Naptime for Children

What is the Key Strategy of Naptime for Children?

This is a question I get asked all the time. My answer will begin by discussing who should be taking a nap.

Any child under the age of four should be taking a nap. The older the child, the shorter their naptime should be.

This chart will provide you with a general guide for nap schedules.

Age of Child

# of naps

Length of Nap

Infant several per day baby determines
6 month old 2 totaling 4-5 hours
1 year old 1-2 3-4 hours
2 year old 1 2-3 hours
3 year old 1 1-2 hours
4 year old 1 1 hour

As a daycare provider, I’ve had many parents come to me and state that they feel their two-year-old does not need a nap anymore. Since the child won’t go to bed at night, he must be getting too much sleep during naptime.

This is not true. Naptime for any child under the age of four is important for two reasons. One, their body is growing at such a tremendous pace it needs the rest time during the day. Two, a child’s mind is absorbing so much information all morning long that it, too, needs the quiet time to catch up.

If a child under the age of four is fighting sleep time, it most likely is not associated with too much sleep, but rather needing a better, more consistent routine. Make sure you put your child down for a nap at the same time every single day. And, if your child is in daycare, be sure that the daycare nap schedule is the same as their weekend schedule at home.

Naptime is just like all other times in a child's life. They need routine and consistency. They will deal with it much better if they know exactly what to expect and when to expect it.

  • A room with the shades pulled makes the best naptime spot. A little bit of darkness trains the child's body that dark time is sleep time.
  • Make naptime a positive time. Get excited when you tell your child it's naptime. Have tickle time and fun time as you're tucking them into bed.
  • Next, start some music. Give them a hug and tell them you love them. Then tell them you'll see them in a little bit when they wakeup.
  • Turn out the light and close the door.

If your child gets out of the bed, walk them back to their bed and gently tell them it's still naptime and they need to stay in the bed. It may take more than one trip back to bed, but stay firm and insist they do take a nap. If you never give in to letting them just stay up, they won't even know that's an option.

If your child gets out of bed more than once, explain to them that naptime will be longer because they are procrastinating the start time.

Naptime is a perfect example of when you have to show your child that you will be making the rules of the household and this is one rule you're not willing to budge on.

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Marcia Reagan is the creator of DaycareAnswers and lives in Central Minnesota with her husband and two children.  She's been an in-home daycare provider for over twenty years and loves to share her experience and passion for daycare with other providers.  

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