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Getting a Resistant Toddler to Nap

by Liza Blau, studioD

Daily naps for your toddler do much more than provide him with rest. Toddlers who miss even one daily nap suffer from more anxiety and emotional inhibition, are at increased risk for developing mood-related disorders and show less ability to solve problems, according to a study conducted at the University of Colorado Boulder. If your toddler is resistant to naps, learn ways to help him get that beneficial shut-eye.

Make Nap Time More Enticing

Nap time might seem like a punishment to your wide-awake toddler, but by allowing him to make some pleasing choices while preparing for the nap, you can make the dreary event more enticing. You might ask, "Do you want to nap with your blankie or Big Bird?" or "Which pajamas do you want to wear?" Although he won't get out of having to take the nap, encouraging him to choose some of his favorite things can help make him less resistant.


As your toddler's awareness grows, he realizes that each day is filled with many exciting events and possibilities. He might resist taking a nap because he's worried he'll miss out on something fun while asleep, such as a favorite cartoon show or the ice cream truck or his grandmother with a new toy. You can put his fears to rest by reassuring him that the ice cream truck will come tomorrow if he misses it today, Grandma will wait for him to wake up and you'll tape the cartoon show so he can watch it later.

Prepare for the Nap

If your toddler has been engaging in stimulating activity before his nap, he might be too keyed-up to fall asleep. Don't allow him to play outside immediately before his nap or engage in other activities that could cause him to become overly stimulated. Instead, provide him with low-key activities that are more relaxing, such as a coloring book, puzzle or read to him from his favorite book. As he becomes more accustomed to these calming activities, it'll help him wind down before the nap and be less resistant.

Create a 'Nap Nook'

If your toddler is resistant to naps, give him permission to nap in his own special area of the house, recommends Dr. William Sears. Encourage him to choose where the nap space should be -- as though it's a fun task. His nap spot might be a corner of a room on a mat, in a makeshift tent created out of blankets or under a piece of furniture, such as a piano. You can also cut a door into a large cardboard box, place a pillow and some bedding inside it, allowing your toddler to enter it when it's nap time.


Toddlers obtain a sense of security by following a regular schedule. By keeping the time and length of his daily naps the same, he'll know what to expect each day and suffer less separation anxiety when it's time to take his nap. Although you can't force your little one to fall asleep, create an environment that encourages sleep by keeping the blinds down in his bedroom to block out light and other outside distractions.

About the Author

Liza Blau received a B.A. in English from Columbia University. Her writing has appeared in fiction anthologies from Penguin Press, W.W. Norton, NYU Press and others. After healing her own life-threatening asthma by switching to a whole, natural foods diet, she founded the NYC Asthma Wellness Center. Blau counsels individuals on healing their own asthma and allergies with dietary and lifestyle changes.

Photo Credits

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