Getting all 3 of my kids to nap at the same time every day is one of the best routines in our home. That hour or two of quiet is sheer bliss and yes, I do love my kids but 6:30 am to 7:30 pm is a LONG day. I’m sure you understand! I’ve had many moms do a double take when they hear my kids still nap at ages 5, 3.5, and 18 months, so I know it’s not the norm.
However, I’m going to share every possible thing that we do to make this happen as well as how I handle common nap time challenges. My hope is that you can try 1 or 2 things here and keep nap time/rest time going as long as possible! They need it and so do you. So before you throw in the towel, read on!
Try not to take all the credit (good or bad).
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Every child is different and some legitimately don’t need as much sleep as others. If that’s you, I’m so sorry! You are not a worse mom, and in fact I think we can take way too much credit for the things our kids do or don’t do at times.
I think we are just lucky with good sleepers. But I also refuse to let them skip nap/rest time because they don’t want to. I can’t make them nap, but I can make them rest for a certain amount of time.
Think of this less as advice, and more as a report on what has worked well for us. I’ve seen tons of mamas checking all the boxes and not getting their kids to nap. I’ve also seen other moms napping kids at the same time like it’s normal.
You just have to find out what the real issue is and work on that. Distractions? Disobedience? Not tired? Growing out of naps and need to transition to quiet time?
How long should kids sleep?
Toddlers age 1-3 usually need a 1-3 hour nap, for a total of 12-14 hours of sleep each day according to Kids Health.
My kids sleep on average 2 hours a day, and often the baby stays asleep for 2.5-3 hours (if the others come out quietly). The oldest two nap about 4 out of 7 days a week, and the other three days feel like a total fight to keep 1 or 2 of them quiet while the others nap. I’ve been experimenting with what to do when one wakes up early or when one doesn’t nap at all.
When do kids stop napping?
The age is up to you, your situation, and how long you can keep on keeping on when it comes to giving up the nap. I’ve been told age 3 is generally when kids start napping for shorter periods, less days, or not at all. We are lucky and my 5 and 3.5 year old both still nap at least 1-2 hours about 4 days a week.
So the days they don’t nap I find myself taking one kid out “mid nap” and putting them in a different room to do quiet time, which takes away the temptation of talking.
I’m trying to get better at recognizing when I think they are not going to go to sleep at all. My filter has been this: If after 30-45 minutes they are still chatting to themselves, rolling around, coming in and out to “poop or pee”, and if 1 or 2 others are asleep in the room, then I get one out for quiet time. If both are not sleeping then at least now they won’t talk.
Decide where kids will nap
Ours usually sleep in the same room (the 5 and 3.5 year old share a bunk bed, and my 1.5 year old is in his Pack n Play). However, sometimes I have one of the older kids sleep alone in my bed instead. This just makes it easier because I don’t have to police the chatting. That is often what wakes up my baby. I highly recommend splitting them up if chatting is a big problem!
My 1.5 year old used to nap in my walk in closet in the day and sleep in their room at night. I got frustrated with him waking up during nap time, but as I tried it more he got used to their noises. As I write this he is sleeping through my oldest making airplane noises and coming out to pee.
Nap schedules at different ages
1-2 year old nap schedule
It’s normal for toddlers to sleep about 12 hours from the time they go to bed plus an extra 2-3 hours each day. Around 15 months he could stay up long enough without falling apart to start one nap a day. At first I’d have to nap him at 11. Then 11:15, then 11:30, and then noon.
At 17 months I added him to the older kids’ room, and he had already been napping once a day for a couple months at that point. They had all been napping around 12:30 or 1, with the baby in my walk in closet until 17 months.
Update May 2019: Looking back I wish I would have waited to add my 3rd to the bedroom till he was 2. I think it would have been much smoother and he was able to nap closer to 1 no problem, which worked better for overlapping naps with the other kids!
You may love: Our 18 month old routine with siblings at home
3-4 year old nap schedule
My 3 year old naps with the others around 12:30-1, and sometimes as late as 2 or 2:30 if everyone is happy and playing nicely. (By the way, when a late nap happens, everyone usually sleeps REALLY well). And we still initiate bed time around 7:30pm, even with a late nap. With late naps, bedtime gets pushed back a bit because they’ll end up chatting in a dark room longer, but I consider myself done with mommy-ing for the day around the same time as usual.
I am a believer that 3 year olds need a nap. My 3 year old never wants to nap. I think she legitimately doesn’t need as much sleep as the others. But she gets really cranky and crazy without one. I make sure she knows that when it’s nap time, she must be quiet and in her bed. She often tries to come out for water, pee, a toy, etc. That is a discipline issue, and if that’s you you’ll have to deal with that before your kid will stay in their room.
If there’s no talking, she’ll end up falling asleep for at least a short while and right now that’s my goal, because a nap has been helping a lot with behavioral issues in the late afternoon/evening.
4-5 year old nap schedule
His is basically the same as my 3 year old. He takes a 1-2 hour nap a day around 1pm, about 5 days a week.
