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Infant - Month #42

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To Nap or Not to Nap? That is the Question!

By Lindsey Hill, edHelperBaby

Your Three-Year-Old
           It's one o'clock in the afternoon and your three-year-old is running laps around the house while you're running low on patience. A pile of laundry and dishes linger nearby and the bestseller you picked up at the library is calling your name. You consider bagging the nap to ensure ease at bedtime, but you're aware of the bewitching hours each evening when he's a difficult and grumpy mess until he finally crashes into bed around eight o'clock. What is a mom to do? Does a three-year-old still need a nap or would quiet moments throughout the day be enough?


An Eye On The Issue
           Wouldn't it be nice if there was one way to raise a good sleeper? All we need is that one trick to get a child to sleep during naptime and go to sleep with ease during bed time, too. Kids do have the ability to learn to sleep well; it's just up to the parents to guide their kids' healthy sleeping habits from the beginning. And, in fact, mental and physical development is dependent upon this sleep. Napping allows children to process the information they've learned and to apply that knowledge in new situations.

       Some developmental milestones can get in the way of sleeping during the day and night. A toddler's newfound independence and an increase in cognitive, social, and motor skills can interfere with this much needed sleep. That is why some little ones still need naps, shorter or longer than others at the same age. In addition, due to an increased imagination, the fear of monsters in the closet or under the bed, for example, creates anxieties as well.

       Toddlers age one to three need 12-14 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period. Preschoolers age three to five need 11-13 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period. Where your child falls is determined by the healthy habits you help to create. If your child sleeps 10 hours at night, he may need a 2-hour nap during the day, about 5 hours after he wakes, in order to rejuvenate him for afternoon playing. Keeping track of the number of hours he's asleep during the night will determine the length of his nap during the day, if a nap takes place at all. Professionals suggest, however, even if your child is finished with naps, try to encourage a time during the day for recharging until five years of age.


Just Try It
           Try out some new ideas for replacing nap time without discouraging independent recharging for your child and a mid-day break for you! If your child falls asleep, then he must need the rest. If he stays awake, he might be giving up naptime, so consider the following ideas:
  • Change the name by calling it "quiet time" or "recharging time" rather than "nap time." Your child will be more likely to oblige.
  • Allow your child to listen to books or music on CD in her room. She may join you again once the CD is finished. These audio activities have proven to increase language abilities and, therefore, learning in children.
  • With your child, design and decorate a calm container filled with quiet activities: Magna-doodle®, kid magazines, coloring books and crayons, puzzles, hand-held video games, cling stickers, and activity books with mazes.

       You might consider a reward system using stickers for each day your child completes her quiet time. After five days in a row with no problems, for example, your child can pick a surprise from a treasure box. Items for the treasure box should be inexpensive or free items such as prizes for birthday parties sold in bulk, items from the dollar store, or coupons for playing a game with you, helping you bake cookies, or watching a movie with you. Of course, be creative with the rewards and even let your child choose the reward prior to beginning so she has a personal goal to reach.


Parent Chit Chat
           When Cory hit three years old, my husband and I both noticed his increased energy level when it was time for bed. After charting his daily schedule for a week, we had to set a few new rules for ourselves and for him:
  1. Waking up and naptime (if taken) must take place at the same time every day and the nap can last no longer than 60-90 minutes.
  2. No sugar after five thirty if we wanted him in bed by eight thirty. This was hard because of our family's sweet-tooth after dinner, but we figured out alternatives to the sugary treats: Frozen yogurt, sugar-free popsicles/fudge pops, sugar-free pudding and Jell-O, sugar-free cookies, and reduced sugar chocolate powder for his milk.
  3. Our nighttime routine must be the same each night, too. First, we play as hard as we can without television. Next is bath time with food coloring which encourages independent playtime. Third is a quiet television show or a book while he snacks on high protein and calcium choices (usually peanut butter crackers and milk, but always his choice). Lastly, we all climb into his bed, read three books (one for each year of his age) of his choice, and then sing a song together. We say "We love you, Cory. It's time for bed. Good night!" and crack the door with the bathroom light on until he falls asleep. If Cory gets out of bed after we leave, we walk him back to bed and tell him this phrase again, "We love you, Cory. It's time for bed. Good night!" even if it takes fifteen times to keep him there.

       We DON'T give in to his demands! This is the key for us!

       Of course, no method is fool-proof, but one method or a few put together must be used for at least two weeks, according to the professionals, in order to be successful. Little ones thrive on consistency and structure, so find what works and stick with it. Offering choices to your little ones helps a lot, too. They love knowing their opinions matter and they can help with family decisions. Just make sure you're comfortable with the choices available.


Book Basket
           Open the pages of these exciting tales aimed for infants to age five!
  • Baby Danced the Polka; Karen Beaumont
  • It's Naptime, Little One (Sesame Street Beginnings) ; Naomi Kleinberg
  • No Nap; Susan Meddaugh
  • Are You Sleepy Yet, Petey? ; Marie Hodge
  • Little Spotted Cat; Alyssa Satin Capucilli
  • Naptime for Slippers; Andrew Clements
  • Sleepy Little Mouse; Eugenie Fernandez
  • Sleepy Places; Judy Hindley
  • Dragon Nap; Lynne Bertrand
  • I Don't Want to Take a Nap; Michael Ambrosio
  • Just a Nap; Mercer Mayer


Food For Thought
           Nutritious and delicious foods for healthy, happy, ready-to-snooze kids! These foods are proven to produce melatonin, a hormone that relaxes and encourages sleeping.
  • Milk
  • Cottage cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Bananas
  • Raisins
  • Peanut butter crackers
  • Cheese crackers
  • Whole grain cereal and milk

       To ensure a restful sleep, reduce sugars and caffeine your child consumes at least three hours before sleeping. Also remember to keep that belly full one half hour to one hour before sleeping. Most of all, remember that "This too shall pass"!


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