Transitioning from Two Naps to One

Posted February 28, 2009

Between 15-18 months of age most children begin to be able to do OK with just one nap a day.  Often this doesn't happen smoothly, however.  Typically it is a bit rocky with there being 2-3 days in a row when he/she does fine with one mid-day nap but by the 4th day he/she falls apart in ways that tell you more sleep is needed for a few days!  There will be days you'll feel you might never figure this out!

A pretty sure sign of a transition in progress will come when your child plays through the morning nap.  Or if, over several weeks, he/she can't get to sleep for the afternoon nap as a result of having had a good, long morning nap.  Try to keep to the normal routine for 2-3 weeks in spite of these possible signs, however, just to be sure the wakefulness isn't a passing stage of new development.

When you are sure, you can initially attempt to put off the morning nap until around 11 AM. I suggest leaving your child for 3 hours at this point, since this is the only sleep or rest he/she will have today.  If that goes well, in a few days you can start the nap at 11:30 and eventually have it be from noon to 3 PM. 

Down the road, when you child is 20 months or so, you can aim for 12:30 or 1 PM for the nap.  And 2.5 to 3 hours in the crib does very well for children.

Long after I knew my daughters didn't need to sleep in the mornings any more, I continued make them have 45 minutes or an hour of  "reading time" in the crib every morning with playful music on.  This little break seemed to help all of us make it through the morning more gracefully, while I excitedly anticipated a 3-hour break every afternoon!

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Filed under: Sleep and sleep training, Daily Routines

Picky Eating and Mealtimes

Posted February 20, 2009

Dear Kitty,

Our two-year old son is a very picky eater.  We try to make him eat with us but he says he isn't hungry and misbehaves at the table.  My husband is especially concerned that we eat dinner together as a family (we also have a 4 year old who eats well), so my son's resistance is causing a lot of stress. Our day home provider says he eats just fine for her, which is also frustrating.  He only wants to eat toast, kiwi and yogurt.  Oh, and he loves noodles (plain).  What can we do to get him to be a better eater and stay at the table with the family?

You may be dealing with two issues here.  First is the issue of the supper time meal being especially problematic with behavior issues, etc.  It's a good idea to think back on what your son has eaten all through the day.  If he has had a reasonable breakfast (most kids do if they had milk first...) and has eaten pretty well at the day home, it's very possible he simply isn't hungry at supper time.  He may have already taken in the calories he requires for good growth and development that day and has no appetite left.  It's really hard to sit still and eat when you aren't hungry.

The other issue is that toddlers usually do not prefer to have a large variety of foods (even though nutritionists wish they would) and often get stuck on certain things they will eat - to the exclusion of everything else.  Of course then, just when you've bought 10 kiwis on sale, they become the refused food and he may only want carrots.  Parents are wise to go with the flow of these food jags and look more at whether your son has tasted all the food groups through the year instead of through each day or week. If so, you've done a good job!

Seldom do food issues result in weight loss, so I suggest at dinner time you ring a bell to let everyone know that food is on the table if they are interested and then go ahead and enjoy your own meal without counting heads.  If someone comes up later saying they are hungry, you can serve small amounts of what you served for dinner.  Do not worry that because of not eating dinner he will wake up from hunger during the night.  He may wake up but it will be from habit rather than hunger.  When he says he isn't hungry, we must believe him and allow his stomach to remain empty until morning...time for a good breakfast.

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Filed under: Feeding and Eating

False Start with Toilet Training

Posted February 10, 2009

Dear Kitty,

My two-year old daughter (2 as of July) started showing interest in using the potty last April. We didn't push anything but we didn't want to ignore her interest either. We didn't know exactly what to do, but we bought a potty and she actually peed in it 2-3 times right before her bath. She was very excited, and of course we were too. A week or so later, however, she would say "no" to sitting on the potty before the bath. We tried putting her there anyway, but it got to be a struggle, so we quit. Now she seems to want nothing to do with the potty. We aren't sure where we went wrong. How do we perk up her interest again?

