I recently shared in Instagram stories a video of Fox (almost 5 years old) during rest-time and I received so many DMs about how I implemented a period of rest in our house and what it looks like for us that I thought I would offer some more insight here.
The switch from naps to rest can look different for every child. Some children decide to stop napping on their own, while others seem to need parental guidance to move away from naps and towards a rest-time. When Fox turned 4, he began having a hard time falling asleep at night. The nightly struggle between parent and child for rest and sleep lasted for hours, beginning around 8pm and with him finally sleeping somewhere between 9:30 and 10:30pm. As you can imagine, this left my husband and I with very little evening of our own, one using the time to work and the other trying to get him to sleep. It also seemed to leave Fox in a chronic sour mood. He was not getting enough solid sleep at night, which meant he would crash hard for nap and be wired at night. We first tried shortening his nap but it seemed any amount of day sleep would keep him up at night. So, we made the decision to halt naps completely and move to a time of rest. The transition was difficult in the beginning, Fox would beg to sleep so it really took quite a bit of guidance on my part to keep him awake. But, once his body fell into the routine, magic happened. Fox now takes a two hour time of rest after lunch everyday that centers his spirit, allows him to relax and leaves him refreshed for the afternoon.
The question I received most was: what does he do during rest-time to keep him occupied and motivated to actually stay in the playroom? Well, first let me say, he DOES come out of the playroom each day to talk to me. I do allow this and I answer his questions with a kind and attentive heart. This is the time of day Esme is napping and he has my full attention so I let him utilize it. But, once his question has been answered, I remind him that it is rest-time and guide him back to the playroom. If he is coming out frequently, it’s because he has not settled into a deep activity and needs my guidance to do so. Every child is different and you know your child best, you know what draws out their soul and lights their spirit on fire. Fox has a passion for drawing, puzzles, and building. Most rest-time days, I set him up with an audiobook on his wireless headphones and drawing supplies and he is quite content.
At the end of his period of rest, if Esme is still sleeping, I spend some quality time with him. I give the choice between reading a chapter book together or playing a card or board game. He usually picks a game and that gives us a great opportunity to play a game that we typically can’t while Esme is awake.
Some ideas for rest-time:
Reserve a special toy for rest-time that your child does not have access to otherwise. For example, if your older child has younger siblings but loves small Legos, this would be the perfect time for them to play with these, while younger siblings nap. Or if you notice a constant source of stress for your older child is younger siblings knocking over towers or destroying train tracks, reserve them for this time so they have the freedom to build as they wish.
Audiobooks, podcasts, read-along books with CDs might help your little one sit and rest their body. Especially if your little one is beginning to pick up on some words, a read-along book with CD might be just the thing to keep them focused.
Small world play. A barn, dollhouse or simply a basket with a few animals, silks and blocks can open an entire world of imagination to a little one. The imagination of a child begins to flourish around the age of 3 and many children drop naps around this time. Allowing your child the opportunity to build a world will allow their bodies to rest. You might need to help your child begin by “setting the scene”, which is totally fine!
Sensory play. If your child needs to remain close to you but your mind and body need a rest, sensory play is our favorite tool for this. Kinetic sand, rainbow rice, dried beans, or homemade play dough allow your child a sensory experience and to center while you can rest as well. I find my children become very quiet during sensory play as they allow themselves to be in the experience.
If you are on the journey towards moving your child from naps to rest, I hope this has helped you. If you still have questions, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!