Everyone is shocked that my 5 year old is still napping. Most 5 year olds are in preschool or kindergarten and can’t nap like this, and that’s normal. I’m homeschooling him so we have the luxury of napping still. I think he needs it because he sleeps 1-2 hours about 5 days a week!
Kids his age need about 12 hours of sleep total, so it makes sense that he would want a nap if he’s falling asleep around 8pm here and waking up at 6 or 6:30 am.
Some days he doesn’t nap at all. I’m not too worried about it because I think those days he just doesn’t need it. He still has to stay in his bed quietly and play, or sometimes I’ll sneak in and give him a few books to look at in bed once the others are sleeping.
Our nap time routine with a toddler and preschoolers
Since kids have no sense of time, routine is their only clue to know when nap time is approaching. My kids know nap time is always right after lunch. It’s always been right after lunch. I’m banking on a full tummy helping them to sleep. So I usually try to give them a heads up by saying “It’s almost lunch time and then naps”. They hear that every day.
Also, don’t think my kids just go to sleep right away. My 1.5 year old usually does, while the other two chat for 20 minutes or so. I usually let them with the lights off if they are in their beds. If they don’t fall asleep on their own then I’ll go in and say no more talking, sometimes multiple times.
On occasion I’ll nap too. In that case I make all 3 sleep in their room and am more firm on the no talking so I can actually sleep.
1. Eat lunch first.
Usually it’s a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or something from the freezer. This is not the time of day I want to fight about food and eating their veggies (because I’m usually so done by nap time and want them in bed), so I do something easy. Fruits and veggies usually are our snacks between meals to compensate for this.
Sometimes I’ll even let them take something in their beds with them (which I always regret once I’m vacuuming later!) You know your kids best and if they are actually hungry, procrastinating or just bored.
2. We have them pee AND poop if possible.
Obviously we can’t make them poop, but it always seems to happen around this time of day. We started this because they were consistently using it as an excuse to come out of their rooms. Or, it would wake them up from a nap.
If they say they don’t have to go then I’ll make them sit on the to
ilet for a bit, and if they STILL don’t have to then fine, I believe them. (Yes, we still sometimes have mid nap poopers and it sucks).
3. Use a toddler “Ok To Wake” Clock
I set their Time To Wake Clock for 2-2.5 hours. Why did I wait 5 years to get this? We had huge problems with them coming out of the room saying “Is it time yet?” Not to mention I run into walls if they are up before 6:45 am.
Now I set a timer so the ball goes from red to green when it’s time to wake and they have no excuse to come out. If they do, I’m dealing with another issue…disobedience. I like this clock so much!
I think what it does it take away their fear that I won’t wake them up and that they’ll be in their forever. Otherwise they have no way of knowing when to come out. It they wake up early, especially in the morning, I let them play till the light turns green. If we put the kids in different rooms, I always put the clock in with my 3.5 year old who is usually the early waker.
Update on the clock: We still love it, but after they were sleeping better again I got lazy and started to forget to set it. By that I mean at least falling asleep at naps for a solid hour or more. I haven’t felt like I’ve needed the clock as much so long as they are sleeping. Maybe this clock has helped set sleep habits. When we see a regression again I’m sure I’ll use it first thing, and for sure later on for quiet times.
4. Put on diapers to nap if needed
When our kids were not fully potty and poop trained, I put a diaper on them just for nap time. (All the way up till age 4 for my son and 2.5 for my daughter). I know you may be thinking thats WAY old. BUT, he never woke up mid nap to pee and didn’t pee the bed. So this mama got an amazing break.
They were both out of diapers for naps and night time by age 4.5 and 3 when their diapers were completely dry after each wake up.
5. Offer last drinks before bed
This is something I learned from my sister in law who fixed the “I’m thirsty” problem with 4 kids in one room. Everyone gets a last drink if they need it from a water bottle or the sink. They know now that this is THE LAST drink they get till after naps. If I waver on that, my expert manipulators get going big time!
6. Turn on white noise for baby
This really drowns out footsteps, creaks, and helps the baby sleep well. We use a fan, and when traveling I download a white noise app for the iPad.
Update May 2019:
My kids are now 5.5, 4 and 2, and I’ve found it 1000X easier to separate the older 2 for nap time. This takes away their chat time, which allows them to fall asleep. So our newest routine that’s working is they alternate who gets to go nap in mama’s bed. It’s also been a fabulous way to let one big kid wake up early or come out of their room sooner without waking the other. Sometimes I’ll tell my oldest he has to start with the lights out for 30 minutes to see if he’s tired, and if he’s still up then I either bring in a pile of books or let him go play outside.
Find a nap time that works for everyone
We do not nap at the exact same time every day. But we usually start nap time somewhere between 12 and 2. Most the time it’s around 1pm.
After our babies have switched to one nap a day (usually between 15-18 months), then I’ve always had the best luck napping them about 4-5 hours after they wake up. Most day’s it’s just 100% obvious because they are melting apart. Maybe that means I’ve waited too long, LOL!
