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Okay, we finally said it! We’ve been thinking it for years and
now finally have the guts to say it (write it?).
Naptime (ie. that blessed few hours when your little ones sleep during the day)
is NOT a sacred institution.
In fact, we honestly believe that naptime is a thief of many family adventures. Robbing you of your time, and putting you on an insane schedule. If only we could count the number of times that we’ve invited friends to do something, but have been turned down because it would interfere with a nap. Seriously? You don’t want to go rafting because it’s during naptime? WHAT?
Okay, so we’re not saying that your kids shouldn’t take naps ever (hey, we think that they ROCK). We just don’t think that you should have your entire life revolve around them. Yes, we understand that your child may get cranky or upset without their nap. However, what you’re missing out on could have a much bigger impact on your kids than a little sleep. Here are a few tips for fitting in both your adventures and some down time for your kids so that everyone stays happy.
1. Start them young. The younger you teach your children to be flexible, the easier life will be. Yes, it’s okay to miss a nap on occasion. However, if your child never misses a nap until they’re two years old, you’re probably in for a rough ride. Also, try and teach them that they can sleep other places besides their bed. To do this, occasionally have them sleep on the floor, in the pack-n-play, or in the car to get them accustomed to it. Remember that babies are incredibly flexible so take advantage of that when you can!
2. Schedule in some down time. If you have a toddler, you know that rest is essential for them (and you). However, out on a hike, this isn’t always possible. Whenever you can, build in lots of quiet rests so that everyone can recharge their batteries. We love taking breaks with the kids near waterfalls and rivers because the movement and the sound of the water instantly calm our kids down.
3. Train them to sleep on the go. Our kids are pro’s at sleeping in our baby backpack. They have to be! We try and start out on adventures as early as we can, but often there just is not enough time to get back for an early afternoon nap. Therefore, we try and pack in as much fun and play as we can in the morning, knowing that in the afternoon, we’ll likely be helping tired and potentially grouchy kids. Another benefit of playing hard is sleeping in the car. We have very few day-trip adventures where our kids don’t fall asleep on the way home. Yep, the car seat and backpack can be your best friends.
4. Choose wisely. Just because naptime is not SACRED doesn’t mean it isn’t IMPORTANT. It may not be the best thing for your sanity to have your child miss a nap everyday. DUH! However, if you have a typically well rested child, missing the occasional nap will probably not be a disaster. We usually know when we will be on an adventure for the day and plan ahead for it. Meaning, the kids get a good nap the day before, go to bed on time (or even early) and eat well so that their little bodies are prepared to handle the lack of sleep. Usually we try to get them to bed early that night and get a nap the next day. We try and save missed naps for things we think are important (like a camping trip) and work things like a trip to the store around them.
5. Be persistent. Yes, there will be days that you are cursing yourself for listening to our advice (sorry). However, if you’re lucky like us, those days will be the exception rather than the rule. Some days are hard and others are easy, but overall, we believe that there are many things that are much more important to the well-being of children than sleep.
6. Remember who’s in charge. Okay, here we go on our soap box. Remember that you are the parent and are supposed to be the one in charge. It drives us absolutely crazy when parents dictate EVERYTHING that they can and cannot do based on a toddlers preferences. You are the parent and you make the rules. In order to have healthy relationships in a family, everyone’s needs must be considered, not just the one who screams the loudest. Don’t forget to take care of your needs too, and be willing to be flexible enough to make that work for your little kids!
Yes, we know that all children are different. I don’t know what is best for your individual children, but this is something that has worked great for us and for many of our friends. Still not convinced? Give it a try!