We've been watching my two nieces (6 and 5) and nephew (3) for the past week while my sister recovers from surgery. I am learning and re-learning a lot about caring for little ones. It was difficult at first, of course, but then it all started coming back to me.
I have found that nap time can sometimes be a battle ground with little ones. If this is a problem at your house, perhaps I might share some things I've learned (and re-learned) about this issue.
Children must be disciplined
I've had mothers tell me, "There's no way my child will stay in bed." Oh, yes, there is. It's called biblical training. Some excellent books regarding discipline which I recommend are:
- The Heart of Anger
- Shepherding a Child's Heart
- Hints on Child Training (written by Elisabeth Elliot's grandfather)
- The Little Book of Christian Character & Manners
- Christian Living in the Home
It will be easier for little ones to become drowsy and drift off to sleep if the setting is conducive to it. These tips are also good for adults struggling with insomnia:
- The room should be darkened. Close shades and drapes if possible. A very small night light may be used if they are anxious of the dark. But, it takes very little light to chase away fears.
- Silence can be deafening. A fan and/or soft music playing can help the mind relax. However, you might want to avoid peppy or rocky music, since these are meant for movement. We want the body to relax. Even some classical music may be too upbeat.
- Remove mind stimulators. Watching television or playing computer games right before bedtime is a bad idea. Shut off these visuals at least half an hour before you expect your little ones to bed down. Also, books and toys do not make good nap companions. A cuddly bear or soft doll may work as long as they are not allowed to "play" with it. Teddy and Dolly need a nap, too. ;)
- Minimize distractions by others. Though children may sleep together at night, it may be better to separate them onto pallets on the floor during nap time. This doesn't have to be complicated. Remember the mats we slept on in kindergarten? Make these personal and special, and the children may actually look forward to using them. Also, some children naturally move around as they wind down; this separation will help keep them from disturbing others.
- Establish a no-noise policy. That means no noise by mouth (arguing, talking, singing, humming, whispering, etc.) or by movement. You will be able to discern whether or not a child really needs something or is just putting off going to sleep by making noise. One of my nieces chooses to tell tall tales at nap time. I have had to be firm about not allowing her to go on and on, but explain that she may tell me her stories after she has slept.
- Cover up. Is the room chilly? A blanket may be in order. However, some children may need to be covered in order to relax. (I am this way to this day!) A light sheet may be good enough for warm days. Our nieces and nephew have light-weight fleece "blankies" which my mother made for them, and they just love them for nap time.
- Monitor them until they go to sleep. If you have time, it may help to sit in the room with the children until they are completely asleep. This is especially helpful for children who are fearful. If it looks like they are calm and have been taught to be still, you may be able to go about your business while only checking on them periodically.