I kind of adjust the nap schedule according to how long my 1.5 year old can stay up before losing it. Since my goal is to have one nap schedule, I don’t like to put the baby down before the others.
So if they are all outside playing nicely in the dirt at 1 or 1:30, I will let them play a bit longer. Or if we get home and my baby is losing it by noon, then we start lunch and naps right then.
How we make their room great for napping
Sadly, having the perfect nap atmosphere doesn’t guarantee a nap. I know, haha, shocker! But I think it does help. Some things we have done to their room:
- We unscrewed the overhead light bulb, because I would get SO angry when my 3 year old turned it on to be naughty and woke up the others. Yes, that’s a discipline issue, but I did not want that ruining naps…EVER. (Update: Two months later, my hubby put in a new bulb and we have had no issues since then. I think her habit just got broken maybe?)
- Set up the expectation to stay in bed. I use our Summer Infant video monitor to see if someone gets out of bed, and then I go in and tell them to get in bed. This has decreased me feeling like I’m yelling from the couch to be heard. I can see both sides of the room with this too as it’s pan/scan/zoom.
- I use these black out curtains, which get the room almost completely dark.
- Use white noise. I don’t have to tip-toe too much around the house, and they can’t hear each other as much when someone turns over or gets up to pee.
- I let them each pick one toy. I’ve experimented with this a lot because often times they would play for a bit in bed (like an airplane), wind down and fall asleep. If they are not sleeping 30 minutes in or are making loud noises while playing, I take it away. Do what you think is best.
- I’ve tried to teach them how to close the door without making a big noise when it shuts all the way. This wakes up the baby if they come out to pee so they know what it means when I remind them to “shut the door quietly”.
How to nap two or more kids in one room
- Keep expectations low at first. Don’t expect to have your usual nap time freedom for a few weeks. You may be way more annoyed if you go into it thinking everyone will be quiet, obedient, and that the newest addition won’t wake up early to new noises.
- Make sure everyone has a spot. My kids cannot trade beds, sleep in the same bed, or climb into my toddler’s Pack’n’Play. They do try, and I make them get into their own spots.
- Just try it! It’s scary at first. Because they will wake each other up occasionally, or chat before falling asleep. They get used to each other! We’ve been doing this for a couple months now and my toddler can sleep right through them chatting and giggling and coming out to pee (although I’m still working on trying to get them to be quiet and nap)!
- Have a plan for the early waker. Once in a while my toddler will wake up crying while the others are sleeping. Rarely will I be able to put him back down without him screaming, which would FOR SURE wake up the others. So sadly those days I just quickly bring him out early. Gone is the luxury of “seeing if he’ll cry back to sleep” if there are others in the room napping.
What to do if older kids wake up the baby
One of my biggest hurdles adding my 17 month old to the room was that his naps were getting cut short and I was getting very cranky about it! Before adding the baby to their room, he was napping for about 3 hours a day. My older two nap about 2. So we have had issues with a cranky baby waking up early from naps. To work on this, we’ve:
- Set the Time To Wake Clock for 2 hours, and tell them to sneak out quietly when it turns green. I showed them how not to bonk the door or shout “IT’S GREEN!!” Most times now, they sneak out fine without waking him.
- Set up a Pack n Play somewhere else for the baby if needed. Ours was in our walk in closet during naps for a long time (not nights) which worked VERY well. If desperate I’d just do that again since he can’t crawl out yet.
- Surprisingly, the longer we have had them all in one room, the better he ignores their noises. I’d say things got easier after 1 week, and the baby slept through most noises after around 1 month. The first week was the worst.
What to do when kids come out of their rooms too early
This is ever changing for us, and I wish I had a good answer. To me, it depends on when they come out. It gets tricky because it comes down to me assessing if they really needed a longer rest or if it’s just me wanting more alone time. Sometimes I’ll:
- Tell them to get back in their bed, and sometimes walk them back in.
- If it’s been over an hour for my older two, I may send them back with a handful of books, or into another room with books/coloring. Key tip, it has to be a different room than me.
- If they were all napping and one wakes up to pee after an hour or more, I’ll often just count it good and let that one watch a show on my phone till the others wake up. This is mostly so that the baby doesn’t wake up. Small sounds seem to wake him up towards the end of his nap.
The best thing I have been able to do getting all the kids on one nap schedule is to have the same pre nap routine and be consistent. It’s also humbling to know that when I get one stage “figured out” it seems to change.
Kids are incredibly smart and will probably see if being naughty is worth it. You will have to decide how to discipline if needed. If naps are such a struggle, at some point it won’t be worth it anymore. Talk about HARD!
For another great post from a mom of 5 that naps all her kids at the same time (including rest time for older kids), check out A Mother Far From Home. She has some serious wisdom and will inspire you that one nap schedule can be done with different ages.
What ages are your kids and what are you trying with them that’s working (or not)? Leave a comment and I’ll respond!
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