Infants sleep a lot. Maybe not when you’d like them to sleep, but chances are they’re logging some serious Zs while they grow and learn. Toddlers have these same needs too, but their world is sometimes so exciting and new that they don’t want to miss a thing during naptime.
If you have a toddler, and they haven’t had a nap, you can tell. They get angry, cranky, short-tempered and generally hard to be around. If you don’t have a set routine around naptime, getting them to settle down can be next to impossible.
For most things in a child’s life (and adult’s, too), they require three things:
1. Love and attention
The first one might come naturally, but you need to ensure you provide the other two as well, especially when it comes to your naptime routine.
When should naptime be and how long should it last?
Our bodies as children and adults naturally crave sleep during the day. In many cultures, it’s built in to their lifestyle (heard of the siesta?) In order for them to develop properly, preschool children need to have naptime built into their day, everyday. Both parent and child need to know when it is, how long it is, and who does what during this time.
Generally it’s believed that infants up to a year old require between 14 and 16 hours of sleep. Chances are good that children this age will determine when they nap without any help from you. You rest when they rest.
Children 1 to 3 years of age generally require 12 to 14 hours of sleep. This should be broken up so that they get the bulk of this sleep at night (11 or 12 hours of it), with the rest supplemented with a nap (1.5–2 hours). The ideal nap time is about 1pm, and should end close to 3pm. This will align with their natural tendency to feel sleepy after lunch.
Children aged 3 to 6 need between 10 to 12 hours of sleep, and again, this should be split up between the bulk at night, and perhaps a 1–1.5 hour nap in the afternoon. Again, 1pm is about the right time to lie down.
The key is to build naps into your day at a regular time, and both of you will look forward to them.
In addition to napping, it’s important to both their health and your sanity that children get to bed early each night. They tend to be early risers, so a bedtime of 7pm or 8pm for a toddler is a good idea. You’re doing your child no favours by letting them stay up till 10pm or 11pm if they’re 5 years old!
Bottom line, if your child has attention difficulties, is tired or cranky during the day, or is easily irritated, have a close look at their sleep schedule. You might find really easy answers there…