When I was a child, I spent a lot of summer days at my grandmother’s house. One of her unbreakable rules was that everyone had to take a nap after lunch. I remember saying, “Someday my kids won’t have to take naps!” I imagine I usually muttered that shortly before drifting off.
But once I had children, I found that I loved naps more than I could ever have imagined. After a morning of playing out in the summer sun and heat, the kids were tired, I was tired, and everybody enjoyed a siesta in the cool house during the heat of the early afternoon. After naptime, all of us felt good!
It was Dorothy Moore who helped me get my kids into the nap habit from the time they were tiny. Here’s what she had to say in the book that introduced me to homeschooling, Home-Grown Kids:
There is both research and clinical evidence that children who do not either nap or have at least an hour of very quiet rest time during the day are not able to get to sleep as well at night. Because they are overtired, they do not sleep as well when they do get to sleep. They are restless and more susceptible to bad dreams. This poor quality of nighttime sleep makes them vulnerable to fatigue again the next day. A vicious cycle is established, and then parents wonder why the children are excitable, irritable, hyperactive, and difficult to handle.
One benefit she didn’t mention is what it does for moms! Either you get a chance to renew your energy with a lovely nap, or you get a bit of time alone for reading, exercising, or doing something else you want to do. I believe naps were a huge factor in my being able to raise and homeschool four lively kids for many years without losing my marbles.
As the kids got older, we changed the name from naptime to peace-and-quiet time. The rule for the older kids became, “You don’t have to sleep, but you have to do something quietly in your room.” It was good for everyone to either sleep or have some alone time. Afterwards, they’d have a snack and run out to play, refreshed and ready for fun.
So if naps aren’t already a part of your family’s summer routine, try snuggling with your toddler on the bed in the heat of the afternoon for a little while. Suggest that your older child lie down for a bit with a good book. It’s a great way to keep cool, and to renew your energy for the rest of the day. We don’t have any napping kids in our house anymore, but I’m known for occasionally flaming out for a while in my favorite chair. Unlike the four-year-old me, I think naps are awesome!