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How To Transition Your Little One From Nap Time to Rest Time

Ben is 4.5 and still has nap time every day.  Yes, it is awesome.  No, I am not just lucky.  I will admit that my kids tend to be on the higher end of the sleep needs scale, but that doesn’t mean I am just fortunate enough to have kids that want to nap all the time.  My son doesn’t always want to nap.  He doesn’t always fall asleep during his naps.  But we have nap time every day.  The nap years are coming to an end, but that doesn’t mean he is ready to give up nap time up entirely.  I’m not ready to give nap time up entirely.  So we are doing a very slow transition to rest time.  Here is how to transition from nap time to rest time.

How to transition your little one from nap time to rest time. Nap time in preschoolers | Dropping nap time | rest time | nap time | toddler nap time #naps #rest #time #independent #playtime #transition

Making the transition from nap time to rest time

Keep Nap Time

Whatever you do, don’t stop having nap time.  Oh sure, for big events my four year old can skip his nap.  But on an average day, he has nap time.  There will be periods of time when your child just doesn’t sleep during the day.  If you aren’t ready to give up nap time forever, don’t give it up temporarily.  No matter what happens my son stays in his room during nap time.  Consistency is king with kids, and if you let them take a few weeks off of naps it will be even harder to start them up again.  So power through the hard times.  Remember you are the parent, you are in charge.  Your child doesn’t get to decide.

Call it Nap Time

This is a bit of a personal preference, but I think the nap matters.  I call it nap time in part because Ali and Sammy still actually nap every day, so it just makes sense that we call it the same thing for Ben.  More than that, it is psychological.  My hope is that calling it nap time will set up the expectation that he will, indeed, nap.  Rest time implies that other activities can be taking place.  For now, my primary goal is still to get some rest into Ben during the time period, so nap time it is.

How to transition your little one from nap time to rest time. Nap time in preschoolers | Dropping nap time | rest time | nap time | toddler nap time #naps #rest #time #independent #playtime #transition

What about when they won’t sleep?

This happens.  I mean, I need to be realistic about this.  At 4.5 Ben doesn’t need to have daytime sleep every day.  But the whole family benefits from the quiet rest time.  Ben gets a chance to recharge, and I get a chance to recharge.  So a plan is needed to handle those days when Ben doesn’t fall asleep.

Start with quiet resting

The first portion of nap time is to be spent lying down in bed.  Even if he isn’t sleeping, Ben still needs to rest his body.  He doesn’t have to sleep, but he does have to stay in bed.  He often still falls asleep during this time.  On other days he talks and sings to himself.  I do request that he doesn’t get too loud.  (He can’t wake up his sisters in the room next door.) No, I don’t worry about him being bored. This is a great time for his imagination to grow.  I think it is valuable for children to have time being bored and to have time to think to themselves.  I admit I love standing outside his door and hearing his conversations with himself.

How to transition your little one from nap time to rest time. Nap time in preschoolers | Dropping nap time | rest time | nap time | toddler nap time #naps #rest #time #independent #playtime #transition

Move on to books

After about an hour or so of having to lie still, I let Ben pick out a couple of books to take into bed with him.  He still needs to be sitting or lying down so his body is still resting.  But he can do something a little more interesting to pass the time.  This is a great way to foster a love of reading.  He can learn but still be quiet in his room.

Allow quiet playtime.

Official nap time in our house is 2.5 hours long.  The last 30-45 minutes I will let Ben just play quietly in his room.  Again the quiet is for two reasons.  One is that I do want him recharging, not getting all riled up.  Two is that his sisters are sleeping in the room next door, and at 2 they still need their nap.  Ben has plenty of toys in his room to keep him busy.  He does need to stay in his room though.  First of all nap time is my time during the day.  I am better able to accomplish my tasks if Ben is safely in his room.  Secondly, this is supposed to be a quiet time for Ben.  If I allow him to play in the living room it will turn into interactive time with me.  I have no problem playing with and interacting with my children, but we do plenty of that during the day.  Nap time is not the time for that.  And finally, it is still a special time just for Ben.  He doesn’t get independent playtime as frequently now that he is in preschool.  This bonus playtime gives him the chance to problem solve on his own and learn how to entertain himself.  These are important skills.

Sleep still happens

At any point in time during the nap period, Ben may still fall asleep.  That’s great!  He still gets tired and this sleep is important.  Regardless of when he falls asleep during the nap, I wake him up on time every day.  If he sleeps past the end of nap time he has a harder time falling asleep at night.  Even if he doesn’t sleep, he comes out of his nap time happy and restored, ready to face his evening.

Bonus one on one time

The transition to rest time can sound tough, but it does bring a silver lining.  The actual sleep time isn’t as important, so I can grab a few extra minutes of one on one time with Ben.  With three kids aged four and under, it is hard to get that time in.  Sometimes I let Ben go to nap time a little later, or if he is awake I let him up a little earlier.  It’s usually just 10-15 minutes, and we read or play a little game.  It doesn’t take much, but that time to really connect with him adds up.  It matters.

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I know as Ben gets older he will sleep less and less during nap time, but we are going to retain rest time for as long as possible.  The whole family does better when we take the time to mentally and physically recharge.  As a stay at home mom, I know we also all do better when we get a break from each other.  Taking the time to rest your mind and body is important to self-care, and I hope to teach my children that it is a worthwhile pursuit.