I can really understand your confusion over whether your daughter was showing you signs of "readiness" and if so, why did she change her mind. For many children between 18 and 24 months there occurs what I call a "false start." This is a little burst of interest in copying parent's behavior and experimenting with a new potty, enjoying the parent's reactions, etc. The majority of toddlers quickly tire of this once the novelty wears off. If this was any other type of behavior like wanting to carry your hairbrush around all the time, you wouldn't think twice about it nor mind when she soon lost interest.

This however, is something all parents dream about: a toddler who demonstrates "readiness" at a young age. You feel excited and put a lot of effort into facilitating her new interest, now suggesting the potty before the bath, cheering, etc. When the novelty wears off - parents are left holding the potty, so to speak, and wonder what they did wrong.

Most children will finally master using the potty or toilet reliably and independently -- some time between age 3 and 4 years. Research has outlined this expectation for us. But most parents from around age 19 months will spend the next 18 months in some form of "training," often feeling very frustrated at the results. Worse still, many will get stuck in a power struggle with their child and this is a struggle with no good ending.

My suggestion now is that you remain aware of the positive impact of modelling of your bathroom skills by allowing her to watch and hear about all the small steps there are involved; many children whose parents have simply modelled bathroom behavior will gradually train themselves just by copying. If not, once they reach age 3, you can be sure all readiness is in place and it's time to embark on a training program such as I present in my seminar. It usually takes only about a week or so.

I address the subtleties of Toilet Learning the Easy Way in an evening seminar. However, for parents with children over age three who have become resistant to toilet training for one reason or another, I suggest a Telephone Counseling appointment as a better approach to solving problems that have arisen.

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Filed under: Toilet Learning

Time Management with a Toddler

Posted February 1, 2009

Dear Kitty,

This may sound like a silly question, but sometimes I have trouble filling my day when my 18 month old and I are home together. He would love to have me play with him the whole time but somehow I think I should put a limit on that. I would appreciate your advice on what a toddler's day should look like, in a very general way, of course, knowing that every day is not exactly identical.

I think your question is a good one and I agree with you that constant entertainment by a parent is not in a child's best interest. Creativity and resourcefulness will result as your child experiences regular times during the day when he needs to rely on himself and his own ideas for entertainment.

What follows is an excerpt from an as yet unpublished book I've written called "Parenting: Keep It Simple". This section addresses your question:

Managing Your Time with a Toddler in the House

This can be very challenging. Children ages one and two years may test parents by willingly becoming "hooked" on any kind of entertainment the parent will offer, especially if it means going out of the house, being picked up, played with, etc. Many toddlers seem to resist entertaining themselves. Yet, because we know that free play with interesting play props and without an adult directly involved is the way toddlers do their best learning, I encourage parents to schedule 'alone' time for their toddler. Here might be a typical toddler's day:

7:00am Get up and putter* / eat breakfast / putter again while parent is also having their breakfast.
8:00am Independent playtime (45 minutes) in room, with door or gate secured while parent showers, or eats or is otherwise busy. (happy or not, this is important time for a toddler)
9:00am Time to putter, following caregiver; "helping" with jobs
10:00am Watch short program, video, or listens to book on tape
10:30am Read stories with parent or caregiver
11:00am trip out to park, mall, groceries, back yard
12:00am lunch
12:30 -1:00pm go down for a nap which lasts approximately 2 hours or more
3:00pm wake up, listen to book on tape, 30 minute video, or music
3:30pm read books with parent or caregiver
4:00pm a walk outside, groceries, play in snow, rain, etc.
5:00pm solitary playtime in room (45 minutes) with door or gate secured (happy or not is OK)
6:00pm supper, bath, stories
7:00pm bed time
7:30pm parents eat supper by candlelight!

This chart is intended as a suggestion of how a parent can manage time with a toddler in the house. The day will probably always go best when the same general routine is followed day after day. Toddlers do not seem to thrive on variety. They prefer events to be predictable.

It is important for the parent of a child this age to practice "healthy selfishness" by building in time for yourself throughout the day, not just to get work done but to read a novel, drink tea sitting down and model for your child that parents have interests, too.

*Puttering refers to a child wandering about, picking up small portable objects and bringing them to an adult, walking away, wandering back, whining a bit for possible attention, then going over to a cupboard or toy when adult attention isn't forthcoming.

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Filed under: Play

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