As discussed in Chapter 1, most two-year-olds take one long nap during the day. Sometimes, however, your child, may need a second shorter nap or some downtime at another point in the day. A two-year-old needs about eleven to fifteen hours of sleep a day, and most two-year-olds don't sleep for a long enough period to get all of this sleep at night.


I'm at my wit's end because my daughter doesn't sleep. Help! Talk to your pediatrician. Sleep is one of the issues doctors get the most questions about, and they often have creative solutions (many suggested by other parents). They may be able to give you sound advice, even if the issue is a behavioral rather than a medical problem.

There are two types of people: larks and owls. Larks are energetic and happy in the early morning, whereas owls take a while to wake up and are at their best later in the day, often at night. This internal clock is something we're born with. You will find it easier to keep your child happy if you work with her natural clock rather than trying to get her to stick to an artificial schedule.

If Your Child Resists Napping

Many parents find that their two-year-olds resist getting into their cribs or beds during the day. If your child is like that, you might need to come up with a creative solution, such as taking her for a stroll and letting her continue to nap in the stroller after you return home, or going for a drive and after she falls asleep, transferring her to a bed back at home. You might also allow your two-year-old to nap in your bed, which will feel special to her and less like sleep.

If your two-year-old is still waking during the night, you can take a daytime nap with her. This will allow both of you to get some needed rest. Many two-year-olds are in day care, where they usually rest or nap at prescribed times during the day. Children in day care are usually so stimulated and busy that they easily fall asleep at naptime. Another bonus: Their daily schedules usually make it easy for them to fall asleep at the same time each night.

Effective Naptime

It is helpful for your child if her long nap is in late morning or early afternoon so she has lots of time to play between naptime and bedtime. If your two-year-old is sleeping too much during the day, make sure there is a big difference between the amount of light in her room when she's asleep and when she's awake. Keep the house quiet and dark while she's napping and then, wake her up slowly with light, music, and the sound of your voice.

If your two-year-old is having trouble sleeping at night, you can also try letting her do a quiet activity with you rather than having a second naptime. This will allow her to relax without actually sleeping, helping her mood to stay even during the day.

Wake Time

One of the most effective ways to ensure that all sleep times are truly restful is to make sure time spent awake is energizing and lively. Your child should always have some time outside every day: Fresh air is good for everyone. Also, she should be able to run around and play no matter what else is going on around her.

Sometimes parents have to become adaptive about ways to entertain and keep their two-year-olds engaged during the day. The following suggestions aren't everyday solutions, but they are good one-shot ideas for when you and your child are both tired of being cooped up:

  • go bowling (many places have special lanes for children)

  • go to a museum

  • go to the library

  • go to a movie

  • walk through a neighborhood

If the weather or the size of your home prohibits either time outside or an indoor space where your two-year-old can be active during the day, consider going to the mall, a toddler play-time program (sometimes held in gyms or YMCAs), or even to an indoor public pool. It is impossible for anyone to sleep well at night, especially a two-year-old, if her daytime isn't stimulating.

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  2. Raising a Two-Year-Old
  3. Parenting Issues
  4. Naps
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