Having good infant sleepers is not something that I can add to my motherhood resume, but toddler/preschool sleep is my JAM.
“They” (whoever “they” is) always say that if it’s one kid who is being difficult with something, it’s probably just their personality, but if it’s two+ kids, it might (but not necessarily) be you. Ha! Who knows how much validity there is in that. I 100% felt this way though with my girls and their poor sleeping habits throughout each of their first year of life. They were both (!!) THE WORST sleepers, so mama and baby girls slept walked our way through 2014 and 2016-beginning of 2017.
So, if you’ve recently repeatedly nailed how to get your infants to be good sleepers, please come hang with me around September and get our new baby girl to sleep, because Jamie and I are just not. good. at. it.
But! But but but. With that being said, we are pretty darn good at nap time and bedtimes with toddlers/preschoolers. This is one area I feel like we’ve always had nailed down regardless of where we’ve lived, where we’ve traveled to, how we’ve uprooted their lives, etc. etc. etc.
I don’t know what it was about them each turning 18ish months, but mama wasn’t playing games anymore. I felt like the girls were old enough to start understanding that I call the shots, period. WHO RUNS THE HOUSE – ME. 😉
And obedience is obviously super important for kids to start learning from a young age, even if they don’t have any clue why they have to follow x, y, and z rules. Just listen to mom and dad because we know best. That’s pretty much our parenting motto and keeps us from feeling too much guilt when we’re being strict or disciplining about something.
You aren’t born knowing how life works, so we gotta teach ya. At least that’s how we see the whole design of parenting. I’m no expert though…
So with sleep, I buckled down and taught them that sleep = happiness and that we stay in our beds and rest when we are supposed to every single day.
Every time I mention something on social media or the blog about afternoon quiet time (most recently it was in this “Day in the Life” post), I always get private questions asking me to explain a little bit more about how it all really plays out. I’ve never written about afternoon quiet time before, so here’s a post all about it! I’m the biggest believer that kids (and people in general) tend to meet expectations that are clearly defined and consistently set before them, so afternoon quiet time is a part of that expectation in this humble abode.
How we do it
- As soon as the girls transitioned to one afternoon nap, we started calling it “quiet time”.
- Around age 2, we started allowing the girls to pick a few books to bring to bed with them to look through on their own. This felt like a treat for them, so they were more willing to comply and not fight with us so hardcore about going to lay down.
- Around age 2.5, we started allowing them to bring toys. At this point, we don’t care what they bring to bed with them. Make three quicks trips, I don’t care. Just get your things and climb your booty in bed.
- Oh, I always make them go to the bathroom right before bed so that they don’t climb out of bed half an hour later asking to pee.
- I shut their blinds (I also close Sadie’s curtains and put on her sound machine since she’s young), turn off the lights, crack their doors, and tell them to have a good rest.
- If they are still awake at 3:15, I get them both out of bed. If it’s cold or rainy, they usually come right to the living room couch to watch TV. If it’s nice out, they go play in the backyard.
Here are pics of what the girls’ rooms actually look like on any given day. I wrote this post around 10:30 a.m. and got up to snap these pictures at that time. Lots of books, toys, baby dolls, etc. Whatever makes them happy! We clean their rooms and start all over with toys about once every five days or so. Psst: Making their beds every morning is something that Jamie would SO love for me to enforce with them, but there’s only so much I can realistically give my energy to in the mornings amidst the shuffle of getting ready for the day. Sorry, babe. I try, kind of! LOL
A few reasons we enforce this so strictly
- They need rest time. Sadie needs it because she’s little (almost age 3) and Hadley (age 5) needs it because she goes to school every day and plays hard.
- As a stay-at-home mom, I need (!) quiet time. I firmly believe I parent better the last few hours of the day if I have had some time to myself.
