Naptime is NOT Sacred!

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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 or while camping with a baby, 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!

About Jessica Averett

Hi, I’m Jessica, a mom of 5 kids and married to my favorite adventure partner. I love to bike, ski, camp and hike. We've visited over 40 countries with our kids, but are equally happy on the road as we are exploring our home state of Utah.

13 thoughts on “Naptime is NOT Sacred!”

  1. I think this is a great post. I’ll add that children change and you have to adapt to new circumstances. While we always respected the fact that our son needed naps, he never could rely on being in his crib for nap time, especially on the weekend. He’d sleep on the go (in the carrier, car, sled, stroller, tent, etc). About six months ago though, after two years of sleeping anywhere, our two and a half year old stopped napping when out. Since then we’ve had to adapt a bit. Our trips are planned carefully to make the most of the day and avoid meltdowns. We’d rather start early in the day. We don’t start hikes at nap time because it’s a sure way to create a meltdown… but we will let hikes run into nap time and as long as we keep to trails that are interesting to little boys, ensure that he’s not hungry or thirsty, etc. we’re good. He’ll have quiet time on the way home (he won’t sleep unless completely exhausted). Other kids I know are completely different and their parents are able to plan their adventures differently. It’s all about working as a family to find what’s right for everyone.

  2. Great post! I am guilty of saying, “but it’s their nap time” and I do believe in naps and quiet time; however, having a fun time with the family is part of life. We have gone on so many adventures that if we let naps get in the way of that, we would be the most boring people around!

  3. It struck me that perhaps some parents actually don’t want to go rafting that much! They would actually prefer staying home. I have told many people I “can’t” because of a kids’ nap, because I would much rather save the non-napping time for stuff like… this – camping, hiking, boating! Oddly enough, there might be people out there that don’t like that stuff. I can’t believe how many people I meet who don’t like to camp, or don’t think they should until the kids are older! Insane to miss out on all that! Some people just are so removed from nature they forget how great it is. Also, my kids don’t sleep in the car that much. No matter how we have stuck them in there – they will only do it occasionally. If they come home totally sleep deprived and cranky, we put them to bed at 6:30 pm. Contrary to popular belief, a kid that normally sleeps from 7:30pm-7:30am will not wake up at 6:30 am if you put them to bed early ONE time. I know most parents don’t believe me. But it really works. I dare someone to try. They may just sleep in LONGER than usual.

  4. Hey, you can always put them down early even if they don’t go to sleep for hours! My parents used to do that. I’ll just mention here, that sometimes sleep is medically necessary for a particular child, such as some with epilepsy, for example. In which case it becomes sacred for real. Rafting can wait until that child no longer needs naps. And camping can wait until a good night’s sleep is optional. In the meantime it’s possible to be satified with shorter outings. It’s really OK to make sleep a priority too. As you said, you’ve got to consider the kids and family, etc. You know your families and kids and do what’s best for all of you.

  5. Eva-
    I totally understand. I know that in your case, your little girls NEEDS lots of sleep or she will have health problems. Thanks for pointing that out!

  6. Sorry but I don’t agree with this for ever child! My son was adopted and extremely sleep deprived when we got him. It was medically and emotionally necessary to let him sleep when he needs. When their little lives are already so disrupted, it is necessary to give up on some of the outings for the well being of the child. This is a case where the parents did dictate who was in charge. Their selfishness almost destroyed this child.


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