Naptime can be a lifesaver for a stay at home parent, but what if your toddler doesn’t nap?
Picture this: you’ve been up since 6:30am getting your family ready to start the day, you’ve prepared breakfast, snacks, lunches, and taken your oldest to school. You’ve even managed to pull yourself together enough to get out of the house with your little one for some much-needed play time at the park or a meetup with friends. You say a little prayer in the car (‘please don’t let her doze off until we get home’), you get home and create a quiet atmosphere complete with dimmed lighting and soothing lullabies, sit down and… huge sigh – your toddler is ready to party.
Sound familiar? You’re exhausted, but your toddler, not so much. It’s like the universe is just not on your side that day and is playing a cruel joke on you.
My son was a great sleeper from the time he was 5 weeks old and even napped until he was 5. We never had to force it with him, he just enjoyed naptime and sleep in general. My daughter, on the other hand, has never been much of a sleeper and it took her nearly 2 years to even sleep through the night. Imagine my love and longing for some quiet time and rest. But you understand, you’re a mom too!
There have been many days that I was able to tire my little one out enough that she would crash early afternoon, but I (very) quickly learned that when she did nap, she was up what seemed like all night.
If you are a stay-at-home mom yourself, you know that most days can be a toss-up with your toddler. This is a great way to become a little less uptight and go-with-the-flow, trust me.
And THAT was my A-HA moment; the moment I realized I can’t control every little moment of every day and I certainly didn’t want my daughter up until midnight each night. So I let it go. Said so-long to naptime.
Fun fact: I will go out of my way to actually keep her from napping.
Below is a daily schedule for a busy toddler who no longer naps. The key is to fill the gaps with self-directed play. This will allow you, tired mama, some downtime to recharge.
Related article: How To Avoid Stay-At-Home Mom Burnout
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- 6:30-7:30 Wake up
- 7:30-8:00 Breakfast
- 8:00-8:30 Favorite TV program
- 8:30-9:30 Car rider line
- 9:30-10:30 Workout (this is me making time to exercise while she listens to music and plays in the same room)
Walk the dogs
Confession: sometimes exercise time for me means iPad time for her
- 10:30-11:00 Snack time
- 11:00-11:30 Circle time (I’m lucky if she makes it 30 minutes)
- 11:30-12:30 Outside time if weather permits, otherwise playtime and/or crafts
- 12:30-1:00 Lunch
- 1:00-2:30 Quiet time
Examples: books, self-directed play, movie, iPad, sensory bin or busy bag
- 2:30-3:00 Snack and potty
- 3:00-4:00 Car rider line – storytime and toys from home
- 4:00-4:30 TV
Self-directed play while big brother does homework
- 4:30-5:30 Outside time
Playtime with brother
- 5:30-6:00 Dinner
- 6:00-6:30 Playtime with Dad
- 6:30-7:30 Help with household chores: dishes, laundry (my 2 year old loves to put the clothes away)
- 7:30-8:00 Bathtime
- 8:00-8:30 Snack time, brush teeth
- 8:30-9:00 Storytime
- 9:00 Bedtime
Have trouble with bedtime? Check out The 8 Best Books for Bedtime With Your Toddler.
Of course, toddlers thrive on routine and structure, but also have a mind of their own. The schedule above works for us but every day is not the same. Sometimes we are sick, or have appointments, or are just plain tired. There have many rainy days where we snuggle on the couch for half the day, eating popcorn and watching movies. That is a perk to being a stay-at-home parent.
Here is a customizable daily schedule for you, free to download. Try writing out the things you hope to accomplish with your toddler for the day.
The schedule is likely to need adjusting with the change of the seasons, as there will be more time to play and explore outdoors, take trips to the zoo, family vacations, etc. Just know – if you are teaching your child at all, you are doing a great thing!
Happy planning and playing, mama!
Related article: These 7 Things Have Made Me a Better Mom
Do you stick to a routine or are you a bit more flexible and go with the flow? I see value in both!