Experts say that 2-3 year olds should still get 1 to 2 hours of shut-eye during the day, aside from the 10 to 12 hours of sleep during the night.
According to Parents.com, “Toddlers are going through a marathon of development,” says Jodi Mindell, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology at St. Joseph’s University, in Philadelphia. “Sleep is the only way they can restore themselves and keep up the pace.” In fact, according to sleep expert Marc Weissbluth, M.D., author of Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Children (Ballantine, 1999), naps facilitate your toddler’s cognitive development. “Research has found that cortisol, a hormone that increases with stress, falls dramatically during a nap,” says Dr. Weissbluth. “As a result, your toddler awakens happier, more alert, and better prepared to learn about and explore his world.”
Greg Prazar, M.D., a developmental and behavioral pediatrician in Exeter, New Hampshire, notes another good reason to keep your toddler napping. “Naps are actually a learning opportunity,” says Dr. Prazar. “When he takes a nap, your toddler gets some time alone to learn how to soothe or even entertain himself.”
To make the most of toddler naps, Dr. Mindell recommends the following:
- Make sure your child settles down at the same time and in the same place each day.
- “Your toddler may nap twice a day for an hour or take the occasional three-hour snooze,” says Dr. Mindell. “It all depends on your child’s individual needs.”
Two-year-olds are often ready to relax after lunch, so read your child a story and settle her down in a quiet, dark room. Here, some typical toddler naptime hassles and how to solve them:
- He doesn’t want to nap. Two-year-olds are very busy people—so busy that they often balk at the idea of breaking for a snooze. “If your child is refusing to nap because she says she’s not sleepy, make sure she still gets some quiet time,” says Claire Lerner, L.C.S.W., a child-development specialist at Zero To Three, a Washington, D.C., organization that promotes the health and welfare of young children. To help your toddler get some rest, lay her down quietly with a book or turn on gentle music. “It’s not as restorative as sleep, but at least the routine is maintained and your child gets some much-needed rest,” says Lerner.
- He naps late—and therefore sleeps late at night.
- An older brother or sister is being makulit. If it’s naptime for the little one but ate or kuya still wants to play, get the older children to either take a nap themselves or be part of the pre-napping rituals (i.e. instead of roughhousing with the toddler, they can just read him a calming story).