Giving Up Naptime

I am so pleased to welcome Allie of No Time For Flashcards as she opens up about her preschooler's transition away from naptime, the importance of routines and the tools and methods that have helped her along the way.

RIP Nap Time

My son is almost 4 years old and in that time he has probably slept through the night 20 times. I often refer to him being "allergic to sleep" as a way to make light of what took me a long time to accept, he is simply not a sleeper. The only shining silver lining was that he was a great napper. Was. Can you hear me crying? I am so sad he isn't napping anymore. In June, he became a big brother and during my daughter's super sleepy newborn days I could get them both down for wonderful long naps. I admit I was kinda smug about it. I should know by now if you brag, it will jinx you.

The breakdown came when I was trying to get him down for a nap, baby girl was asleep, my workout clothes were on and I was ready to sweat and try to reclaim my not so fat jeans ( my skinny ones are months down the road), and I lost it. He wasn't settling and I hear the hungry cries from the other room.

" I just want to fit into my clothes!"

I started crying harder than my infant , my son looked at me like I had two heads and that was the last day we even tried to take a nap.

Enter Quiet Time.

It's not really quiet and we are still working on making it a full hour but I have learned a few things since starting this new adventure a few months ago.Some kids need structure. Just going into a room with toys and closing the door may lead to disaster and possibly carpet cleaning. Here are some things that have worked for us.

# 1, 2, 3 !

I use little cards I made with the numbers 1-3 on them to choose three activities for my son to do in his room. Today he read a pile of books, used his magna doodle then played post office . After he is done those three activities he can play with anything in his room. This has helped him focus on something instead of simply focusing on opening the door and asking " Can I come out yet?" I switch up the activities daily ( puzzles, Lego, stickers) and try to have a large rotation so he doesn't get bored.

A Clock !

This works marginally well for us ( I haven't given up yet) but I know has worked beautifully for many friends. Give your child a clock and show them where the hands have to be before they may come out of quiet time. I show my son every day but if he is "done" it won't matter. With kids like my son, try an incentive.

Remove anything that might trigger shenanigans.

My son loves music. He loves making music with drums, his keyboard and harmonica. He is not allowed to play with these toys during quiet time. Instead of running upstairs 300 times to tell him no and get into a negative loop with him and attention , I take them out every day and return them once his sister is up from her nap.

Routine and Rituals

Kids crave routine and being able to predict what will happen next. My son knows that quiet time starts at 2pm, it's always in his room and knows that when it's over we have "Today's snack" and chat while his sister naps. Then he may play quietly for another hour , do a craft or learning activity with me, go outside or read. At 4pm he may watch a show if he has been listening. The rules are always the same, the house is peaceful and it's helped get over the insanity of no nap.

Giving up naps has changed us as a family, now my son goes to bed at 7:15 and is asleep before 8pm, which gives my husband and I some extra together time a bonus we hadn't thought about. It has also given my son and I more time together during the day while my daughter is sleeping, which I think has really helped his adjustment too. I don't get as much alone time but as angry as I was getting when he would fight his nap simply wasn't healthy. So like all parts of parenthood you try stuff until it works, I hope some of the things that have worked for us will help you too.

[image credit: Dianna]
Allison McDonald is the wonderful blogger behind No Time For Flash Cards, a website full of activities, crafts and ideas for young children. She is one of my daily blog reads and I count it a privilege to have her guest post here today. Thank you, Allie! For more fantastic ideas about how to promote play, discovery and learning in your child be sure to visit www.notimeforflashcards.com


  1. Brilliant. I know the no nap days are in our future, too, and I'm going to file this one away for when it happens. Thanks girls!

  2. I totally identify with having a toddler that is "allergic to sleep". We will be trying the quiet time this week to see how that goes. My 18 mo. old sleeps wonderfully, it's my 3 year old that is driving us nuts! THanks for the tips :)

  3. Wow....my life almost exactly right now!

  4. Great post! My son has been trying to fight his nap...and it only took a bribe for him! LOL He gets a "special treat" if he goes to sleep, but he doesn't have to. If he sleeps, when he wakes up--I let him watch "Word World" and have a more sweet snack (TV time is VERY limited here and sweets are too) Now he takes a nap about 80% of the time! My son is a grouch when he doesn't go to sleep.

    If a clock isn't working, a timer might---since you're just doing 1 hr. My pediatrician also recommended a timer for his lamp. Set it to when he can wake up in the morning and tell him to stay in bed until the lamp turns on....this is what we did for the mornings of course. It's worked great for us!

  5. Great post Allie! I am in the exact same boat. My daughter will be 4 in January and hung on to that day time nap for all it was worth but eventually had to resign to the fact that it was done just two weeks ago. Bye bye work out time for me too!

    I also do the quiet time thing and have found I'm going in and out trying to get her to understand that banging toys on the floor or kicking the door with her feet is not 'quiet' lol. So your tip of rotating the activities is one I will definitely put into play starting TODAY.

