Both of my older girls have dropped their afternoon naps a little after their third birthday. As devastating as it can feel to lose that glorious time of uninterrupted nap time bliss, we have transitioned them to afternoon “rest time” which has worked really well overall.
So, if your little one has stopped napping, take a deep breath, it’s going to be ok! Here are some tips for rest time magic:
Set the expectation for rest time.
Don’t start doing outings or running errands or letting them watch a show during that usual nap time. It will be hard at first, but if you set the expectations right away, they’ll adjust!
It is unlikely that your child will be able to immediately be able to stay in their room for 2 hours playing quietly and listening to music or stories. Start with thirty minutes, expect them to come out a million times, and build up.
Create a peaceful rest time environment.
My girls do best when they have a spot that feels clean and cozy. After lunch, we do a quick tidy of their rest time-spaces, which in our house are either their room or the playroom. I keep them separated even when they beg to do rest time together because being together always results in fighting. I let them set up pillows, blankets, and stuffed animals into a cozy spot.
Choose a quiet activity.
Legos, Magnatiles, blocks, Target dollar spot or dollar tree activity books, Highlights kids search and finds, stickers, bead necklaces, coloring books, and Brain Flakes are some of our favorite rest time activities. This is also where toy rotation can come in really handy. If you bring out something that’s been in a closet for a while, the novelty will keep them occupied even longer.
Choose something to listen to.
At this point, my six-year-old will listen to audiobooks for hours on end, but when starting out, I’ve found that music and shorter stories are more doable. Our absolute favorite is the Audible Original, Laurie Berkner Song and Story Kitchen. They’ve listened to it over and over and it’s perfectly engaging for younger attention spans. We also enjoy Lamplighter Kids, Story Time, and Circle Round podcasts, as well as listening to Radio Disney. The podcasts and Radio Disney are available via Apple TV, so I often just turn them on there. Frog and Toad and Winnie the Pooh are classic favorites. My six-year-old has enjoyed The Boxcar Children series (skipping the haunted or ghost-themed ones), Mercy Watson, The Never Girls, Little House on the Prairie, Magic Treehouse (again skipping some involving ghosts or mummies), and the Princess in Black series. We check all of these out from the library using the Libby App or Overdrive. She’ll listen to them on my iPad, an old iPhone that we keep just for audiobooks, or Kindle Fire. We also recently discovered the Tony box at our house and it is a big hit! My absolute go-to for audiobook recommendations (and all books!) for kids are Read Aloud Revival and Everyday Reading on Instagram. These mamas have great taste in books and I trust their judgment for content.
I also like to go old school with CD players and headphones. Again, the library is a great resource to check out CDs and they have tons of options.
Offer a simple snack and water in the middle of rest time.
I’ve found that some raisins or cheerios, crackers, fruit, or whatever else can help extend the time they’re content on their own. Of course, I like to keep an ear out when my kids are eating to avoid any choking concerns.
Lastly, have a set time amount of time for rest and stick to it!
I personally don’t do a specific time because I like to overlap it with the baby’s nap. So if she sleeps from 1-3, that’s rest time. If she wakes up early or sleeps longer, we adjust. When it is over, be ready to fully engage with the kiddos again and do something fun together, or if you need to, turn on a show! If I am super tired or sick, it is glorious to end rest time and then go right into screen time for an added break for me. Most days, however, we do a popsicle or snack outside in the backyard right after rest time.
So, what do I do during rest time?
It really depends on the day. Recently, I’ve been making myself actually rest. I like to set a timer for twenty minutes to do some quick chores and tidy the house or tend to administrative details. Then I’ll sit down to read with a cup of tea or take a quick nap! I want rest time to be restful for me so I can have the energy I need to keep mom-ing for the rest of the day.