Is your two year old suddenly refusing their nap? Instead of taking a peaceful snooze, do they spend nap time playing and singing, or screaming at the top of their lungs and refusing to go into the crib at all?
If your toddler has started fighting naps you may be wondering if they still need the sleep, but don’t be fooled! Two year old’s still need to nap! What is probably happening is the “two year sleep regression” – developmental leaps that can impact nap time, night time or both.
I know what you’re thinking, but don’t panic! Like other sleep regressions, this one is temporary, too. When you step back and look at things rationally, it’s really not all that surprising. Consider what’s happening developmentally at age two. Toddlers are developing a strong desire for independence. They’re testing boundaries. Their language is blossoming, their imaginations are vivid – and they’re learning to use the potty, too! Although not all children fight sleep during this exciting new phase of childhood, it’s perfectly understandable why some of them do!
So how do you handle your two year old’s nap strike and keep their schedule from spiraling out of control?
1. Trust that your child still needs to nap. You can’t force a toddler to sleep, but it’s important to provide the opportunity every single day of the week. Most children need to nap until at least three or four years of age.
2. Review their schedule. Although your two year old may seem to have boundless energy, they still need about 11 hours of sleep at night and two hours during the day. Most are ready to nap by about 1:00 p.m., and should be ready for bed about four hours after waking up from their nap. Don’t make the mistake of pushing naps later because you think they’re no longer tired enough at their normal nap time. Napping too late in the day can impact sleep quality and push bedtime later, which is a recipe for being overtired the following day.
3. Stick to the routine. Although they may fuss and complain, your child needs to receive the message that nap time and bedtime are non-negotiable. As always, consistency is key. Stick to their regular schedule, and make the boundaries regarding nap time and bed time crystal clear. If you don’t have one, consider investing in a toddler sleep clock that changes color when it’s time to sleep. It will help your toddler to understand what’s expected of them at nap time and remind them of when it’s ok to get up and carry on with the rest of the day.
4. Hang in there! Although two year old sleep regressions typically only last a few weeks, some children take a bit longer to get back on track. Don’t be discouraged if things don’t settle down quickly. Be patient and stay the course. If you stick to the rules and routines you’ve established over time your toddler should be napping again very soon.
Alison Bevan – Sleepytime Coach
Pediatric Sleep Consultant – The Center For Advanced Pediatrics