How to Survive when Naps End

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When my son, hit about 3 ½-years-old, we had him stop napping. Yes, you heard that right- we stopped making him take naps. Feel free to take a moment of silence for the loss of naps…because I’m definitely not much silence between the hours of 6am and 7:30pm.

A bit of back story:

If you know me IRL, you know that I am a stickler for sleeping in general and for naptimes and bedtimes specifically. I am the mom who will leave fun events, or tell you I can’t do things because it conflicts with my kids’ sleep schedule. I don’t think anyone else needs to this, but those are the choices I make. And I say I, because my husband would rather throw caution to the wind when it comes to sleep.

My son, E, has never been the best sleeper. We have gone through our ups and downs when it comes to sleep: literal ups and downs. There were those first 15 months when he didn’t sleep through the night. And then there was that stretch of weeks (maybe months…who knows) at 2 ½ where he thought he didn’t need to nap – after a daily fight of at least 30 minutes we’d put him (screaming) into his stroller, push him around the house (or back and forth in his room), and then let him sleep (still strapped into the stroller). Then he ended up sleeping in our bed every night after he slept in his. I lost track of how long that went on for, but probably about 18 months. That only ended because I had the genius idea to get an air mattress and have him sleep on that next to us instead of in our bed (baby steps!).

Back to the naps…

We didn’t drop naps because naps were getting hard; we dropped naps because bedtime was getting hard. Our bedtime routine is probably about 20 minutes on average, but as most parents know, that can become much longer if you let it. And then there is actually going to sleep- it got to the point where it was taking almost an hour of up and down and up and down and then he would finally go to sleep. Even though he was in bed at 8, he wasn’t sleeping until 9. Don’t kids understand we just want a break at the end of the day? Maybe you don’t need one kid, but I do! I would get really frustrated during all of this and stressed out as bedtime got closer because I was anticipating a battle. It wasn’t good for anyone.

Being the kind of person who prioritizes naps over many other things, I had a really hard time admitting that maybe we should give them up. E was only sleeping for an hour during the day, but I needed that hour to work and I liked the break. I was pregnant at that point too and I really valued the alone time and how the end of the day seemed to go quickly after the nap. I also figured since he was still taking naps, he still needed them.

It took me a while to realize that the hour I was getting during the day was maybe (probably) definitely causing me an extra hour of work at night. The lightbulb finally went on  when we ended up with a couple of days where morning activities went long and a nap didn’t seem like a good idea or we’d run the risk of a 10:00 bedtime. So we skipped nap. And then bedtime was easier. This happened a few times over the course of about two weeks and I realized we should make this a permanent change. I was hesitant to get rid of naps completely, but once we tried it, it seemed to be working- E was tired at bedtime, didn’t get up and down, and actually seemed to stay in bed longer (though he still ended up in our bed).

So- how did I survive life without naps?

What works:

    • TV/Kindle- Seriously. Though I’m not thrilled about screen time and too much of it, I also have to work. So, I let my son watch TV or play on his Kindle. I try to make sure he’s watching or playing something of “value”…okay- I try to make sure it’s not total crap. Now, I tend to use this when my little guy is napping so I have some time to focus. Seriously, we really do love the Kindle for E. It’s got a lot of great options for him that actually make him smarter- I’m amazed by some of the puzzle games he’s figured out.
    • Arts and crafts- E loves Pinterest (Sometimes…read more about that here) so we’ll pick a project he can easily do, or put out some art supplies or a project (like these awesome mosaic sets that he loves) and he does art next to me while I work. He needs help here and there, but I can usually take a break briefly and assist.
    • Explaining to E about work- I’m a believer that being a working mom sets a good example for my kids (no judgement if you don’t work!) and I also believe in being transparent (to a point) about what’s going on. So I regularly talk to E about the fact that I work, and why, and how I have to get things done for work when we’re home together. I also explain how long I’ll be working (though he has no concept of time) and that we’ll play when I’m done.
    • Earlier bedtime- we just recently started trying this and it’s been a good adjustment. It didn’t occur to me when we dropped naps that we might need an earlier bedtime. I figured he was probably getting enough sleep but we realized he probably needed a little bit more, especially with earlier wake ups with daylight savings. The upside to this is that I have more work time at the end of the day and also don’t feel as stressed out because I know the end of the day will be here soon and won’t be a  battle.


What doesn’t work:

  • Surviving the loss of naps can be rough but we've figured out a few things that work.
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    “Quiet time”- I loved this idea. You give your kids approved activities they can do on their own that are quiet and restful and you can accomplish things too. You can make cute little charts and creative boxes with activities. However,  for us, this didn’t work- E wants to talk, or asks me to play, and asks me just about every 30 seconds if I’m done working yet. And making the chart seemed like a lot of work. So we don’t do quiet time, or rest time, even though I wish we did.

  • Rigid schedules- With naps, I knew generally when I’d be able to work or make calls. Now I have to go with the flow of when E gets engaged in an activity and sneak off to tackle a few tasks. If I have to make a call, this is when  TV comes in handy.
  • Car naps- a couple of times we’ve been on our way home from somewhere and the kids fall asleep. So, I get home and we all sit in the driveway for a while while I respond to emails or get some writing done. This always seems like a good idea…until bedtime. When E isn’t tired. So, I have to remember that naps don’t really work in the bigger picture and wake E up. 🙁

I do miss naps, and the change has required some adjusting mentally and practically, but the end of the day has felt so much easier and stress-free. I know we made the right choice. But I’m still sad that half of my kids don’t have nap time any more.

For you moms whose kids don’t nap, what do you have them do when you need to get things accomplished? I need more ideas on my “what works” list!

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  • I’m so sorry for your loss :/ . I love naptime. It’s probably my favorite thing of all time. Luckily for us, little E (3yrs) takes naps for 3-4 hours and still sleeps from 8:30 pm – 8:00 am. However, I do know that we are very fortunate, as I know many parents who’s children do not sleep. I’m sure there will come a time when we must do the same but until then, I’ll enjoy every little minute of silence I can get. Best wishes to you!

  • Today, our nap time never happened. But I have noticed that our bedtime is getting more and more difficult so this post came at the perfect moment. Thank you for writing, I hope some of what works for you works for me!

  • Oh, I do miss naptimes! I usually let the kids watch a movie as their “rest time” in the afternoons. Some afternoons, I make them go to their rooms just so they can get a break from each other. I’m not great with schedules, so I find flexibility works for us.

    • We do movies too in the afternoon- definitely good for rest and also so I can get some work done. I do that for my older son while my younger one is napping so that I can focus on work a bit. Other than that, I definitely have to be flexible! Thanks for checking in 🙂