Replacing nap time with quiet time

Sleepytime - Ashley Muir Bruhn - Hither and Thither-2

Just after Skyler was born, we began replacing Hudson’s nap time with quiet time. Until we made the switch, he would still fall asleep most afternoons, but only after 45-minutes or so of protestations—and I’d find myself waking him up, warm and groggy (and often grumpy) around 5pm. At bedtime, he would easily stay up until 8:30 and then chat to himself quietly until 9pm. In hindsight, I can’t believe I didn’t give up on naps sooner!

As hard as it was for me to let go, I knew it was time to stop requiring he sleep. So one day I announced we would have a new set of rules: I would set a timer—we used the same “OK to Wake Clock” that we use for every morning–for an 60 minutes, and he could bring any books or toys into his bed with him to read quietly. Looking back, I was still hopeful he would just fall asleep—given the chance. I kept the lights dim and put him in a pull-up (like the one he wears overnight). And the first few weeks were rough: it was as if he were jet-lagged. I wanted to go back on the plan so badly! He, on the other hand, was thrilled he wouldn’t have to fall asleep and easily passed the hour devouring books.

He would sometimes still fall asleep, but mostly he would play independently. At first we had rules about what he could do, but eventually did away with those.

As the months passed, I stopped expecting him to maybe fall asleep, and made it as bright as possible. I started to see the value in his coming up with freeplay activities and would let him play with whatever he liked as long as he wasn’t loud. And once he was out of diapers, he could come and go freely to use the bathroom. It was actually a relief once I let go of the hope that he would fall asleep. I don’t walk him to his room or go through a routine, tip-toeing away; instead it’s simply “time for quiet-time!”

Two years later, at age five, he still has a quiet-time almost every day. He usually comes out a few times to show me what he’s working on, and I don’t keep a timer in his room; but I think it’s a good chance for him to have to entertain himself. I often hear him counting and singing the songs he learned in school and I feel like he’s getting a chance to process the day. It’s also a nice break for me, particularly if it’s timed to Skyler’s nap.

Sleepytime - Ashley Muir Bruhn - Hither and Thither-3

Skyler is almost the same age as Hudson was when he stopped napping and seems to be okay skipping a nap a few times a week. We alternately tell her it’s a day for “sleepytime” or “quiet-time.” So I imagine the end is near. I wonder, will I keep them separate so that she too might get the value of some play time alone? Or let them play together—but still without an adult to steer them?

How did you make the transition away from naptimes? Some parents have introduced quiet time with a dedicated box of activities and toys—reserved just for that hour. If you institute a quiet-time, what has worked best for you? How did you adjust bedtime?

P.S. Toilet learning, how to pick a preschool, and some of my favorite parenting books. (Also, funny sidenote: I only remember all the details of this so well because I wrote a draft about it 2-1/2 years ago—and forgot to publish it!)

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