Refusing to Nap at Daycare

Is your toddler refusing to nap at Daycare? Parents share their tips of how they handled this situation.

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As one mom shared on the PSP Advice List (which resounded with many parents!):

“My 2 year old started going to daycare 2 weeks ago. Until he started daycare, he was with me all the time and my husband and I knew that adjusting to daycare won’t be easy on him. Our family is moving away at the end of May so daycare is going to be temporary, but decided to start him there so I could get a much needed break and time to prepare for the move. We chose this place because it fits our budget (nanny is too expensive), and because our older son goes to the same one. He has rough 2 weeks and a lot of tears, but now he's finally OK. I think that having his big brother around, proved to be very helpful- he was his support and a friendly face through this time of separation from me.

Now, the problem is that he won't nap there. The teachers say that they try to put him to sleep both near his brother, and away from him, but he refuses to sleep and interrupts other kids by running around and yelling. So far it's been going on for 3 days but they always ended up calling me and requesting me to pick him up.

He is the youngest one there (they take kids from 2, but most are atleast 2.5) and he's not used to sleeping in a big boys bed at home (he sleeps in a crib). I suggested brining there a travel crib, but the daycare owner say it's not allowed, citing certain regulation. I can certainly give it more time, but there is a part of me that things that perhaps this place is just not the best fit for him.Here is the dilemma:

My husband thinks that we should transfer him to another place and that perhaps a daycare that handles other younger kids will be a better fit for him. even if it's for a month and a half.

I think that especially since it's a very temporary arrangement, we shouldn't transfer him and submerge him to at least two more weeks of painful separation in a new place, without having his older brother around to comfort him. But truthfully, if he doesn't start napping there, the whole daycare solution is pretty useless to me because I'm planning to be away full days starting next month.

I'll appreciate your opinions and experience with refusing to nap in daycare."




Make a plan with the daycare on how to ride it out:

“Why / how is it that the daycare can call you to pick him up if he doesn't nap? Isn't that what they're paid to do, watch him whether he naps or not? It's not a situation of a child who's behaving terribly and creating some sort of safety hazard. He's simply not ready to settle down yet on day 3. Maybe go meet with them and see if they can make a plan with you to ride this out."


Allow time for your toddler to make a transition:

"I recommend meeting with the daycare and agreeing on a plan to sensitively support him through the transition. My thought there is don't keep switching the sleep arrangement. Figure out which one people feel is best for the child (maybe within sight of brother but not in playing range) and then agree to consistently do that. Kids need a sleep routine, not constantly changing sleep settings.”

“Three days is not enough. 3 days does not sound to me like much time for a kid to make a huge transition.”

““We were in that same situation when my son started daycare this past Sept. He had just turned 2 and had a very specific nap/bedtime routine which includes complete darkness and a pacifier. At his preschool it is not dark enough and we decided to not send his pacifier in hopes of breaking that habit (which we did thank god!!! And I credit to not sending with him to school) He did not nap for the first MONTH!! He had to be removed everyday and sit in the hall and read books with one of his teachers bc he was disturbing the other children peacefully napping. It was a long month but his school held strong and now he naps for 2 hrs very day there!

I think it's unrealistic for the school to expect t him to nap so easily. They should have experience with kids not napping and know how to handle the situation. They should not be calling you to pick him up every day, that's unrealistic! I would give him some more time and hopefully it will jut work out, and if you are moving next month anyway, I would not switch places now.”

“It took my son about six weeks before he started napping at daycare. The providers at the daycare said that was pretty normal. It was hard. He came home exhausted. But eventually he did learn to nap there.”


Encourage the daycare provider to sooth your child:

“Can the daycare people soothe him down a bit more? Make a little mini-nap routine for him that he enjoys and that is calming and comforting for him? Even a two minute little ritual can help. It sends a signal. Maybe they have a ritual which he's not connecting to yet. Is there anything that you do at home that he'd love, and that would be feasible for his favorite daycare person to do at nap time?”

“My son also refused to nap in daycare when he started just before age 3. Luckily they were quite flexible and caring in helping him through it. The ladies used to tell him to lie still for a little while and they then would then give him picture books to look at as long as he stayed quiet in his bed. I know of another kid who was allowed to listen to music with headphones.”

