Recently I’ve had several clients contact me for help with their infants, but in the course of our consult, we’ve touched on their older child, often around 3 years of age, who has either stopped napping or naps infrequently, but still badly needs a nap. When I give them some suggestions to follow to help their toddler get back to napping daily, most often the next thing I hear about is how it’s wonderful that their child is napping again, but now they won’t go to bed at night!
If you find yourself in a similar scenario, and one that I found my own self in with my 4 year old, try to limit the nap to 60-90 minutes, and then wake them up. Many times the act of waking a toddler will back fire because then the child is then groggy and cranky, and that behavior ruins part or all of the afternoon-in this case I would suggest you watch your toddler around the 60 minute mark after they fell asleep. They will usually stir somewhat when they go through a sleep cycle (which occur roughly every 60 minutes for kids that age) and that is the ideal time for them to wake up since they are not in a deep REM sleep cycle. Also, it’s often best if a sound wakes up your child, instead of you. If possible, when you see them cycling from one cycle to another, close a cabinet outside their room, or drop something not too loud right outside their door, or walk by their room loudly if you have wood floors. My experience has shown me that children who are woken by some external sound as opposed to a parent who is gently shaking them awake is often more successful in terms of the child’s attitude and temperament once they get up. It’s as if they have a chance to “come to” on their own terms.
I would also suggest you adopt a later bedtime, by about 30 minutes, for the older toddler who naps. This should help solve the problem of them not falling asleep at night.