Naptime for Your Preschooler
Parents of preschoolers the world over are grateful for the respite that comes with an afternoon nap. Enjoy it while it lasts! At the age of 3, 75% of children are still napping; by age 4, that number has dropped to 25%.
"Then you enter the gray zone," says sleep expert Jodi Mindell, Ph.D., associate director of the Sleep Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "These are the transitional months when a child still needs a nap, but napping interferes with bedtime."
Mindell claims that parents have two options when this phase begins. One is to take away the nap and implement an earlier bedtime, which will probably cause some pre-bedtime crankiness. Or, you can continue with an afternoon nap and alter the nighttime schedule slightly.
Her recommendation: Instead of going through your usual bedtime routine, then putting your preschooler to bed and turning the light out when she's wide awake, leave the light on and let her page through books quietly for 45 minutes before lights out.
"But if she gets up, it's lights out," says Mindell. "Most kids will test their parents a couple of times until they realize the light is really going off. Then they'll stop and stay in bed."
When your preschooler does finally give up her nap, you can still have quiet time for an hour or so in the afternoon. "It might be that every day, right after lunch, you put in a video, or let your child color or play quietly in her room," says Mindell. "So everyone gets a break."
Learning to entertain herself will benefit your child when she goes to school and needs to be more self-sufficient. If your child is in daycare or preschool, make sure you're on the same page with her caregivers.