As my little one’s fateful 2nd birthday passed, I started having this question flicked at me left, right and centre – “Is she still napping?”. Quite frankly, the thought of her dropping her nap fills me with fear – what?! a whole day with a toddler without a break – GAH! but apart from my own selfish parenthood reasons of wanting an hour or so headspace after lunch, there are amazingly more reasons beyond that to try and hold onto that lunch time nap for as long as possible. Let me break them down for you here in the name of parenting advice (aherm!) (she says trying to convince herself that keeping the nap going is the right thing to do…):
1. Naps are important for learning and development
I have often found that some of my toddler’s biggest leaps in learning seem to be evident once I’ve picked her up from her nap, and this isn’t just a sneaking suspicion. She is literally jibbering all sorts of amazing, new found knowledge from the moment she is in my arms. And not surprising given that a study by the University of Massachusetts Amherst found that a nap helped both toddlers and preschoolers to better remember their learning in the day, with the benefit lasting well into the next day.
2. Naps help to reduce toddlers stress levels
Let’s face it, it’s stressful enough being a toddler. All those new sights, sounds, mental and physical learnings and cognitive pathways forming at the rate of knots. It’s no wonder that a new study led by the University of Colorado Boulder shows that toddlers between the ages of 2 and a half and 3 years old that skip their nap show more anxiety, less joy and interest and a poorer understanding of how to solve problems. Poor sods.
3. Naps help top up the night time sleep
Toddlers require a certain amount of sleep in a 24 hour period in order to be able to function at an optimum level and deal with the antics of a toddler day ahead. Unless your toddler is sleeping a total of 13 hours of sleep at night, (whoah there! I am yet to meet a specimen that does), then it is highly likely that they will still need that hour or so during the day to meet their daily sleep needs.
4. Toddlers often don’t mean what they say
I am sure this scene will seem familiar to you – you’ve just finished lunch, and your toddler starts rolling out the “Mummy, I’m not tired” rigmarole. Half an hour later, their head hits the pillow and they are gone for an hour and a half. I am all for respecting and listening to the words of our toddlers, but sometimes, Mummy really does know best. I have lost count of the endless times I have thought this could be perhaps the cue to drop the nap, only to be so thankful, for both our sakes, that I had kept it.
5. Nap needs go in waves
Just when you thought your toddler was about to lose their nap, BANG! they seem to be going through another developmental leap, with sentences forming like there’s no tomorrow, and new fine and gross motor skills being added to their bows faster than you can keep track. During these times, the nap notion can be quite confusing, as they tend to go hand in hand with sleep regressions, but it is highly likely that when sleep settles down again – which it usually does given the chance – that they will very much benefit from this daily opportunity to reboot their brains due to the outcomes of the research mentioned above.
6. You need it!
And finally, the selfish reason….you! Having a toddler zooming around the house causing craziness like a blender without the top on is INTENSE! Having an hour break is an emotional, mental and physical recharger for the primary caregiver, enabling you to be a better parent for the remainder of the day.
Obviously, all toddlers are different, but at the times when for some usually farcical reason my toddler hasn’t napped, and therefore acts like an anxious loon, I remind myself of the above.
But in any case, if you’re unsure whether you are doing the right thing by keeping your child’s nap, or if you are being questioned about whether that might be a good idea giving that he or she is “growing up”, or are basically hanging onto the nap for dear life and need some excuses to justify it to your own silly brain, hopefully this will ease your troubled mind. Or if your toddler no long naps, whatevs.
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