The transition away from nap time doesn’t have to be a hard one.  The whole family can benefit from an adjusted rest time that meets the needs of your child, and the needs of you as the mom.




Looking for more info?  Check these posts out!

Transitions: Moving From a Crib to a Toddler Bed

Transitions: Turning the Morning Nap Into Independent Playtime

Favorites: Independent Playtime

How to transition your little one from nap time to rest time. Nap time in preschoolers | Dropping nap time | rest time | nap time | toddler nap time #naps #rest #time #independent #playtime #transition


Is your child almost done with napping? Don't let go of that time! Transition from nap to rest time!  This is a valuable time for both child and parent.  Learn how to make the switch without tears or tantrums. #NapTime #RestTime #NapTimeTransition #EndingNapTime #ToddlerNaps #PreschoolNaps #QuietTime

How to transition your little one from nap time to rest time. Nap time in preschoolers | Dropping nap time | rest time | nap time | toddler nap time #naps #rest #time #independent #playtime #transition
How to transition your little one from nap time to rest time. Nap time in preschoolers | Dropping nap time | rest time | nap time | toddler nap time #naps #rest #time #independent #playtime #transition

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Saturday 22nd of December 2018

Hi Kim.

I love this article and I had a three year old daughter who hasn’t napped for about 3/4 months (apart from a few times when she was poorly). I’ve been trying to implement “quiet time” but I want to know who you enforce it. I love the idea that she has to lie quietly on her bed for an hour but who do you get your toddler to do this? I’ve been a bit lax this week with letting her stay downstairs but your article has inspired me to keep going. Any tips would be very useful. Thanks. Hannah


Saturday 22nd of December 2018

Hi Hannah! Good question. I enforced the stay in bed the same way you would enforce any other obedience issue. He had to stay in bed and if he didn't he lost toys, privileges, etc. I also had the bonus that his toddler bed is the kind where you take the side off the crib to make the bed. So if he really wouldn't stay in bed I would turn that open side to the wall and make it a 'crib' again. That worked wonders.

It's tough sometimes, but consistency is going to be key. Keep taking her back to bed if she gets up, keep enforcing the staying in bed. You could try an okay to wake clock so she knows when it changes color she can get out of bed. Or try a sticker chart for staying in bed. I would also really praise Ben when he stayed in bed and talk about how important it is to rest our bodies during the day. Make it seem like a big deal and they are more likely to want to do it. At least that's the theory. :)


Tuesday 3rd of July 2018

Hi! I’ve been trying to implement rest time. My daughter will be 3 on July 7 and she’s not napping at all. I do 30 minutes of rest time in her bed with sound machine and blinds/curtains closed - she does get some toys though (should she have no toys?). Then she gets 1.5 hours of playtime in her room. So nap is a total of 2 hours. This whole process has been a DISASTER. Everything from peeing on the floor to messing with things she’s not supposed to touch. And she leaves her room every 15 minutes and it doesn’t phase her when I discipline for that. I’ve even locked her door before and that’s when she gets creative with crying wolf for the bathroom so I go in anyway. I’m soon to have 3 under 4 too and I know I’ll need this rest time when I have a newborn to take care of come September. Any advice would be appreciated! Thanks!


Tuesday 3rd of July 2018

That is tough! Not napping is the worst. Quite honestly, if she is two/barely three I would do everything I could to try to keep her napping, not just doing rest time. Staying in bed is a must, and if she gets out there is a consequence. With Ben, I would take away toys if he wasn't staying in bed. I would take whatever he was playing with away, and if he was just wandering around I would take a toy I knew he liked a lot. Yes, kind of mean. But there has to be a consequence. The bathroom thing is tough. One thing to do with that would be to make bathroom trips very unfun. Help her out as needed, but no extra conversation, minimal eye contact, etc. Be clinical about it and get the job done. The goal here is to take the fun away from leaving the room. So you want to be boring. Same if she leaves the room other times. No conversation, just reiterate that she needs to be in her bed and take her back. Do reward charts work for her? You could try doing one with a prize if she stays in her bed so many days. Alternately she could lose a privilege after nap time, such as screen time or dessert. Something pretty immediate works best. Finally, if she really won't sleep I would allow her a book or two to look at after the first hour or so, but she would need to stay in bed.

I'll keep thinking as well. I totally get needing the time with all the children put away if you will. Right now Ben is almost 5 and does straight rest time every day while Ali and Sammy nap. And he still falls asleep most days! I am unwilling to give up the nap! :) Let me know if any of this helps out!


Wednesday 21st of February 2018

I really love this post! My "baby" just turned two years old and she's _already_ not napping every day.. (Most days, though) but it's good to have rest time. So important.

Ophalyn D. Lee

Friday 16th of February 2018

Very nice article. These are great tips. my son is 22 months and he naps for 2 hrs. the only problem I have is he still wakes up in the middle of the night like 2-3 times asking for milk.

Lori | Choosing Wisdom

Friday 16th of February 2018

It is so hard to make the transition from naptime. Great ideas you've shared here. We had mandatory quiet time at our house. Now that my kids are adults they laugh at some of the things they tried to get away with during quiet time. It is all about creating a routine!

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