Ahh, nap time! The time of day to which most parents and caregivers look forward to! A time to take a breather, catch up on housework, and hopefully enjoy some quiet downtime while the children recharge. Nap time can become a challenge on the weekends though. For most parents, the weekend is a time for some family fun and relaxation, but you may have trouble getting your child down for a nap amidst the excitement, or you may not even see the need for your child to nap on the weekends.
If you have a child under the age of 6, chances are they are going to need at least one nap at some point in the day. Newborn babies and infants under approximately 4 months old will sleep most of the day. Their sleep schedule isn’t yet on a circadian rhythm like that of older children and adults. They do not yet have the concept of night and day, and will sleep around their feeding times. At about 6 months old, babies should start sleeping through the night. Until they are about a year old, they will most likely take two naps during the day and sleep through the night. As a child gets older and ages into the toddler and preschooler age groups, their need for longer and frequent naps will begin to fade. 90-120 minutes is just enough time for a child between the ages of 1 and 5 to nap.
Everyone’s brains and bodies need time to recharge, at any age. Studies have shown that rest is beneficial for strong physical and mental development. There are many reasons why you might find it difficult to keep to a weekend nap schedule. Many working parents don’t get to spend a lot of time with their children during the week. Guilty feelings may cause you to want to skip a nap or two on the weekends to make up for lost time. The same thing goes for your children. They may want to spend more time with you and they may seems cranky and defiant when you try to put them down for a nap. And who could blame either of you? You may also have events, parties, errands and other weekend plans that could overlap with the weekend nap schedule. The important thing to remember is that you need to remain flexible and that skipping a nap or having to rework your schedule once in awhile is not the worst thing in the world. Here are some tips to help you stick to a nap schedule during the weekends:
- Try to remain consistent across the board with anyone who cares for your child during the day. This can include nannies, grandparents, teachers, etc. Try to keep nap time at the same time every day and stick to a similar routine. If your child naps with a comfort item (blanket, stuffed animal, etc.), with music playing, or with a certain level of darkness in the room, then you should try to make sure that every caregiver is doing the same thing. Consistency is important to children because it makes their world more predictable, less stressful and confusing, and it additionally helps their internal clock adjust to a schedule. It also teaches them that we are held accountable for our actions, which is a long term life goal we can hope everyone learns.
- If your child refuses to nap and cannot be calmed, suggest some quiet time with something that will not overstimulate them, such as reading a book or laying down and listening to music. Odds are they will eventually fall asleep, but, even if they don’t, at least they had the time to give their body and mind a little rest.
- If possible, allow your child to nap in the same place that they sleep in at night. Not only is this establishing consistency, but the child will associate that spot (i.e., their crib or their bed) with sleep and it will make it easier for them to relax and be soothed for nap time.
- Try to schedule weekend activities around naps. If your child is well-rested from their night-time sleep, it is okay to be flexible with naps once in a while. It is never a good idea to allow your child to sleep in a car seat or any seat where they are strapped in, as these seats are not built for this purpose and strangulation can occur if they are not being monitored or used properly.
- Keep your child active on the weekends. A crazy stressful or hectic week can be cause for wanting to relax and lounge about on the weekends, but if your child is not getting enough stimulation and physical activity, they will not be tired enough come nap time. This can cause a chain reaction and disrupt their evening sleep schedule as well. Even going for a walk or playing a game of catch is better than nothing. If weather doesn’t permit outdoor activities, have a dance party inside or use household items to set up a game. You want to provide your child with enough stimulation to tire them out, but be careful not to overstimulate them too close to nap time or they will have a difficult time settling down to sleep.
- Try to keep your child on the same bedtime routine every night as well. Do not substitute naps for an earlier bedtime. Keep bedtime consistent. If need be, start to scale back the length of nap a few minutes at a time or start nap a little bit earlier if you are finding there to be a disruption with the evening sleep schedule.Your child shouldn’t nap past 3:00 or 4:00pm. Extending nap time past these hours, unless the child is ill, can disrupt a child’s sleep pattern and it may throw off their evening sleep schedule completely. There are other things that can cause a disruption to the evening sleep schedule as well, such as what they are eating. This can cause irritability and a generally unhappy child (and parent!). Again, it’s all about consistency!
Basically, you want to remain consistent and flexible. Every child is different, and every parent’s style is different when it comes to naps and routines. You know your child best. Pay attention to signs and signals that they are tired. Pay attention to mood and health, as these can also change up a child’s sleep patterns. If you remain vigilant, your child should have very little problems succumbing to nap time, even on the “fun” days of the week!
Amanda Dunyak attended Kean University for English Education with a minor in music, her other passion. Currently, she is a nanny working and residing on the New Jersey Shore. She has been a babysitter, nanny, and household manager for well over 20 different families throughout her career. She was also an instructional aide with special needs children, a teacher’s assistant, and a preschool teacher over the past 19 years, so childcare is in her blood. She is the owner and operator of Nanny Extraordinaire Child Care Services, LLC where she helps match up nannies and parents based on similar beliefs and personalities, helps with the interview and hiring process and sets nannies up for training to help them deal with the many situations they will face. She also has a blog for nannies called Diary of a Super Nanny and is a writer and Street Team Leader for Nanny Magazine. View Amanda’s posts here.