- I do not force them to sleep. How would I even do that anyway? You can’t actually make them sleep, but I can discipline them if they are fussing and/or repeatedly getting out of bed. This happens semi-frequently with Sadie as she transitions to not sleeping as much in the afternoons. She doesn’t understand why she can’t get up, but her little brain doesn’t understand quiet time in general. So for now, I just need her to understand that obedience is what we do, so go back to bed or there will be a consequence you won’t be in favor of.
- This is just my opinion (seriously I am NO expert), but I firmly (!) believe that 90-120 minutes of independent rest time is so, so, so good for their little brains. Both girls are so creative with their play. This is their time to play with figurines, pretend food, baby dolls, books, WHATEVER. During this time, I am not their circus leader. They have to figure out how to entertain themselves, and I think this is such an important life skill, especially in our evolving society where we have technology to constantly entertain us. We never have to be bored, and when we are, we don’t know what to do with ourselves.
- I think it’s super easy to enforce our rules because we believe in quiet time SO much. When you understand why you’re doing something as a parent, it makes it so much easier to enforce that consistency with gentleness, firmness, and love.
- I’ve read 1,000 times that kids thrive best on schedules and knowing what to expect, so this is something we’ve created as part of their daily routine.
Answers to some previously FAQs
- When we will stop quiet time? Hadley is going to kindergarten next year, so this summer will be the last time we enforce afternoon quiet time with her.
- When do you allow them to skip quiet time? If we have something going on through the afternoon, we plow right through quiet time and enjoy our time out. They both know though that if we are home and nothing special is going on, there will be at least 90 minutes of quiet time. We enforce this for consistency for them so that they don’t view this time as “optional”.
- What about vacations? We wing it and play it by ear. We certainly don’t rush back from a fun outing though so our five year old can play in her bed. If they need to sleep, we’ll do quiet time. Otherwise, we’ll enjoy our activities.
- Why don’t you just let them relax and watch TV or their tablet? Our schedule lends itself to letting the 3:30-5ish time slot be their technology time. I’ve been letting my kids watch TV since they were practically born (lol, but seriously) but I don’t want them watch hours upon hours of TV every afternoon, because that’s what they’ll come to expect and get upset if I’m not consistent.
- Why does Hadley still have quiet time? Because I still need some “chill” time myself AND because I need her to be quiet while Sadie naps. Plus, it’s all she knows every afternoon. She really enjoys playing, and it’s fun to spy on her and watch how her imagination is continually evolving during that time.
- Do they ever fight you on it? OH, WE BATTLE. Don’t you worry. Almost every day they whine about it. Oh well. I threaten discipline when necessary. They know they won’t win so discipline is usually never necessary. 😉 As soon as they’re in their beds though, I hear them laughing, playing, talking to themselves, and having a good time. Getting them settled in their beds in the hardest part. Once they’re in, they’re good.
What does nap time look like in your house? When your kid gave up naps for good, what did you start doing during that time?
PS: Do you remember when I worked with a sleep trainer to finally get Sadie to sleep more than three hours stretches at a time? She was 10 months old, and it was wild. You can read about that experience working with a sleep trainer here.
More posts related to sleep:
Transitioning Sadie from her crib to a double bed in our new home (and the rocky transition period)
Hi! I’m Erica, and I absolutely adore sharing my life on this website with you! I come here almost daily to blab about all of the things related to being a regular wife and mother in today’s ever-evolving society. I share about our new home, what’s on our kitchen table, what we’re hanging in our closets, where we’re traveling to next, my crazy 5 a.m. work outs, how I make time for girlfriends, our faith, and much more. We always have a lot of balls in the air and somewhat thrive on the chaos. I believe in the power of story-telling as a form of inspiration and entertainment, so I’m here to do both! I was born and raised in north Alabama and recently re-planted roots here again after my husband transitioned out of the Army (he is now in the Reserve and it’s going so well!) I’m a super proud mom to two little girls (ages 5 and 2) who seem to be the stars of the show around here (for good reason – they’re pretty great!) I’m so glad you found me and are here reading! I hope we can get to know each other here on the blog as well as Facebook and/or Instagram. xoxo