13 Tricks for Your Child to Take a Nap

Rest is key to the well-being of the baby and the mother. The child needs the habit and you must incorporate that time into the daily routine. Learn what tricks to do so you don't miss your nap.
13 Tricks for Your Child to Take a Nap
María Alejandra Castro Arbeláez

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist María Alejandra Castro Arbeláez.

Last update: 27 December, 2022

Establishing a routine and sticking to it is one of the best tricks you can implement to get your child to take a nap. For children, it’s extremely important to follow a schedule, in which routines are clearly established. In reality, these little people need their schedules to be able to be calm.

Babies, like most living things, are creatures of habit. That’s why it’s mothers as caregivers who establish how the baby’s routine is carried out. And those hours must be respected as much as possible. That doesn’t mean that these are set in stone and that they can never be changed, but if there is any change in the routine, it must be maintained as constistently as possible.

You, as a mother, can get your child used to taking a nap every day, after lunch, and respecting their sleep schedule. In fact, there are scientific studies that show that after eating is when the body is more ready to sleep, so it won’t normally be difficult to get your baby to take a nap at that time.

So, putting the child to bed to rest after the lunch routine is a good trick for your child to take a nap. This is also a good time because it keeps your child’s nap from going too late. “Too late,” for example, would be letting your child fall asleep after 5:00 pm. Ideally, this healthy habit of resting during the day shouldn’t interfere with their night’s sleep.

A woman napping with her baby on her chest.

Help yourself with these tips for your baby to take a nap

1. Set a schedule

Planning a schedule for your child to take a nap is as important as respecting it. Therefore, it’s key not to occupy that time for rest for another task or promote very busy activities that can excite your child’s emotions too much before the nap, as this will surely make it difficult for them to fall asleep.

The body easily adapts to routines. Playtime must be scheduled just like naptime. However, if you want the mechanism to work, you must plan food and play at certain times and also create a habit. And remember that if you’ve little one hasn’t burnt energy on these two activities, they’ll be less likely to be tired enough to take a nap.

2. Have a welcoming environment

Creating an environment conducive for the child to relax is also essential. When it’s time to rest, in order to help your child relax, you can play soft music, give them a massage, read them a story, or even carry them and sing to them. You can also show them a stuffed animal or a toy so that your child associates these objects with the nap. Because when you do these activities on a routine basis, that is, in the same way and at the same time, you encourage your child to associate them with the fact that it was a time to rest.

3. Don’t turn the day into night

Although it’s essential for your child to associate the time you’ve chosen for their nap with a time set aside for napping, there’s no need for you to create a dark environment that’s similar to the night in order to get them to rest for a while. This is because, in reality, it’s very positive for you to leave a bit of light in the area where you’re child will be napping. This will help them differentiate this time from nighttime sleep. In the same way, avoid complete silence during daytime naps. You may think this helps them sleep better, but it’s best to teach them to nap calmly without modifying the general routine of the house too much.

4. They don’t need pajamas in order to take a nap

You also don’t need to put your baby in their pajamas or tell them that they’re going to sleep. Doing so could be counterproductive. Nor is it mandatory for them to fall asleep if they don’t want to. It’s enough for them o  calm down for a while on the sofa, even if this involves them spending some time playing quietly with their toys.

A nappying newborn.

5. Little by little turn, reduce the intensity of the environment

The most intense hour for some babies is the one that precedes rest time. Yeah, that’s just them fighting off sleep. The truth is, it’s as if they don’t want to miss out on anything and hold out as much as they can so as not to fall asleep. That’s why, when there’s half an hour to go until naptime arrives, turn off all the electric equipment and the television and subtly introduce the elements for sleep. A bath will be more than soothing.

6. All babies are different

All children are different, so what works for some, might not work as much for others. The intimate communication that you’ll have with your little one will include nonverbal clues that will indicate their tastes. And in particular, how they like to fall asleep. In someone’s arms, in the car, in A rocking chair; each child will have their rituals and tricks. Even what worked for one child may not work for this one. And of course, the ways to express their need for rest will be different. You must remind yourself that each child is a different experience and there’s no place for comparison.

