I’m a nationally published sleep expert, journalist, and the mom of three young kids. I’ve been helping tired families sleep since 2007 (more about me here). Subscribe to The Well Rested Family for fresh news and tips on keeping your bunch happy and healthy. Thanks for stopping by!


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Making The Most Of Your Child's Naptime

Image courtesy of hoteldndsigns.comWhen I work with parents in search of better sleep, they’re often crushed to learn that they’ll have to kiss their child’s super-long naps goodbye in order to support nighttime sleep. These same parents are thrilled with the results of a shorter-nap plan, but those long naps are hard to lose.

I understand completely. We parents hardly get a moment to ourselves, and when naptime rolls around, we have a million things to do (we may even need a siesta, ourselves). And research shows that age-appropriate naps are important to growth and development in babies and toddlers. But overly-long naps are a big sleep-stealer and a frequent culprit in young kids’ bedtime problems. Think about it—can you fall asleep at night after a long luxurious afternoon nap? Your kids can’t, either.

So how can you make the most of your child’s naptime, when there’s less nap to take advantage of? By prioritizing. Over the years, I’ve picked up a few naptime tricks that help keep me productive, happy, and sane as a work-at-home mom of young kids.  

1. Separate naptime tasks from other work

I’ve learned to sort nearly every daily task into two categories: what CAN be accomplished with children awake, and what CAN’T be accomplished with children awake. This dual-category system helps me prioritize my daily work and take advantage of my kiddo’s naps, even when those naps are brief.

As a rule, I never, ever use naptime to complete a task that could be done while my child is awake. That means no cleaning, no folding laundry, and no paying bills or doing routine mindless work. Those things can wait.

Can you make phone calls while your child plays nearby? Can you prep dinner or wipe the table while they’re awake? Then don’t waste precious naptime on these tasks.

2. Prepare for battle

If you know what you’d like to accomplish, you can spare prized naptime minutes by doing prepwork before the nap starts. Planning to work out during naptime? Change into your workout clothes, cue up your exercise DVD, and get out your yoga mat before tuck-in. Hoping to blast through a blog post or fire off a few client letters? Charge up your computer and have your favorite brain-food snacks at the ready. Need a nap yourself? Change into sweats, make a cup of sleepy-time tea, and locate your eye mask before sending your little one off to dreamland.

3. Reign in social networking

I’m as guilty as anyone—as soon as my toddler is napping, I want to settle down with a cup of tea and check in with Facebook. But if I’m not careful, Facebook and Twitter can eat up precious naptime minutes that I could (should) use for work or rest. To keep social networking from zapping your free time, try setting a timer so you don’t zone out in front of the laptop for hours on end (unless that’s how you recharge!).

4. Put your feet up

I’ve realized that one of the best things I can do during my kiddo’s nap is rest. Even if I don’t sleep (and I usually don’t), I need to spend at least 15 minutes with my feet up. Relaxing is the main thing I CAN’T do when my kids are awake, so it takes priority over almost every other naptime task. And after a 10-20 minute break—which, if I’m honest, usually includes chocolate—I’m ready to get my munchkin up and start our afternoon.

Hooray for naptime!

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Reader Comments (2)

This is SO true. I am also guilty of wasting precious naptime on things that could be done while the kiddo's awake, and of squandering an hour on Twitter and email. I've now learned my lesson about scheduling important phone calls or work for naptime, because inevitably that will be the one time he doesn't sleep or the UPS man rings the doorbell and wakes him up!

April 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAbby

I'm right there with you, Abby! I don't have a choice--I often need to squeeze in phone interviews during naptime. But I try to schedule my work phone calls and other must-dos during the time I can most count on Mia being asleep--for her, about 30 minutes after she's put down for nap. Toward the end of naptime, she's more likely to wake up.

April 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMalia

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