Dealing with the Dreaded 4pm Nap

We’ve all been there... driving to a relatives for dinner, calling, “Stay awake, don’t fall asleep... it’s not time to sleep...” entertaining our preschooler with ridiculous songs, pulling out all the stops in desperation. Or blissfully taking them for a walk in the stroller because we have an errand run or to pick up an older sibling, and suddenly realize, “S*#$! S/he’s asleep!”!

The panic ensues as you realize this certainly means one or both of the following will occur:

It will take them upwards of two hours to fall asleep tonight.

You are going to be up ‘til close to midnight tonight.

And, it also can mean the next day is more difficult, as their wake time will be shifted later and/or you may have to wake up the sleeping little bear and deal with the morning routine with added rush and frustration.

Does it HAVE to be that way though?

Ask yourself this question. Really consider...

Do you have to experience the next 24 hours consumed by desperation? And what early life experiences are informing your reactions today?

This happened to me many times in my parenting journey thus far. My youngest is three at the time of writing this post, so I am very much still in the throes of the marathon (I hear it doesn’t get easier though, just different).

One of the many gifts of working with so many parents over the years has been the additional perspective it has given me, allowing me so much more presence to roll with whatever happens. Because I know the realm of “normal” is much broader than typically depicted publicly!

Just yesterday it happened, BOTH my kids fell asleep at 3:45pm. Here is what I did:

I enjoyed my walk, like really enjoyed it. I took deeper breathes and appreciated the weather. I noticed that I was not being asked for anything. Peace and quiet were mine. Even though it was raining, the temperature was perfect, and I was dressed well with a good hooded coat and warm boots.

I got a trim at the Supercuts! Hey, it beats cutting my own bangs, and they were fast, and it was easy to wheel the buggy in, and no one was ahead of me! Cheap, cheerful dose of self-care if you ask me!

I did a few groceries, and because they were asleep, no one was asking me to buy them anything! I got in and out with only what was on my list! Score!

Actually I did buy a treat, a package of those heart shaped spelt ginger cookies, so I could surprise them when they did wake up. We call snacks-on-the-go “pram-snacks” and they are a big hit with my kids!

I enjoyed my rainy walk home with a fresh trim and pram snacks when they woke happily.

When we got home, we had dinner, then I treated myself to a bath. I was on solo-parent duty, so this means I get creative! Two bean bag chairs in the bathroom and a show on the tablet for them to watch. The novelty of it means they sit contentedly and I have peace of mind that they are not getting into crazy mischief. I relax and enjoy the epson salt soak. I even shaved my legs! Yay!

We got their energy out with a game of “Baby Shark” - I know y’all know the song 😀 It is a current favourite. I carry my three year old and chase his big brother while I sing the Baby Shark song, and little Beau pretends to be said Shark. Lots of squealing and giggles!

We painted some pictures We snuggled in bed with the tablets. Yeah, I know, screens before bed, isn’t that a “no-no”? While it is true that the blue light emitted from these devices can suppress melatonin production for up to 90 minutes, ultimately I am a believer in “do what you gotta do”. When we put dogmatic rules in place, it can often create more stress than structure, in my opinion. Who doesn’t love the odd movie night in bed, come on!

We fell happily asleep at 11:30pm. Together in a big cuddle, one kid under each arm.

Would you say that I had no “me time” as a result of the late nap?

I would say that I was creative with my use of time and cards dealt.

While I did fall asleep with them, and did not have the night to watch Netflix or drink wine or whatever, I did have a glorious morning of sweet coffee enjoyed in total silence, and I got dressed and my make up on without anyone asking me for anything.

When parenting a child age 2-5 you are faced with the decision, drop the nap or have late bedtime. There is no right answer for every child, as sleep personalities vary. My first born was such a beast without his nap until he was 5, I chose to deal with the 11pm bedtime for a loooong time because it was so clearly his ideal sleep schedule. My second born, easy going kid could skip naps by age 2, and is a breeze to put to sleep by 8pm (he actually requires less sleep than his older brother).

With Beau, I have opted to skip naps most days, and this means the two kids bedtimes match up for greater ease when I am putting both to sleep. When skipping naps for preschoolers, you need to take care to be pro-active with the late afternoon grumblies. They can get tired and require more patience and an environment that won’t be provoking. Some favourite activities for no-nap days are:

Water Play (we love these colour tablets)

Or long baths with toys...

Any sensory activities such as Water Beads

Kinetic Sand



Or easy baking activities, like pancakes (download my free recipe guide at the bottom of this blog post!)

Finally, remember when I asked, “what early childhood experiences are informing your reactions today”?  This is what it all boils down to.  Often we panic when our reality does not match our expectations.  This is not much different than a toddler being upset that his favourite cup is dirty.  It is about control.

Trust me, there is so much still in your control.  You can choose to roll with it a bit more, you can examine your triggers and speak with someone about them (maybe that’s me!).  You can live your life with gratitude for every day, and every lesson you are gifted with.  Even the inconvenient ones can be magical!

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