The dreaded day has finally arrived… There is no more nap for Big M. She has always been a great sleeper, and I cherished my daily 2-3 hours of peaceful solitude. It was enough time to do household chores, shower, AND still have time to myself to catch up on the DVR or catch a quick catnap myself! But alas, it has become highly apparent that her afternoon nap has been (nearly) permanently replaced by Quiet Time.
When Do Kids Stop Napping
Big M’s naps did not come to an end overnight. It was a gradual transition. Our routine remained consistent – every day, we had lunch, picked up from the morning’s activities, and I put Lil’ M down for her nap. Then, Big M went upstairs to use the bathroom and have her nap. Naps became a bit of a battle as we finalized potty training. She would wait until nap time every day when I put her in a diaper to have a bowel movement, then need to be changed, before being put down for her nap again. Then, when she moved to a big girl bed, sleep during nap time became more delayed as she read countless books. She would eventually drift off around 2 or 2:30, and I would have to wake her up almost every day around 4, to avoid bedtime battles in the evening.
Around her third birthday, she started taking a nap only every other day or once every three days. On the days she napped, she would usually fall asleep in her bed, or sometimes I would find her with her blanket on her bedroom floor. More and more often, the days she napped made for nightmarish bedtimes – she has always loved her cozy blankie and bed, but on nap days, she would be in her bed, kicking at the wall or singing at the top of her lungs well past 9-10pm at night. While I was dreading giving up my 1.5-2 hours of daily solitude and recharging, the bedtime battle was even worse!
As seen in this graph from St. Louis Children’s Hospital, most children start to give up naps around 3, and nearly all children have stopped napping by 5. But even if a child stops sleeping in the afternoon, there is still ample need, for both them and you as a parent, for Quiet Time.
When naps end, there is still a strong developmental need for a young child to have some peace and quiet. Not to mention, after chasing two munchkins all morning, I need a break for my own sanity too! Quiet time allows everyone to recharge. It also allows the house to be quiet while Lil’ M naps too. For an hour or two, your preschooler can play by themselves, without external stimulation – no parent intervention, no screens. This fosters independence, confidence, creative and imaginative play, encourages focus, and on the days where they have been really active, the opportunity for them to rest should they choose to do so.
How to Implement Quiet Time
When Big M started fighting naps, I never told her she had to sleep. When we put her in her big girl bed, I never commanded her to stay in it. After lunch, I always said, “Now, it’s time for everyone to have some quiet time. You may rest or choose to play quietly.”
From the time we took down her crib, we made sure her room was safe and secure for her to play in freely without our constant supervision. For her own safety, we have a child-protective knob cover on the inside of her door. Her room is upstairs, and we have a very steep staircase with no gate at the top. I wouldn’t sleep at night if she wasn’t locked in her room. Most days, she opts to ‘play quietly,’ requesting assistance with a costume before I depart. Occasionally, she knocks on her door to use the bathroom or request a wardrobe change. If it is not time for quiet time to be over, I open the door, assist her with whatever she needs, and tell her it is still quiet time.
At first, on days she didn’t nap, I put her to bed as much as 30-60 minutes early. She was exhausted, would start declaring how tired she was at dinner, and would be asleep before I even turned out the lights! Also, after starting preschool, for the first month or two, she almost always slept on school days – those 2.5 hours of concentrated play, following instructions and listening to her teachers wore her out! I can almost always tell now when she is either hitting a growth spurt or getting sick, because she falls asleep instead of playing.
Since we never “gave up the nap,” quiet time was an easy transition, replacing what previously was nap time. If you have given up napping, implementing quiet time only requires routine and consistency on your part. If it is helpful, you can use a Wake Up Clock or timer with your child to help establish the routine.
Quiet Time Activities
It is beneficial for children’s independence, creativity and imagination to have unstructured, free play. That’s what happens in our house during Quiet Time. She is free to play with anything in her room. There are days where I may introduce a special activity into the mix, like our Build a Snowman box, but 90% of the time, I leave her to her own devices.
On most days, she plays dress up, re-enacts scenes from her favorite movies or shows, sets up all her princesses on her windowsill. One day, she had a birthday party for Belle; I could hear her singing Happy Birthday from downstairs! Some days, she reads books, plays her keyboard, or does puzzles. Every night before bed, she helps clean up her room, because it is typically a bit messy post-quiet time. Last night, I discovered the sink from her kitchen filled with play apples and carrots on the floor by her rocking horse – she informed me that he needed a snack, and horses like apples and carrots. I am endlessly amused by her quiet time imaginings, performances and antics.
So while I dreaded the day her naps would end, Quiet Time is just as great, if not better. There is no battle to get her to sleep, no running up and down the stairs to put her blankie back in her crib when she throws it out in protest. And best of all, she is sound asleep at night by 7-7:30 for a solid 11-12 hours.
At what age did your child give up naps? Do you have quiet time at your house? What is your child’s favorite quiet time activity?