I can remember going through it with my daughter, specifically, around naptime. I’d put her down for her nap, she’d have a party in there, for an hour or more, before she finally would fall asleep. I get asked that question, “What should I do? He’s in there playing and he’s supposed to be napping, or he’s supposed to be going to sleep at night. I don’t know what to do? Should I give him trouble for it? Shouldn’t I?”
What to Do if Your Child is Playing in the Crib
My advice is to definitely not give trouble about it. It’s often a developmental phase that your child is going through. It often happens around the eighteenth to two year mark. It has a lot to do with language acquisition. They’re learning so much at such a rapid pace, they need time to process that.
They often do it by babbling or singing, or talking, and that’s part of the process of just organizing all this new information. Try not to panic about it. If your child’s in there for an hour, hour and a half, shouting, and singing, and having fun, yes, they didn’t sleep, but it was still a break. They got a break and you got a break. It’s still a rest because there’s limited chances of running around and moving in one’s crib. You can just call it nap time. Go in, get your child out, and proceed with your day.
If he doesn’t nap you may need to move bedtime a little earlier to try and compensate for that, but try not to panic. It usually fades out in a week or two, and then they go back to napping well. Same thing goes with bedtime. It could just be, developmentally, that your child needs some time to play, and talk, and do all this stuff. Give it a week or two and see if it goes away on its own. If it doesn’t, then you may need to look at eliminating the daytime nap.
When to Look at the Nap
I find that most toddlers will happily take a nap, but then at bedtime want to a have party until 9:00 at night. If that’s happening, into the third, fourth week, it’s time to look at the nap. Otherwise, I want you to just let it go. It boils down to what I say often, is that you can’t force someone to sleep.
You could go in there and scream the house down if you want to, but if he’s not going to sleep, he’s not going to sleep. You just remind yourself that you’re giving him ample opportunity to take a great nap, get to bed on time, and sleep a perfect night. You’ve given them all the skills he needs to be an excellent sleeper, and the rest is up to him. If he wants to play for an hour before he passes out, fine. If he wants to play through the whole nap, oh well. It’s not going to last forever. It’s an important part of their development.
To healthy sleep,
Kaley Medina, Your Houston Sleep Consultant & Dallas Sleep Consultant