Your child at 3 years
Your child at 3 years
No more naps
You may have come to rather look forward to your toddler's daily nap as an opportunity to get on with something or just put your feet up, but there comes a time when a sleep during the day significantly affects his ability to go to sleep at night. By the age of three most children do not need any sleep during the day, and should sleep for at least 12 hours each night. Here's how to ease into the new regime:
- Pick a busy day when there's a lot going on, and just keep your toddler going right through his usual nap time.
- He may need some quiet time to re-charge his batteries, but don't let him fall asleep.
- Avoid any car journeys or walks with the pushchair during the 4-6pm 'danger zone' when he's highly likely to fall asleep – because if he does, chances are he'll wake at 7pm refreshed and ready to keep going for the rest of the night.
- He'll be tired, so don't be afraid to put him to bed early, even 6pm if you think he needs it.
- Be prepared for early morning wake-up calls until he gets used to the new regime, but minimise the chance of this with blackout curtains to keep the bedroom really dark.
Your toddler probably won't yet be able to keep going for a full week without a nap, and – for the first few months - may fall asleep during the day several times a week. If he does occasionally fall asleep, don't let these daytime naps creep later and later into the afternoon. Any sleep after 2pm is dangerous - you'll never get him to bed later. And try to wake him up after 30-45 minutes. Any sleep during the day now will affect the quality of his sleep at night.
Time for bed
It can be a surprise for many parents to learn that your child's bedtime is YOUR decision, not theirs (even when your baby is just a few weeks old you can pick a bedtime that suits you, build your bedtime routine around that). For working parents who don't get to see their child during the day a later bedtime (8-8.30pm) can provide valuable 'together time', but for many stay-at-home mums a bedtime of 6-6.30pm means a blissful couple of hours of peace before she collapses into bed herself.
Toddlers and pre-schoolers can become very assertive when they don't want to go to be. But be wary of your child's claims that he's not tired. Most children want to stay up and spend as much time with you (or their toys) as possible, and many are brilliant manipulators. Don't be fooled! You're in charge. Your child's body clock will adjust very swiftly to whatever time you chose, and you can speed this process by establishing a regular bedtime routine with plenty of obvious signals that bedtime is on it's way:
- Bath and teeth-brushing
- Story/song/chat (in the bedroom)
- Lights low
- Kiss and tuck in
Your child can start at pre-school as early as 2 ½ and a daily place is state-funded for everyone from the age of 3. Pre-schools are educational play centres where you leave your child in the hands of trained adults for a few hours each day and may be called 'nursery' or 'playgroup'.
You can help your child fit in to pre-school more quickly by teaching him about sharing and taking turns (easier if he's got brothers and sisters). A mother and toddler group where he can play alongside other children, many of whom might be at pre-school and then school with him, is a great start (and a useful source of friends for you). It also helps if your child is used to occasionally being left with friends or relatives. This means can get used to the idea of separation and be reassured that you really do come back, before starting pre-school.
Choosing a pre-school
Ask around for recommendations from other mums and do thorough research whether visiting them or online before selecting one that suits you and your kid.
The first day
Be prepared to stay with your child if he wants you to. If you go, be honest about when you'll be back. If your child is upset, ask the staff what they recommend (some will distract your child, others are happy for you to stay for as many sessions as it takes for him to settle-in). Even though you may feel emotional, try to be upbeat and positive so your child doesn't worry.