“When he was a little more used to being there one of the teachers he loved would actually sit by him and stroke/pat him on the upper back a little and this would often calm him and put him to sleep.”


Find distractions:

“It also helped for him to look at the clock. He was scared and confused and not knowing how time worked it seemed like "naptime goes forever." When we explained that when the hands of the clock pointed here and here it would be time for everyone to get up that helped.”


Get support from the whole family, including siblings:

“I'm on your side about preferring staying put. I think the support of brother is huge. Huge. Huger than adults may be able to imagine. I also think if you switch again now, you're almost guaranteed to just begin a whole new transition experience afresh. It could be worse the second time!”


Bring in home comforts:

My daughter refused to nap in our nanny share for a couple of very stressful weeks. We tried lots of tricks but ultimately she needed to be alone in a room, couldn't sleep if the other girl was there as that was too distracting and potentially entertaining. We also brought over some sleep accoutrements from home-- sleep sack, sleep sheep, etc. Hopefully the daycare can work with you, it's in their interest that he nap, too... seems like you should be able to bring the travel crib! We started at a daycare and they had like 7 pack n plays in the "sleeping room."

“Does your son have a favorite stuffed animal they will allow him to bring to help him with sleep? Can you send a book or two that he can interact with during nap time so he'll stay quieter? I'd talk more with the daycare to see if you can find some solutions. If they're resistant on all fronts, then maybe look at other options.”


Skip the nap, practice at home:

"I understand your dilemma and concerns especially since it is for such a short time period, in having him in daycare. Here is my opinion and few suggestions.
Part of me agrees with you where you should just stick it out and see if he adjusts to their nap time routine. My suggestion though is on the weekends maybe try to practice with him in putting him down to nap in a 'big boy bed'? If that's is a possibility.
Also does the daycare give you the option of skipping nap time all together? I know some daycares will sit with children who don't nap and will draw or do a quiet activity with them. That is if you are ok with him skipping a nap everyday.
If the daycare if not willing to compromise at all then maybe it isn't the right fit for him and one that has younger children will ne better, as,your husband suggested. Otherwise you will keep getting phone calls abt him being a disruption to the entire class.
As you said you will not be available to him starting next month and you will be moving and doing daycare else where, so you's really want to merge him into a daycare setting that fits him so he understands it's a new routine.”


Look for a more accommodating daycare:

“I would say that you unfortunately need to look for a different daycare setting.”

“This daycare facility simply doesn't seem dedicated to making this work. I can't believe that they call you to pick them up. What would they expect a working parent to do? Not to mention that the child is now learning that if he doesn't go in for a nap, they will call you and you will come get him. Seems that it's very unlikely to resolve itself because of the way they are approaching it."

“I'm surprised that they call you pick him up. Is it a tiny daycare? Generally there are several kids at a daycare who don't/won’t nap, so this shouldn't be a big deal. But if they're in one room, maybe there is no spot to take the sleepless kids?”


Make sure your child is with the right age group:

“I put my daughter in daycare at 2 yrs old. At the recommendation of the daycare, they had me put my daughter in with a older group of kids (2.5 yrs +). It seemed like a good idea at the time as my daughter likes playing with older kids and has a step brother who she adores (4 years older). She had a tough time at day care - unusual for her as she takes in new situations well and is relatively independent. The daycare folks kept on saying that she is doing fine but when I picked my daughter up, she was ready to leave and not look back.There were lots of tears. It was difficult for me to determine if she was just having a hard time since she's only been with me or her nanny that has been with her since she was 4 months or that it was not the right place for her. I went with my intuition and pulled her out and asked if she could join the younger kids (18 months- 2.6 year olds). She did much better and is now attending 4 days a week from 9-3pm without any problems.”


Remember what 2 year olds are like:

“2year olds are at a precarious stage where they can sort of communicate but not as effectively as even a 2.5 year old. When placed with all older kids, I think its hard on them. I underestimated the importance of being around kids the same age. The caretakers that take care of older kids are used to them and don't necessarily provide the one on one attention that younger kids need to transition. (this is dependent on the day care but that is what I observed at our day care).”


And final words:

I'm sure the daycare folks have seen this over and over.


Related Reading on PSP

Nap Strike