Many younger children need naps during the day to keep them from getting cranky. These extra hours of sleep also help younger children stay healthier and feel more alert during some of the most important developmental years of their lives. While some children sleep without much help or prodding, many young children don’t want to miss anything by taking a nap. Even more children have troubles falling asleep even if they are tired. They will fight sleep tooth and nail no matter how exhausted they are, simply because their minds are too active to sleep. If this is your child, read through these tips to find out what method or methods might work best in getting your child to sleep for a nap.
If this is your first child or even just your first child who doesn’t sleep well, it’s important to experiment with different methods and ideas to see what works best for your child. All children are different and different things will calm them down and help them fall asleep. By trying out one method at a time, you may be able to find certain things that allow your child to fall asleep faster. While you’re trying each method make sure to pay attention to how your child reacts to each trial. You may want to keep a journal or chart if this is a particular hard area for your child. Again, it is all about what fits you and your child.
One of the most important things and one of the hardest things to do is to establish a set routine. Make sure “nap time” is at the same time everyday. If your child goes to daycare, find out the daycare’s nap schedule and try to emulate it on weekends and days your child does not attend. This way, their bodies get used to falling asleep at the same time. Many young children respond exceptionally well to routine. While routine is important, don’t feel totally paralyzed by it. Missing one day of naptime isn’t going to completely ruin a schedule you’ve built. Occasional changes or misses will not totally ruin any routine you’ve set, as long as you go back to the routine as soon as possible and continue to stay on the same routine without continual changes and/or misses. A routine is only a routine if it is the ‘norm.’ When change is the norm, your child may be less likely to respond well when it comes time to take a nap.
Another important method to getting your child to fall asleep is to have a ‘calm-down’ activity before naptime. Reading a story works for many children. However, some children are just as energized by reading as by running around. Choose the books you read carefully. If books and stories don’t serve to calm your child, try to think up calming activities that would best suit your child’s temperament and interests. Singing a song together, playing a low-key game, or other activities may also work. By catering to individual children, you will have more success in finding a calming influence that will get them ready to lie down and lie still enough to fall asleep.
Many children enjoy a physical connection when lying still. Without it, they can keep their minds and bodies going much longer than you as a parent may like. By making a physical connection while they are trying to fall asleep, you may help keep their minds relaxed and their bodies still. Rubbing or patting a child’s back accomplishes that as well as providing a rhythmic, calming physical presence. Again, finding what matches your child is the key. Some children fall asleep to patting, some to rubbing slow circles, some even to lightly scratching the back. Also, running a hand over their hair or across their temples helps some children.
Find the right touch that calms your child by experimenting. Watch their reactions to find the one’s that keep their eyes closed the longest or relax them the most. Touch does not work with all children; some actually may use the touch to keep them awake longer. The touch serves to keep their minds alert and allow them to fight sleep. Pay attention to the affect touch has on your child by experimenting the kinds and the length. Sometimes patting the back for five to ten minutes will help calm them, but in order to fall asleep, they will need no touch at all. Once you find the touch that works for you, getting your child to sleep may be that much easier.
Background music can be a great addition to naptime. Something soft and soothing played quietly can drown out background noise that might otherwise keep your child awake or jar them awake just as they’re falling asleep. Something soft without harsh sounds or changes in volume work wonders. However, be careful with your music choice. First, listen to a CD or whatever you choose all the way through before playing it. You never know when a harsh, jarring song may play. Also, choose carefully because many children get used to hearing a particular set of songs, so that if months later you change the songs they are listening to they may have trouble falling asleep again. Make sure you can stand the music over and over if it does in fact work for your child.
Another thing to keep in mind is to not mention after-nap activities, even in a bribe. Often the mention of something that is going to happen later only serves to excite the child, making it harder for them to concentrate on sleeping with something else on their mind. Thinking about the next activity might energize them, excite them, or otherwise keep them from calming down. Concentrate on naptime and falling asleep. If they ask about future events, tell them you’ll talk about it after they take a nap. Try not to talk about anything too stimulating as they try to fall asleep.
Again, the most important thing about helping your child fall asleep for a nap is to find the right mixture of methods for your child. Every child is different in sleeping habits and what soothes or calms them. These are just a few methods that may help your child fall asleep quicker for naptime.