About a month ago one of my sweet college friends was lamenting the fact that her two year old triplets were trying to give up their naps. She posted this on facebook and of course a rush of advice and sympathy came crashing onto her page. One of her friends posted that it looked like it was time the triplets learned about the nap fairy. She said that in her house, the nap fairy comes and visits the children every day when they take a nap. The kids leave their shoes outside their bedroom door and the nap fairy fills them with treats. The nap fairy is magic and she knows if they are really sleeping in their bed or just playing and pretending to sleep. She even said that some of her kids' friends want to come take naps at her house so the nap fairy will visit them, too! The best part is that it is snack time AFTER nap time anyway, but the kids don't really need to know that. :)
I read this with amusement and thought, well it is worth a shot. Doubt that it will work, but we'll see. My Emily (3 yrs. 8 mon.) has been a reluctant napper for awhile now. She used to nap really well. Things started to change after she got her big girl bed at around three years old. While we never really had trouble transitioning her from the crib to the twin bed for nighttime sleep, naps were harder. During the day, it was too tempting to keep reading or playing. I tried and tried for her to be independent with going to sleep for naps, but all too many times, I would hear her singing in her room an hour later. Or I would walk in her room and she would be in her bed playing with her dolls, stuffed animals and books. I tried promises of rewards for napping. I threatened punishment. I talked sternly with her giving her the "Mean, Mad, Mama" look. Really, none of that worked. The one thing that kind of worked was lying down with her to nap.
While I was pregnant, I was all too eager to put my feet up and nap with my little girl. I usually napped with her in her bed for about an hour and then I would slip away for her to finish the second hour on her own. It was a nice routine sometimes although there were also days that she would make me lose my mind when it would take her 30-45 minutes to fall asleep. She would toss AND turn AND turn AND toss AND whine AND complain, "I don't wanna nap! (insert pouty face) I'm not tired. I wanna pway [play]!" Uggh. I would think, "Is this even worth it?" Then, she would be more temperamental in the evenings and I just knew it was because she needed a nap. When she fell asleep too late or too long, then she could go all evening until 10pm which wasn't good either.
So, this is why I was eager to give the ol' nap fairy idea a "go." We usually had a snack in the afternoon anyway. Might as well make it a fun reward. The treats didn't always have to be candy. We could also try fruit or stickers or bubbles, etc. Well, it worked like a charm the first day and has been a help ever since. There are still some days that we don't nap because we don't have time due to our schedule. I let Emily pick out what shoes she wants to leave outside her door. I remind her that she "better be asleep by the time the nap fairy flies overhead or our house will get missed." I have been AMAZED at how well it works. The dramatic cries and whines have stopped and she is more agreeable to the idea even on days when she would rather not nap. Best part is I'm not wasting 30 minutes or more of my time cuddling with her until she falls asleep. If I want to or need to cuddle with her, I do, but it is nice to just shut the door and go about what I need to do on most days.
So far, I've not bought anything special for this nap fairy thing. I just use what I have in the house--fruit snacks, a fresh pear or apple, goldfish crackers, a "forgotten" stickers page, etc. Lately I've been slowly getting rid of the Easter candy we still have in the house by filling up a plastic egg with a few jellybeans.
I think that the nap fairy would work best on three and four year olds. I can't imagine that a two year old would be willing to wait so long for their treat as they usually want immediate rewards. I don't know how long this will work for Emily, but if it buys me another week or month or year of good naps, I WILL TAKE IT!