With that precious first baby you have it so easy. Every nap brings a golden opportunity for rest, work or a little “me-time” all in sweet, uninterrupted silence. Then comes baby #2, and there’s no more silence. Sure, you are occasionally blessed with simultaneous napping, but that’s rare. You usually spend half of one child’s nap getting the other child to sleep. Then, before you know it, you’re struggling to keep the child who awakens first from disturbing the one who just went down. And, that’s when they both sleep at all!
So, what do you do when your children actually STOP NAPPING!?!?!? How do you retain sanity without a moment to yourself all day long? What if you child starts having trouble napping at 20 months old. Heaven forbid!
Now, we all love our children. They are precious little creatures that bring life and meaning to our days. But, we still need rest. And, even moreso, they still need rest! There is an answer to the disappearing nap – it’s called “Rest Time” in our house. “Rest Time”, “Quiet Hour”, “Afternoon Rest”, whatever the title, this concept is key. Don’t let your child, grow out of naps. Help your child grow into rest time.
I discovered rest time when I discovered Waldorf about a year ago. The Waldorf way of life teaches that having routines or “rhythm” is key to a healthy family life. Now, this doesn’t mean sticking to a schedule. It means maintaining a regular, predictable flow to your day. Actual timing of events may very, but the predictability is still there. For our family, rest time follows lunch time. And that’s all there is too it. You don’t argue with the sun when it comes up. You don’t argue with the seasons when they change. And, you don’t argue with mom when it’s rest time. That’s just the way it is.
After lunch, I clean the dishes and table while the children have a last bit of together play. Then I tell them it’s time for rest time (other moms actually sing a rest time song, but I just never took to that), and off my almost-5-year-old goes to her room, shutting the door behind her. She knows she can scan the house for some special toys she’d like to bring into rest time today, but after she’s in that’s it. Aria, my oldest, is very social. She has no trouble entertaining herself for our hour-long rest time, but she does miss the company. She’s allowed to come out once during rest time for a hug. Sometimes she’s so engrossed in her imagination that she forgets me entirely.
My youngest is 2.5. When we started doing rest time last year, he still took an afternoon nap. At the time, sending Aria to rest time helped him to resign himself to going to sleep. He didn’t feel he was missing anything. But, Liam grew out of naps around 22 months. When I noticed that he repeatedly stayed awake in his crib throughout his nap, I started putting him outside his crib and telling him to play quietly in his room during rest time. I would shut him in, which helps him understand he’s not to leave his room. The first time I shut him in, he wailed. I came back and explained things again. Repeat wailing. Repeat comforting. Eventually, he got it. Now it doesn’t phase him at all when the door shuts for rest time. And, when I open it, he chirps, “Is rest time over, Mommy?”
One of the great things about rest time with toddlers is that it still gives them the opportunity to sleep if they’re really tired, without taxing your energy either way. You aren’t emotionally invested in whether or not your toddler sleeps, because you can count on having your own rest time. When we moved Liam to a big boy bed, at about 24 months, he started taking naps quite frequently again. Having the choice to get into bed or to play in his room actually helped him to listen to his needs. Every so often, I still find him sleeping when rest time is over. Aria and I take those opportunities to do something special, just she and I.
If you’d like to transition older children to rest time, start with a 30 minute period. Lengthen it to 45 and then to an hour, which seems to be the typical length for rest times. If you’re child is really young, a baby gate might be more appropriate than a closed door. For older children, find what works for them: open/closed door, music, books, a special toy basket that comes out during rest. Rest time is not a punishment, it is a time for all to learn and appreciate the art of spending time alone. I hope that your family will also feel nurtured and supported by this tradition!
- Our Kindergarten Rhythm
- Nature Play & Nature Study with Young Children
- Words for Loving Transitions
- Our Preschool at Home
- The Waldorf Doll