    Sometimes it's just nice to know you are not alone! I will be following your blog for sure!

  6. This is such a hard time. But soon you might actually enjoy the time.=)

  7. I'm dealing with this exact same thing right now. My daughter sounds just like your son, allergic to sleep. I just instituted one-hour quiet time starting at 2 p.m. Your tip for three focused activities sounds great for keeping her in there. Thanks!

  8. Such a great post Allie!

    My older one stopped napping a long time ago - but that meant I was so exhausted by 6 - when P got home from work. I got alone time for a bit then. Precious.

    We have an early bedtime and I have learned to live with that. Every kid I have seen actually loves routine and predictability - so I have always used it to help me.

    Such an awesome post Alli - you need to write more os this - love your craft posts but this is so awesome :)

  9. You know that feeling when you find the perfect post at just the right moment ... yep, that's they way I'm feeling right now. I can not wait to give 1-2-3 a try with my son tomorrow. Thank yoU!!

  10. I can relate. I was so depressed when my older daughter stopped napping...I also had another baby too. I struggled to enforce a "quiet time" but it never took. Good for you for getting that done! Something that helps me now is a Time Timer. It's a 60 minute timer that shows how much time is left - so worth it and helpful!!! It cuts down on the constant "is it time yet?" questions....no I didn't say eliminate....just cuts it down a bit ;)

  11. I can relate to this post on so many levels! Thank you for the great ideas. My son is almost 3, and he periodically will go a few days without a nap. I'm working on not crying when it happens! It sounds so ridiculous to cry (glad to read that I'm not the only one!), but I just get so disappointed to my very core. We are on a good napping stretch now, but I am due with #2 soon too, so I no the end is near. I will be even more grateful then for your ideas about quiet time, which so far we have not been able to implement successfully. (PS My son didn't sleep through the night until we weaned, well after age 2).

  12. My son seems to be allergic to sleep too. He pops out of bed (literally) around 5 or 5:30 and doesn't go to bed until 8:30 (and lays there singing and talking to himself for about an hour). He DOES take a nap (but takes for ever to fall asleep, and I have to lay down with him), but I fear our napping days are numbered. I'm sort of panicking about the thought of 5am to 8:30am with no break. I fully intended to implement some sort of quiet time, but wasn't quite sure how to go about it. You've got some great tips!

  13. I love this post, thank you so much! I have 2.5 year old twin girls who alternate between being impossible with naptime (refusing to go to sleep, etc) and impossible with naptime (staying up longer than me and my husband at night time). I love, love, love the idea of structured Quiet Time - I must admit that the DVD player is in frequent use in this house...

  14. Anonymous4:04 AM

    This reminds me of a Chrismas morning a long time ago :) I have 3 kids and the youngest was in kindergarten. She was a BEAR if you woke her up. So Xmas Eve the kids are all talking about what time they could tear into the living room... I knew the older ones would be up before the youngest so I told her "you need to stay in bed until the first # on the clock is 7 - not 5, not 6...

    Christmas morn the older 2 come into our room about 6:00 a.m... nope we have to wait for little to wake up... and we wait... and we wait... She finally came out! I said WOW you slept a long time... to which she replies "Well, I wan't sleeping, I was waiting for my clock to say 756!! LOL Was kind of nice to be starting Xmas at 8:00 a.m. instead of finishing!

  15. ooksee5:44 AM

    I have a son who just turned 3 Oct. 1st. We are in the same boat. He doesn't want to nap all the time but I need my break! It's only for an hour. At first I got mad then I started wising up. He usually gets up from a nap and watches TV so now if he doesn't nap he watches no TV for the rest of the day. :O) Insert mean mama, mean mama! LOL! It works! Also he kept coming out so we started using a timer. When he gets up he comes running out showing me the timer. He says, "I'm a big boy; I know when to get up all by myself!" Hang in there ladies and don't give up your time!

  16. I am so glad this hit such a cord with so many of you. Some days are wonderful 55 minutes without so much as a door opening, some days like yesterday not so much. I think that if his sister is napping he stays in better, yesterday she was awake when he started quiet time and I think he felt a little exiled and only stayed in for 35-40 minutes.

  17. This is a wonderfully timed post! Just today I realized that my 2 year old waking up at 4:20am two days in a row may mean that he is done with naptime. I plan to have "quiet time" for him since I still have a 1 year old who naps. Thanks for the great ideas!

  18. Thanks so much for writing this! My daughter is 4 and she has been fighting her naps. I have a 5 1/2 month old as well. She was doing good about taking naps. But we just moved to Canada with the transition she has not wanting to nap anymore. I will try this today!

  19. My oldest seems to have the sleep allergy too. He's never been a good napper. Lately he won't go to bed in the evening and he's up at night. That's not something we've had to deal with before. It's crazy how they know when we've got something figured out and they just switch it up on us!!
    I love the idea for the # cards. I think we NEED our break time or we end up being crazy mom on our kids.
    Ps. Thanks for the honesty too :) We all need to know we're in this together!