Introducing Quiet Time for Your Toddler
The concept of introducing ‘quiet time’ or ‘rest time’ for little ones comes up for most parents when their toddler/preschooler is either refusing or has grown out of the need for an afternoon nap. Most toddlers, even if daytime sleep is no longer needed, benefit greatly from some quiet time in the day to recharge. Not to mention the alone time it gives you, the parent, to get tasks done or merely kick up your feet for an hour before afternoon/evening activities begin!
How to Determine if Your Toddler/Preschooler is Ready to Stop Napping.
This can be complex, as there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to sleep needs, and every child is different. The average age for a toddler to stop napping is around 4 years old, although some toddlers need a nap for longer. This can be especially tricky if your toddler is in childcare, i.e. daycare or preschool, and you have limited options available during their daytime schedule.
Signs It’s Time to Drop the Nap:
1.Your child is nearing 3.5-4 years old. Remember, every child is different so focus on your child’s sleep patterns and following their lead, not what they “supposed” be doing
2. Your child is not sleepy during the day by either resisting the nap and/or taking too long to fall asleep, OR sleep for a very short period
3. Your child is having a hard time falling asleep at night and bedtime has become a battle. This includes pushing bedtime back later and later because they aren’t tired or taking an extreme amount of time to fall asleep (30+ minutes).
4. Nighttime wake-ups and early morning rising can also indicate that there is an imbalance between nighttime and daytime sleep.
Once you’ve determined it’s time to drop your toddler’s nap then the work begins to introduce quiet/rest time.
How to Drop Your Toddler's Nap
Quiet Or Rest Time Definition: Quiet or rest time is when your child goes to a predetermined location, be it their bedroom, toy room, etc. to play quietly at a time determined by you for a duration determined by you. We want to incorporate this designated time into their regular routine so they learn to anticipate and love this solo time.
The benefits of quiet time are limitless, but the true key to quiet time is allowing your toddler to practice their independence skills so they can fully explore their creativity resulting in the growth of their confidence! In order to allow our toddler’s this opportunity to explore imagination, we need to provide them with open-ended toys, i.e. toys that don’t have a specific function, that promote creativity. Open-ended toys we love for quiet time include: Magnatiles, blocks, legos, dolls, cars, kitchen sets, books, etc. We avoid the use of electronics during quiet time as this can often lead to overstimulation, especially when already fatigued, resulting in increased tantrums.
Making the Environment Safe for Independent Quiet Time
One aspect of quiet time that we can not overlook is making sure the environment is safe for our children when they are unsupervised. Remember, toddlers love to explore so they may try climbing, jumping off, etc. furniture in their room you never thought they would attempt. I highly recommend bolting or using straps for furniture that could tip over. It’s also a good idea to use a video monitor if you can, especially as they are adjusting to this new degree of freedom. The video monitor can also be used as a comfort, as you can discuss with your toddler that you are able to see them from the camera in order to keep them safe.
Implementing Quiet Time
Rome wasn’t built in a day. We want to make sure we are preparing our toddlers for this transition, as it is also a new dose of freedom many of them have not experienced yet! We also want to remember that quiet time isn’t a punishment due to them not sleeping but rather an opportunity for them to be independent while getting some quiet time.
Add quiet time into their routine where the nap usually was located. This will help decrease your toddler’s fear of “missing out” and also make the transition easier because it is already a quiet part of their day.
Build the duration, as your toddler is learning a new skill that takes time. I recommend starting with 10-15 minutes and building up towards an hour based on your household schedule.
Separation anxiety is very common in the toddler years, as their imagination is expanding thanks to new language and social-emotional skills. Do not sneak out of the room! Let your toddler know you are still in the house and you will check on them throughout their quiet time.
Remain consistent. Your toddler is likely to leave their room a few times looking for you but promptly return them to their room with some reassurance. You can also use an “Okay to Wake” clock to help your child recognize when it’s time to be in the room vs. exiting.
Adjustments to Bedtime When Quiet Time is Implemented
Don’t be afraid to move bedtime earlier, especially if your toddler is showing you overtired signs, such as increased tantrums, extra silliness, etc. While it may not be a surprise to parents that when kids are tired they can act sillier than normal, many parents often don't understand the "why" as to this happening. It can all be traced back to the chemical makeup of the brain and body, as well as the development of children. This is why it is so important for kids to get the necessary sleep daily so that there are no miscommunications happening within the body causing over-the-top behavior to occur.
Remember that this is quite a shift, and it can take a little time for new routines to settle in with our little ones. Be patient with them and yourself, and enjoy your quiet break!
With a combined 19 years of professional experience as a certified sleep consultant and occupational therapist + 5 children between them, Kelley and Bailey are ready to help you tackle your sleep goals! Using a variety of evidence-based and real life strategies with development at the center of our sleep philosophy, we customize every sleep plan to get your family sleeping peacefully again. Healthy sleep habits (and confident parents) make for healthier, happier children.