7. If you go out, you must be prepared for your child’s nap

If nap time catches you away from home or someone else is caring for your child, don’t let that catch you off guard. Be sure to take along with you everything you’ll need in order for your little ones to take a nap. This requires planning and anticipation. It’s not just about making them feel at home, but remembering that their nap is an important part of the day and beneficial for both you and your child. There’s no need to stay home all day. Your life goes on, you have friends, a job, and studies, and you need each other to grow.

8. Consistency will help create the habit

If you want your baby to take a nap, you must comply with the schedule you established. Consistency will make all the difference between having a rhythm of activity and rest that you can control, or exhausting days in which naptime catches you with your things in disarray and on the verge of a nervous breakdown. It seems obvious, but this detail often goes unnoticed.

9. Make sure they make it to bed awake

Among the actions that create the habit of napping or going to sleep is making sure that the child makes it to their bed or crib before falling asleep. This way, they’ll be able to associate the two things, understanding that once certain conditions have been created, the time to take a nap or sleep has arrived. Of course, there will be times when they’ll fall asleep somewhere else and wake up in his crib, and that’s fine, as long as it doesn’t become a habit. When unexpected naps happen too often and the child isn’t used to sleeping in their bed, getting them to associate their bed and nap time will be more difficult.

10. Give your child confidence

When you put them in their usual place to sleep, don’t leave them alone. Stay by their side and make this time feel safe and reliable.

“Babies spend their first year learning to gain trust in people who love them.”

The idea is for them not to fight against sleep, as this will cause irritation. Leave them alone once they’re completely asleep and put a toy or stuffed animal of their choice next to them so that, when they wake up, they don’t feel alone. This will be like a triumph when, after the normal nap time, you get to their room and discover them awake, playing calmly. It’s a sign that you’re routine is working and you must do everything you can in order not to break it.

Don’t leave them alone if they’re crying. There are beliefs that there’s no harm in letting them cry until they fall asleep between sobs, but no. This doesn’t do them any good and it creates an emotional imbalance. Go to them when they cry and pick them up. Hug them and comfort them. Once calm, put them back in bed and stay with them until they fall asleep again.

11. Let them be tired, but not exhausted

It’s neither necessary nor healthy for your little one to feel exhausted when it’s finally time to go to bed, whether it’s naptime or bedtime. It’s okay for them to play and carry out different activities that tire them, but these must be part of their routine that they assume as natural and daily. If this happens, you’ll manage to make naptime coincide with the time your baby gets tired.

12. Don’t wake them up

And if you see that your child is restless, wiggling their hands and feet, or even smiling, don’t try to wake them up. Wait a few minutes to see what happens. It’s very likely that they’ll continue to sleep.

13. If they sleep, take advantage of the time

When your baby takes their nap, you have three options: Take care of your home, tend to your things… or rest! Always remember that you also need to get enough sleep. Being tired isn’t the best way to take care of your child; you need good spirits and energy. Delegate some care to your partner or relatives, but also make your own rest a priority in case the child wakes up earlier than expected. Teamwork is essential.

For you, as a mother, having your child take a nap is a victory because you can use that time to take a bath, solve some pending task, or rest with them for a few minutes. But beyond the strategic point of view, taking a nap offers benefits for all human beings.

The positive aspects of taking a nap

Although many people feel lethargic after sleeping for a while in the afternoon, a study from the University of Berkeley claims that taking a nap regularly facilitates learning. The study says that those who take them perform better in the afternoons and increase their learning capacity by 10%. What’s more, the study explains that sleeping for a little while in the afternoon helps your child to face new knowledge and fix the knowledge they’ve already acquired.

Sleeping a few minutes in the afternoon improves mood; This happens because when we fall asleep, serotonin floods the brain. This is a hormone that regulates sleep, appetite, and mood. So, when your child takes a nap, there’s a good chance that they’ll wake up with a feeling of satisfaction and well-being.

A child who takes a nap is a more creative child

This is suggested by a study by a team of neurologists from Georgetown University who found that sleeping for a while during the day stimulates the activity of the right hemisphere that’s associated with the ability to be very creative.

Science has also shown that people who nap and manage to reach REM sleep are more receptive to the facial expression of happiness, while those who don’t show more anger and fear.

Every time your child sleeps, their body releases growth hormone, which, in addition to reducing stress and anxiety, helps them repair muscles and stay slim.

The benefits that a short nap of at least 6 minutes brings to the body and to the state of mind are many, so it’s very positive that you encourage this habit in your child from an early age.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.