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What to Do When Your 2-Year-Old Doesn't Nap

by Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell

Taking a nap may be the last thing on your toddler's mind. After all, who has time for sleep when there's so much to explore? Despite a "demanding schedule" of activities, a 2-year-old generally needs a morning and afternoon nap -- although every child is different and some will do just fine with only an afternoon siesta. Although you can't make your toddler sleep during the day, you can create a quiet environment that encourages peaceful slumber.

When He Just Says, "No"

Some toddlers who are normally agreeable to taking a nap may go through a stage when they want no part of napping, notes the KidsHealth website. Putting your 2-year-old to bed a bit earlier or later in the evening may help make him sleepy during the day. For example, if you move bedtime up to 7:30 from 8:30 he may be yawning by mid-afternoon and be more willing to get a little shuteye.

Consistency Is Key

Designating a napping spot will help your child associate one special place with daytime sleep, notes pediatrician Greg Yapalater in a WebMD article. In other words, don't place your toddler in her bed or crib one day, on a loveseat in the den the next and in your bed the following day. A consistent napping environment establishes a routine that your toddler will learn to expect and depend upon. You'll also want to try to establish a consistent napping schedule. If your 2-year-old goes to daycare, shoot for the same nap schedule at home as he has at daycare. If he gives you a hard time about settling in for a nap, look for physical signs that he's tired and ready to fade out. For example, he might get cranky, start rubbing his eyes and yawning, or even zone out a bit. Once you see these cues, it's time to take him to that napping spot.

Don't Sneak a Peak

Leave your 2-year-old alone if he's quiet during nap time -- even if you're unsure whether he's actually sleeping or just staring at the ceiling daydreaming. Although it's a good idea to check in on your toddler at night, making an appearance during the day may ruffle his feathers and make him want to jump out of bed and get back to the important business of playing.

When Enough Is Enough

Sometimes your toddler won't sleep during the day despite your best efforts. If this is the case, you can still insist that she spend an hour resting or engaging in quiet play in her bed. Looking at books might make your high-energy toddler become sleepy-eyed in no time. The important thing is that your child stays put. However, If the mere suggestion of taking a nap is met with a resounding, "No" for a couple of weeks straight, it might be time to for your toddler to give up napping entirely. Most kids will take an afternoon nap until they are anywhere from 2 1/2- to 4-years-old, notes Charles Shubin, medical director of the Children's Health Center of Mercy Family Care in Baltimore, in a WebMD article.

About the Author

Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell is a broadcast journalist who began writing professionally in 1980. Her writing focuses on parenting and health, and has appeared in “Spirituality & Health Magazine" and “Essential Wellness.” Hellesvig-Gaskell has worked with autistic children at the Fraser School in Minneapolis and as a child care assistant for toddlers and preschoolers at the International School of Minnesota, Eden Prairie.

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