“A toddler is like Christopher Columbus, busy discovering America,” says Harvey Karp, M.D., pediatrician, child development specialist and creator of the DVD and book The Happiest Toddler on the Block (Bantam, 2004). “So when you say, ‘Christopher, time for your nap!’ he’ll probably resist it. But if you don’t encourage that nap, he’s going to get mean with the natives, and that’s why you need to do it.”
Toddlers generally need 12 to 13 hours of sleep each night, and one or two naps during the day. Getting enough sleep is critical for keeping their immune system healthy as well for brain development, particularly in memory function, says Karp. Most kids will compensate if they don’t get their regularly scheduled nap, so if your child really won’t go down, don’t force it. But, Karp cautions, it’s a myth that if you keep a toddler awake longer, he’ll sleep better. An overly tired toddler may sleep fitfully.
Set the scene for sound sleep
“Help him let go of the exciting world,” says Karp, by settling your toddler in bed with his favorite stuffed animal or blanket, darkening the room and keeping things quiet. White noise will also help children sleep better: A fan, an air conditioner, even the steady hum of a vacuum cleaner are all sounds that can help create a more tranquil level of sleep, says Karp.
Reminiscent of the sounds of the uterus, white noise can soothingly drown out other internal and external disturbances, and if used regularly, can help a toddler fall more easily into the sleep his growing body needs.
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN TODDLER MAGAZINE, SPRING ‘08