How do I get two toddlers to nap?
June 29, 2012 3:14 PM   Subscribe

How do I get two toddlers (same age, not twins) to nap at the same time?

This fall, I'm going to start nannying for a friend. She and I each have toddlers, about a week apart in age. The kids will be about eighteen months old when I start taking care of her daughter (in addition to my son). We're easing into it with some trial runs this summer -- I take her daughter for a few hours here and there, ramping up to a full day -- and I'm generally pretty excited about it.

Except I have no idea how to get them both to take a nap. Neither of them currently falls asleep without an adult holding them -- rocking, nursing (when Mama's available), singing. They both nap around 1 p.m. for a couple of hours. They will fall asleep in a stroller, when completely exhausted. I will generally not have enough car seats for both of them, so that's out of the question -- it's bikes and strollers all the way.

What do I do with the awake one while I'm getting the other one to sleep? (Probably put him/her in a safe place like a crib, right?)

My only thought so far is to wear them both out as much as humanly possible before trying to put them down for their naps. Park, outings, running, etc. I've considered trying to work on getting my son to fall asleep independently, since I've got a few months, but previous efforts in that direction have failed spectacularly. They'll be able to be in separate rooms, so they won't wake each other up. I'm also aware that there will be an adjustment period where neither of them are likely to nap.

So, any suggestions?
posted by linettasky to Grab Bag (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I remember from my nursery school days a little ritual. We had a magic fairy wand and someone got to go around the room at nap time and as you laid down on your own, personal beach towel, the designated fairy would tap you with the magic wand, and you would close your eyes.

Something like that? Perhaps sit inbetween them and rub their backs as they drop off? Sing a special sleepy-time song.

Or you could do what my mom did, "You don't have to sleep, but you do have to stay in there and be quiet."
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 3:19 PM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Simplest solution might be to have all three of you lie down together. You can put one arm around each kid, and sing. (Warning: like most of my child-raising theories, this one is certified to work on cats.)
posted by feral_goldfish at 3:19 PM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: you could do what my mom did, "You don't have to sleep, but you do have to stay in there and be quiet."

This is absolutely what I did as a nanny.

I would absolutely try to get at least one kiddo to be able to fall asleep independently - but other than that... there's not too much you can do to game nap time with toddlers. Just take it one nap at a time and accept any quiet down-time as a win.

Also try to get them both on the same schedule. Talk to the other mama and figure out a set "nap time" and aim to get them both napping around that time as much as you can. Getting them in sync NOW will help so much.
posted by sonika at 3:43 PM on June 29, 2012 [7 favorites]

Routine, routine, routine, the same everyday and they will get used to it and be happy to lay down.
posted by lee at 3:58 PM on June 29, 2012

3rding the "you don't have to sleep but for the next x hours you must lay down". That's what I did when I nannied, after about a week they got used to it and slept. It's also great if there's an age gap and you can have an older child read or whatnot while the little ones sleep.
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 4:09 PM on June 29, 2012

18 months old is too young for fairy wands but likely old enough for understanding the concept of a nap. I'd start working on reading lots and lots of books about naps and developing ritual phrases you can use to let them know it's time to lie down and go to sleep 'night night', etc.

Don't forget that you can use the stroller inside the house - you can have one n the stroller, and roll it back and forth as you hold the other.
posted by bq at 4:14 PM on June 29, 2012

In addition to wearing them out, make sure they are fed and hydrated (probably before wearing them out), then make things quiet and all of you lay down.
posted by Michele in California at 4:42 PM on June 29, 2012

Best answer: My wife does a little sitting on the side and I've noticed it's a very different dynamic when other kids are in the house. It's an awesome playdate with kids your own age! Your own kids will also behave slightly differently - both good and bad (make sure you set some rules about sharing toys. You would not believe how much grief comes out of fighting over toys).

When you start to approach the "quiet time", make sure there's a transition. Since it's a 1pm target time for a nap, perhaps eat lunch and then keep the mood quiet after that. And stay in control during that period. Kids sometimes get the energy burst after eating and then it's grabass hour. And you don't want to try and put kids down during grabass hour.
posted by JoeZydeco at 4:55 PM on June 29, 2012 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I run a home daycare and I have 9 kids...7 who nap. They all nap from 12:30 - 2:30 ish. Every area where kids are sleeping (here it's playroom, family room, our bedroom) has a white noise machine. The noise machines and routine are key. Good luck :)
posted by Abbril at 6:58 PM on June 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

My kids are day care grads -- the staff there handle it by keeping a strict routine and making quiet time non-negotiable. After lunch they dim the lights, play a CD of nice quiet music, and everyone lies down together on their cots. My kids take special blankets/pillows to school just for naps - you could try that too. We follow the same routine on weekends so that it's consistent through the week; I agree that getting your friend to get her child on the same schedule now would help ease the transition.
posted by hms71 at 7:55 PM on June 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

If you are going to do nap right after lunch, you can try dimming the lights and starting the nap CD and quiet time during the last five minutes of lunch. It can keep them from getting to excited during clean up, potty time, and getting in bed.
posted by that's how you get ants at 7:56 AM on June 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

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