When Rachel Wade's son, Shawn, was a baby, putting him down for a nap wasn't much of a battle: He couldn't wriggle out of her arms yet, and he slept most of the day anyway. But that all changed after he turned 1. "He became more interested in what was happening around him at naptime, and he'd fight me by arching his back as I tried to lay him in the crib," says the Stevensville, Michigan, mother of two.
No matter how mightily kids resist, though, most experts agree that daytime sleep is critical. Children this age are constantly on the move, and naps give them the energy they need to work on building their skills. While you can't explain to a toddler why he needs to sleep, you can keep naptime from turning into a nightmare with these tantrum tamers.Know His Tired Signs
Ideally, a 1-year-old should have two naps a day: one in the midmorning and another in the afternoon. But each child is different, and finding the best schedule can be tricky. Many parents fall into the trap of waiting too long to put their toddler into the crib. "By the time some kids yawn or get fussy, they've already become overtired and won't be able to drift off as easily," says Elizabeth Pantley, author of The No-Cry Nap Solution. She suggests paying attention to your toddler's tired signs. Watch him closely the hour after he wakes up for a morning or two. Then, compare his well-rested behavior with the way he acts between dinner and bedtime (when he'll be fatigued). If he loses interest in people or toys before bed at night, for example, you can look for these cues during the day to find the best naptime.Stick to a Routine
Once you have a better idea of when your child's naps should be, you can set a daily schedule for her. Toddlers are creatures of habit and don't deal well with unexpected change. Keeping a predictable nap routine will reassure your little one, and she'll be more likely to cooperate when it comes time to go down. "Incorporate some of the things that work for her at bedtime by creating a mini naptime ritual that is similar," says Jodi Mindell, PhD, Parents advisor and author of Sleeping Through the Night. "If you read or sing to her every night, you should do the same for naps."