The first six years of a child’s life are filled with changes. They learn, they grow, and they adapt to the world around them. This ever-changing development often has an impact on napping patterns, which means that their nap needs will vary throughout the early years. It can be difficult to keep up with an appropriate nap schedule, and both you and your child could end up very frustrated!
One way to prevent these frustrations is to work on reading your child’s sleepy signals. Tuning into these signals will help make sure that you get a sleepy child down for nap, yet allow a happily awake child a brief afternoon rest time where you don’t require them to fall asleep.
Some children have subtle sleepy signs and by the time they yawn or fuss, they are already overly tired. Some children give off unique tired signs that can easily be misinterpreted as something else. Some children give off clear tired signs; however parents sometimes get too busy to spot them.
Regardless of the reason, missing your child’s signs of fatigue means that he could quickly move past his tired spell and into a second wind filled with artificial energy and more crying, fussing, and whining for the rest of the day! An overtired child also has a harder time falling asleep at night and this can create a difficult cycle day after day.
How can you tell that your child is tired?
This all seems to make sense, right? But how can you actually tell that your child is ready for a nap? Since each child has their own unique signs, you will need to pay attention to learn their particular cues.
Watch your child for the first hour after she wakes up in the morning when she is well rested. Compare this behavior to how she acts between dinner and bedtime, which is when most children show clear signs of fatigue. Take note of how these behaviors differ from each other.
This list of common sleepy signs shown by babies and young children gives you a starting point of what to look for:
- looking glazed or unfocused; staring off into space
- rubbing eyes, ears or hair
- having a more relaxed jaw, chin and mouth (droopy looking)
- eyelids at half-mast or slow-motion blinks
- becoming whiny, cranky or clingy
- having tantrums
- uncharacteristic hyperactive behavior
- fussing or crying
- slowing down, reducing his level of activity
- becoming more quiet
- losing interest in playtime, people or toys
- losing patience with toys or activities
- a burst of uncoordinated activity
- lying down or slumping in his seat
- watching television or a movie with a blank expression
- caressing a lovey or blanket
- asking for, or rooting for the breast, a pacifier, or a bottle
When your child starts to lose interest in toys, it could mean that they are tired rather than bored. Sometimes parents get louder and more energetic in an attempt to entertain their child, and this often ends in a meltdown because the child becomes overstimulated and overtired.
Children are very good at acknowledging their body’s own cues. The more that we learn to tune in, the happier everyone will be.