Crib Notes: How I Get My Toddler to Play Quietly After Naps

Quiet time after nappingQuiet time after nappingI know plenty of people who have children that are champion nappers. But I am not one of those people, and my children are not those children. I am 100% certain my toddler will not be one of those children who takes their last afternoon nap the day before kindergarten starts. (This may be somewhat genetic - my mom said all five of her children had given up naps by 18 months. The horror!).

Of course, even if my daughter is making progress toward giving up her naps, I am certainly not ready to give up that precious time in the afternoon where all is quiet in our little home and I can get some things done on my own or simply read a book in peace.

And so, we've started instituting quiet time. Right now, she naps nearly every day, still, but often for only about an hour. The remaining time is quiet time, whether that's five minutes some days or more than an hour on others. It helps that she's still in a crib - we'll see how it goes once she's in a bed.

Eventually, she'll do nothing but quiet time, but the transition has been a lifesaver as her naps have gotten shorter and shorter. I love knowing exactly how much time to plan for her being otherwise occupied, whether it's sleeping or playing quietly. And now I don't live in quite so much fear of the day when naps do come to an end for good.

Related: Why our baby's nap schedule means we hardly leave the house

Here are some tips for making the transition:

  • If your child recognizes numbers, get a big digital clock. You can cover the minute digits with tape or a piece of paper and then they only have to focus on the one number. My daughter quickly learned to identify the "3" on her clock which indicates quiet time is over.
  • Prep the room like you would for bed or naptime. We close the blinds, turn on the sound machine, and start with a quick snuggle and song in the rocking chair. Even if they don't sleep, it'll let them know it's time to settle down.
  • Have a couple of main categories of quiet time activities. We have four - a stack of books for her to read by herself, a few board games she can play with, a basket of various toys, and a box of crayons with some paper. I let her pick one of the activities and then when she's done, she has to put it all back together and I'll let her choose a new one.
  • Be consistent about it - don't let them get up right after they wake up half the time and expect them to be willing to stay in their bedroom or crib the other half of the time.
  • Let them know at the beginning of nap/quiet time what you expect of them. I always say, "You can wake up whenever you want and then you can play quietly in your crib until the clock says three."
  • Be willing to go back in and help them if needed (switching out toys, answering a question) but keep it brief and reinforce the idea that this is a time for them to play alone, while you work on other things.
  • Don't feel guilty about letting your child have some time on their own. It's good for them to learn to entertain themselves and the time without a lot of outward stimulation can help them relax and refresh even if they aren't sleeping.

It may take a while, but they'll get the hang of it!

- By Janssen Bradshaw
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