Tricks for Getting a Child to Nap Every Day

If there’s one thing every parent can relate to, it’s getting your child to nap. Even if you consider your child a great sleeper, at some point, they will struggle to nap. When a child misses their nap, it can make them overtired, which only perpetuates the sleeping problem. 

So how can you make it easier for your child to nap every day? Keep reading for age-specific tips!

Why Do Children Need Naps?

Babies and young children are learning about their bodies and the world around them every moment of every day. Quite literally, every day they are learning something new! 

Humans process new information and store memories during sleep. Because young children are constantly experiencing and learning new things, they need extra sleep to integrate and remember them. 

The brains and bodies of young children literally grow during sleep! So if you want your kid to be strong and smart, adequate sleep is vital.

How Much Should My Child Sleep?

Babies, toddlers, and young children all benefit from naps throughout the day. How many naps or how long they nap for depends on their age. 

  • Newborns (0 to 3 months) need 14 to 17 hours of sleep per day. They take about four to six naps a day for about 30 minutes to two hours at a time.
  • Babies (4 to 12 months) need 12 to 16 hours of sleep per day. Babies sleep for longer stretches at night. At 6 months, babies usually drop to two naps: one in the morning and one in the afternoon.
  • Toddlers (1 to 2 years) need 11 to 14 hours of sleep per day. Before the 18-month-mark, toddlers still take two naps. However, around 18 months they transition to one longer, afternoon nap.
  • Preschoolers: (3 to 5 years) need 10 to 13 hours hours of sleep per day. Some children stop napping between 3 and 4 years old, but others will still nap regularly until age 5.
  • School-aged children (6 to 12 years) need 9 to 12 hours of sleep per day. By the age of 6, children no longer need to take a nap, getting all their sleep at night.

Tips for Helping Your Child Sleep

While every child is different, some general principles will help every child nap, no matter their age.

Avoid Overtiredness

While you might think that an exhausted child will sleep longer, this is simply not true. Exhausted, overtired children are in overdrive and will use this cranky energy to fight sleep. If your child isn’t getting the recommended hours of sleep (listed in the section above), then it’s likely that they’re fighting sleep because they’re overtired.

You can overcome overtiredness by setting firm boundaries on bedtime and nap time. It takes consistency, but setting a firm bedtime and nap time every day will help your child regain their lost sleep and settle into an ideal routine.

Time It Right

Children have natural wake and sleep windows, and taking advantage of when they’re naturally sleepy will make it much easier to get them to nap. Take note of when your child starts slowing down: choosing quieter toys, reading books, zoning out, or being easily irritable. 

Babies and toddlers who take morning and afternoon naps will generally need a nap about two hours after waking up. Children this age should take a 1.5-2-hour nap in the morning and afternoon. 

Toddlers and young children who only take an afternoon nap generally do best with their nap about a half hour to an hour after their midday meal. This is because the short-term energy from their food has worn off. Children this age can take a nap from 1-3 hours, depending on how many hours they sleep at night. 

Be Consistent

It’s tempting to not require your child to nap every day, but there are a few problems with inconsistency. 

First, your child will slowly build up a sleep deficit that will result in them being overtired. As seen above, overtiredness comes with its own set of challenges. Secondly, children thrive on consistency. If they never know when they need to take a nap, it’s easy for them to resist in various ways. 

An added benefit of consistency is the parents and caregivers have predictable times throughout the day to rest or accomplish tasks.

Use Sleepytime Tech

There are plenty of excellent assistive tech devices that can help your child sleep. For instance, a simple noise machine that plays soothing sounds like the ocean, rain, or other white noise can help lull your child to sleep. Another smart device is to invest in a clock (like this one) that glows when nap time is over. 

As children get older and transition away from sleeping every day, they may benefit from listening to a story in their bed. If they fall asleep, then they are tired enough, and if not, they at least get some rest.

Getting your child to nap can be a challenge! But the most important thing is to be consistent with a daily routine to avoid sleep deficits and tantrums.