EXPERT Q&A

What should I do when my 2-year-old refuses to nap?

Naptime can be tricky, especially for children refusing to nap. Learn tricks and tips that can help your child enjoy naptime—so you both can be well-rested.

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Question

My daughter is 2, a few months away from turning 3, and refuses to nap. This has been an ongoing issue for roughly 6 months. She rolls around, puts her head down, starts to snooze—and then pops right back up with the energy of a marathon runner! I feel like her body still needs the rest, but every effort I make to get her to fall asleep is met with tons of resistance and we both end up feeling upset and frustrated. Do you have any tips or guidance?

Answer

How frustrating it must be to know your child needs rest yet still won’t nap. It might be worth rebranding to a “quiet time” instead of a “naptime”.  When we call it naptime, it can lead to frustration when your child can’t (or won’t) fall asleep. By calling it quiet time, you’re allowing for there to be a break in her day (and yours) where she is only expected to be quiet. You can still have it be dark and quiet in her room, but the success comes when she is quiet for an hour, instead of “success” hinging on her falling asleep. I’m sure she feels frustrated too that she can’t deliver what you clearly want from her. And I know how frustrating it must be for you.

Here are also some ideas to try if you haven’t already:

  • Play with the timing of nap. Sometimes moving nap a little later can be helpful to allow for more energy to be used up in the morning and early afternoon.
  • Try your best to get outside in the morning. Sunlight helps set our circadian rhythms and can help us fall asleep.
  • Create a longer and more gentle lead-up to naptime. If you find yourself rushing right before naptime, this can make it harder for our little ones to calm their minds and fall asleep. Read a few extra books and sing a few extra songs.
  • Keep her room chilly. According to research, the ideal temperature for ideal sleep is 65-66 degrees. That’s much colder than we normally think of, but a room that’s too hot can prevent little ones from falling asleep.
  • Talk to her about why quiet time is important. Tell her about how our brains need time to absorb all the information we’ve learned during the morning. Tell her some things you do or think when you’re trying to fall asleep.
  • Talk your little one through a guided full-body relaxation. Or have a podcast/guide talk you both through one. This article has some great resources from scripts to use or links to guided relaxation audio. I love doing this with my kiddos because it allows them to build that tool for when they are struggling to fall asleep and it works pretty well and getting them to fall asleep. It’s also a really nice opportunity for you to relax a little too.
  • Limit screens for 1 to 2 hours before naptime. The blue light can make it hard for us to fall asleep. You might not be using screens at all or not before nap anyway, but I want to be as comprehensive as possible.

We know that kids do better when they are well-rested. However, it’s not worth pouring your energy into something that only ends in frustration. Make the goal that she rests and see if any of these tips help her get some rejuvenating quiet time in the middle of the day. If you need more help, we’re here for you!

Meet The Expert


Martha Tyler

Martha has her Masters in Education and is a certified Positive Discipline Parent Educator. She has worked as a sitter, nanny, tutor, or teaching artist over the past 20+ years. In addition, Martha has hosted a child care podcast, Chronicles of Nannya, for several years. She is also the co-founder of Compassionate Childcare LLC and is thrilled to be able to share her experience, knowledge, and resources with CareNectar!