Make no mistake. Little kids will take a nap if it is routine and non-negotiable. It’s true. Nap time needs to be a priority, not worked around errands and phone calls and play dates.
You will notice that children sleep more during a growth spurt. That’s what children do; no matter how often you admonish them to stop growing, they grow. There must be a routine for sleep.
Be consistent about when it is time for nap. When my kids were little, if nap time was to work, we had to have lunch and cleanup behind us between 12:15 and 12:45 or they would get their second wind and be going strong until late afternoon when they would either fall apart completely or crash until bed time. Some of my friends gave me such a hard time for being so anal about it, but my kids (and I!) were so much happier for our days revolving around nap time.
Plenty of fresh air, light and exercise before hand needs to be part of the routine. (One of our favorite things to do when our kids were little was to find out when the marching band practiced and chase them around the block a couple of times.)
If you give your kids a wholesome lunch such as whole grains, dairy products, rice and eggs to name a few, these will help to encourage sleep because they contain tryptophan, an amino acid that promotes sleep. Giving children junk food for lunch is certain to sabotage your efforts.
Establish a nap routine. Just like adults, kids need a few minutes to wind down if they’ve been running around. Story time and a song is a good prelude. If you do this routinely with your kids, they will begin to associate the activity with falling asleep.
Pull the shades down, turn off the tv and the ringer on the phone. You might want to play soft music. After the kids are asleep, use the time for yourself- reading, writing, dozing, doing something creative. The housework can wait. Taking that time for yourself will make you a better parent.
It is so unfortunate that generally speaking, a nice nap in the early afternoon is frowned upon. I have always had a hard time staying awake after lunch. In fact, when I was working in the field of social work, I learned quickly not to schedule appointments with clients between the hours of one and three in the afternoon. It is amazing how intolerant people can be when you drift off as they are baring their soul. So I would bring a jolt of caffeine to my office and do paperwork during that time. And remain sluggish for the afternoon. Then I discovered the magic of putting my head down on my desk for 20 minutes.
I have mentioned that when my children were young, my soul purpose in the mornings was to wear them out so they would all go down for a nice long nap. When they eventually outgrew naps (after they became accustomed to kindergarten), I remained cranky and lethargic until the end of the day. Until I realized that naps are as beneficial to us as they are for kids. In fact, as Sarah Ban Breathnach, author of Simple Abundance proclaims, “If you want to be happy for the rest of your life, napping is not optional.”
Several years ago, I was blessed with the gift of being surrogate mother to a one- year-old boy. In my effort to make his time in strange surroundings with people he did not know less lonely, I stayed in the room with him as he went down for nap, so that he would not wake up completely adrift, not knowing where he was. Little did I (and does he!) know that he gave me one of the greatest gifts I have ever received.
Nap time offers an opportunity to let go of the mayhem. Not to be confused with sleeping, a nap is a chance to drift for a moment from the turmoil, to experience your inner being, your soul, the essence of who you are… That state of half sleep allows you to work out creative solutions to any number of things. Having gotten into the routine of letting my self be quiet, I realized how critical to the contentment of my soul this disconnect time has become. When I am finished, I can get up and do another full days work. RDW(4-30-10)