They don't think they need that rest, but the meltdowns that begin around 5PM if they don't get a nap argue otherwise.
Even as actual naps subside, I insist on rest time. During the summer when my older kids were home, even my 7 year old had rest time. They don't have to sleep, but they must do something quietly, alone, for 45 minutes to an hour, like look at books, read (if they can), or play by themselves in their room.
Rest time maintains my sanity. It is, some days, my only break from the constant chatter, yelling, neediness, and messes.
I've found with all three of my kids that they go through a long period, lasting a year or more, where they don't nap every day, but more like every 3rd day. They try to stay up and just play quietly, but sometimes their little bodies just cave to the sleep.
This is how I found my 3 year old at the end of rest time today:
Completely passed out on the floor in the hallway on top of his Big Duke dog!
Because I like to be practical and not just say, "I insist on rest time," I'm going to break it down into how I have kept rest time through the years.
Each of my kids has gone through phases of challenging rest time, like the 7 year old at the beginning of summer or the 2 year old who is suddenly able to climb out of the crib.
But, you must stick to enforcing it and the phase will pass in a few days and you will have won yourself several more months of fairly drama-free rest times.
When kids are old enough to understand it (maybe around age 4) a great consequence for coming out of their room or being too loud during rest time is to tell them that because they are not resting, they now have 5 more minutes added to their rest time. And increase it as they protest more. They will get the message. Even my most stubborn one did!
With 2 and 3 year olds what has worked well for me is to allow them to choose if their door is opened or closed as I put them down for a nap, then if they come out too much or get too loud, I say, "Since you feel like being loud, I'll have to close your door." And my younger 2 hated this! They'd scream and cry and after a few minutes I'd open the door back and ask if they were ready to be quiet. If so then they could have their door opened again. But, if they are loud again or came out, I had to follow through right away and go back and close the door again, this time leaving it shut for a longer time.
It makes for a very tiresome rest time for a few days when you have a kid going through a period of challenging it, and it is so tempting to just let them get up, but trust me, stick with it, otherwise you will have lost the rest time war, possibly forever!
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