try some more. I'd love some more suggestions for how to get the quiet time to stick (I like the "you have to stay on your bed", but she's pretty independent. And we're out of the habit at this point.)

--I was willing to go with the "some kids just outgrow naps" (like I said, she's not had a regular nap for the better part of a year!), but not having a nap is clearly not working. She's cranky and unhappy too much of the time, and I don't think it's all just that she's three (although that's a part of it). As for the "sleeping 11.5 hours a night"...well, she goes down at 7:30. She doesn't always go to sleep right away. She typically wakes up in the middle of the night, so it's not like she's getting particularly restful sleep.
posted by leahwrenn at 9:08 AM on November 13, 2008


--We've tried Quiet Time, with not a lot of success, but will try some more. I'd love some more suggestions for how to get the quiet time to stick (I like the "you have to stay on your bed", but she's pretty independent. And we're out of the habit at this point.)

Maybe give her a bunch of choices at the beginning of quiet time--take her to her bookshelf and ask her to pick out any books she might want to look at while in bed, then let her pick a stuffed animal that she can look at books with in bed. That way she asserts her own choices as part of the process.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:46 AM on November 13, 2008


It seems not insignificant to me that the napping stopped a year ago, but the problem arose around the time the baby was born. Maybe the adjustment is more the problem (or at least a contributing factor) than not enough sleep per se?
posted by katemonster at 9:56 AM on November 13, 2008


Recently (say, the last three months, off and on), she's been a whiny, cranky pill to varying degrees most of the time, especially in the afternoons and evenings. (Compounding things is that about 3 months ago, her sister was born...)

Maybe she doesn't need a nap, she just needs time with you like before her sister was born. Can you lay down with her at quiet time/naptime? Is the baby on a schedule enough that your 3-year-old can have reliable daily one-on-one time with mom and/or dad? This might have more to do with new-baby adjustment than sleep per se.
posted by headnsouth at 10:43 AM on November 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


I work with kids and I've taught preschool with kids who NEED to but don't WANT to nap. This is my best advice for you, but keep in mind that she's the one in charge here (kids rule. Literally.) and that you may have to accept that this is a phase, that this too shall pass.

Do you just put her in her room and then leave? She's not going to fall asleep. You need to create a ritual. Kids NEED rituals. Even if she was able to nap before, she needs help re-establishing the pattern since her life has been seriously disrupted by the addition of another family member.

From the moment you pick her up from preschool, prepare for nap and be explicit with her about the prepartions. Does she get up saying she's hungry? Start with a snack. Getting up for the potty? Tell her that she needs to sit on the potty because it's rest time.

(Hint: Calling it "rest time" and not "nap time" actually helps soothe some of the rebellion. "Oh? I can just lie there? Ok, that's cool." And allow her to just lie there. Even just an hour of lying in her bed quietly with a book or a stuffed animal will help keep the evening crankiness to a minimum.)

Give repeated updates. "Ok, we're going to have a snack and then we'll read a story and then you need to sit on the potty for rest time!" "Snack's done! Good job! Now you can pick a story and then it's time to sit on the potty before rest time!" Etc. This may drive YOU nuts, but it will help her get a sense of what's coming before "OMIGOSH, NO ONE TOLD ME I HAD TO NAP."

Make it possible for her to just lie quietly in her room. Don't expect her to actually fall asleep right away or all the time. Positively reward her for resting. If she DOES fall asleep, reward her with 1/2 hr. of Diego, but don't make it a bribe. "Oh wow, I'm so happy that you took a nap! Would you like to watch Diego now?" will work just fine. If she does this on her own and realizes that it gets a reward, that's so much better than being coaxed into it.

Stay with her in the room for a little while. Sing to her. Rubbing her back helps greatly. Then after a few minutes tell her "I'm going to go now, and you need to rest for a while." Give her twenty minutes. After twenty minutes, if she's not asleep or at least resting quietly, come back in and let her get up. Let her know that you're unhappy that she didn't rest, but don't PUNISH her. A simple "Oh wow, you're not resting. Ok, you can get up, but we're not going to watch Diego and it makes me sad that you couldn't take a nap."

This is my strategy for the two year old I nanny for, to keep nap time consistent, and IT WORKS. She gets THRILLED when I come in after she's slept and I wake her to tell her how happy I am that she took such a good nap. And if I'm obviously disappointed that she didn't nap, she feels bad about that too.

Siblings take time to adjust to each other. Kids need help in dealing with any kind of change, but since she obviously needs her nap anyway, you need to help her re-establish a rhythm where she's able to do that. Her sister isn't going to go away and she needs a little extra help adjusting to that.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:59 AM on November 13, 2008 [3 favorites]


I'm less thrilled with gating her in (although that's an option), in part because of the potty issue (namely, that she needs to be able to get to the potty in time!).

If she's not staying in her room, gate her in for a while. Tell her that you need her to stay in to get a good rest. And as I mentioned before, if she's not at least *resting* after 20 minutes, it's a lost cause. Then removing the gate and letting her roam free isn't really an issue since she's not going to rest anyway. And again, as I said before, having her sit on the potty BEFORE rest time will help keep her from needing to *rush* to the potty.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 11:02 AM on November 13, 2008


not an answer to the OP, but grapefruitmoon, you rock!
posted by nax at 11:27 AM on November 13, 2008


(Thanks nax! I have lots of practice.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 11:34 AM on November 13, 2008


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