Theory Thursday: Quiet Music Time, A Naptime Transition Strategy

Okay, so it’s really Friday.  I promise I was actually working on a post yesterday, but the topic turned out to be bigger and require more research than I had time for.  So that post is coming in future weeks, but I’m throwing this post together for consistency.  Because that’s how much I care about you.

There comes a time in every mother’s life.  A time of weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.  The time when your toddler decides he/she’s too old for naps.  Alas, it is a sad day.

However, just like eating vegetables, toddlers don’t always know what’s best for them.  Monkey and I went through a period of naptime transition a few months ago, when Monkey was, say, 2.25 years old.  It was taking about an hour and much screaming and yelling to get him to take a nap, and most days, he won and got to do “quiet play time” in his room instead.  We were down to about 2 naps a week, when my husband (seeing the stress caused by attemping nap time) suggested that we try doing away with naps for a few weeks, just to see what happened.

The results were dramatic.  Although Monkey and I no longer had to fight daily over naptime, which was nice, it wasn’t a fair trade considering how the lack of naps was effecting his behavior the rest of the day.  He couldn’t focus on what we had to say, couldn’t sit still at the dinner table, and began throwing more tantrums.  Even though he’s been speaking in paragraphs for a while, he began babbling nonsense almost constantly.  Monkey was clearly suffering from sleep deprivation.

So, what to do?  Monkey needed a nap, but was getting the nap worth shooting my afternoon all to pieces?  Surely there was a way to make naptime less of a pain for us both.  Browsing through every sleep book on the shelves at our library, I hit upon an idea, and thus was born Quiet Music Time (QMT).

Here’s how QMT works: after cleaning up all the toys and reading stories, I put Monkey in his bed and turn on some soothing music.  I pick a point in the CD such that the music plays for about 30 minutes.  I explained to Monkey that he needed to sit quietly in his bed, in the dark, and listen to the music.  If he is still awake when the music stops, he can have a hour of quiet play time.  After clearing up the usually two-year-old confusion about the rules, Monkey has been doing a lot better at napping and is back to his usual sparkling personality.

Why does QMT work?  Here are my theories:

  • First, the average time it takes to fall asleep is 20 minutes.  Bet you didn’t think it was that long.  (I’m pulling up the research on that for the post I mentioned above.)  By having QMT last 30 minutes, there’s time for the usual toddler arguing and still time to fall asleep before the music ends.  If he’s being really obstinant, I push it to 45 minutes.
  • Music gives Monkey something to focus on, which makes him more willing to hold still, and thus fall asleep.
  • Setting a time limit that is tangible to your toddler helps him understand that he doesn’t have to stay in isolation forever.  It also gives you a way to give up on nap time without having your toddler feel like his bad behavior won.
  • Even if napping isn’t achieved, 30 minutes of QMT does a lot to recharge a cranky toddler.

We’ll probably continue quiet music time until Monkey enters Kindergarten, whether he naps or not.  Of course, limiting his nap time to 60-90 minutes has also helped establish a daily pattern, rather than oversleeping one day, then not sleeping the next.

One thing I have had a hard time with is finding good quiet music to listen to that’s not too baby-ish or instrumental.  (Monkey needs words in his music, just like me.)  Any suggestions?



Filed under Preschooler (3 yrs - 5 yrs), Sleep, Toddler (18 mos - 3 yrs)

3 responses to “Theory Thursday: Quiet Music Time, A Naptime Transition Strategy

  1. What immediately comes to mind is Enya. I used to fall asleep to her music all the time. I have a few of her cds you are welcome to have when you come visit in August. Though I will say a few of her songs are instrumental. Most have words.

  2. Oh my heavens, we went through this when our son was about the same age. Coincidentally, this happened a few months after his baby brother was born. Okay, not much of a coincidence. :) The best advice I ever stumbled upon was having him sit down to do a puzzle before beginning naptime routine. We do a puzzle, potty and then read a few books in bed. This seriously works (almost) every time. The puzzle gets him to sit still and focus and I can literally watch the fight draining out of him.

    Love the music time though. I’m definitely using that if this method ever stops working. Things never change with toddlers right? :)

  3. Ooh, puzzles are a good idea. Definitely gets Monkey focused. I’ll have to throw that into our playtime right before. :D Thanks for stopping by! I love reading your coupon deals!

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