It can be a hard pill to swallow when you realize your toddler no longer needs their nap! I remember when my oldest started transitioning out of napping I was actually pretty irritable! I think it’s because I was so used to having a few quiet hours to get anything done with no interruptions, that all of a sudden not having that anymore was a hard transition for me! Plus it didn’t help that I didn’t know what to do with her when she stopped napping because my feeble attempts at keeping her in her room didn’t work.
Now I know better and there are things you can do to help with transitioning a toddler from naps to quiet time (that also save your sanity)!
Use a timer- It’s too much of a stretch for a toddler to understand they need to stay in their rooms for a certain period of time because, well they can’t tell time! So telling them they have to stay in their rooms for a half an hour means nothing to them. They will likely start coming out because to them it feels like forever. However, using a timer can help because there is a distinct sound that indicates when their quiet time has ended. I use the timer on my iPad and put it up where my kid can’t reach it and it makes an alarm noise when her time is up. This helped tremendously at keeping her in her room because I would tell her that when she heard the alarm, that was when her time was up. So she knew had to wait until she heard that sound.
Have realistic expectations- It isn’t realistic to expect a child to go from doing virtually no quiet time to 2 hours by themselves without coming out of their room. But a half an hour is realistic to start out with. Over time, you can work up to longer amounts of time spent in their room. When you increase the time, if you notice they are coming out of their room a lot, (whereas before they were staying in their room) you may have increased the time too much. If that happens, try lowering the amount of time, (but still keeping it higher than it was to begin with).
For example: If your toddler stayed in their room for 30 minutes with no problems and you increased it to an hour and they are coming out all the time, you can decrease the time to 45 minutes.
Use a chart- If you like to use reward systems, you can set up a chart and reward your child with something if they stayed in their room for quiet time. For example, if they stayed in their room for quiet time that day they get a check mark and if they earn a specific amount of check marks each week they will earn a reward.
Meet their needs beforehand- Now some things can’t be helped, like if your kid has to go to the bathroom during quiet time, obviously they’ll have to come out. But I always give my daughter some water and a small snack and I ask her if there is anything else she needs. Because eliminating potential excuses reduces the likelihood they will come out of their rooms.
Try to spend quality time with them before quiet time- I noticed that if I didn’t spend some time with my daughter right before quiet time, she was more likely to get upset that she had to go in her room and be alone. So I make sure to read some books with her or play with her right before quiet time. She’s much more content to play on her own after she’s had some quality time with me.
Be consistent- Be sure that if you tell your child they need to spend 30 minutes in their room, that after their time is up you let them know they can come out. If you make them wait longer it will cause confusion because your child won’t actually know when they can come out. If they hear a timer but you don’t come get them or tell them to come out, what does that timer mean to them? Nothing. Down the road if you aren’t consistent, they will start coming out of their rooms before their time is up because they will never know when they can actually come out.
Plus it’s always good to be true to your word because your child will know they can trust you will get them when you say you will. Even if my daughter is still playing quietly in her room, I let her know her time is up and she can come out if she wants. Sometimes she still chooses to stay and play!
It’s inevitable you will eventually have to mourn the end of the glorious nap time. But transitioning a toddler from naps to quiet time helps them build the skill of playing independently. And it still gives you a much needed break! These tips can help make the process easier as you begin to transition your child from naps to quiet time!