Five Tips to Maximize Naptime

As any parent of young kids knows, nap time is super valuable, and one of the best (only?) times to get things done.  I actually find myself wondering how parents get anything done when their kids no longer nap, but I try not to think about that too much.

When I first had James, especially when his naps were often short and unpredictable, I found myself a little frantic during naps.  I wanted to get so much done, but my brain was too foggy to remember it all and I wasn’t sure where to begin.  Plus I also wanted to just lay down and relax sometimes, but if I did that, I just kept thinking about all of the things I should be doing.

Well I finally have a nap time strategy that works well for me, so I thought I’d share.

1. Make a plan – and write it down

This seems fairly obvious, but it took me a while to actually start doing this.  I would come up with a plan in my mind, but I would often forget what it was and I still found myself questioning the best use of the time the whole time he was sleeping.

Now I take a few minutes on Sunday and schedule what I plan to do during each nap time throughout the week.  I enter it all in my Google calendar.  Jame’s naps aren’t always at the exact same time, but he always takes two right now and they’re roughly at 9 and 1:30, so I just use those times on my calendar.

Obviously things change throughout the week, so each night I look at what I’ve planned for the next day and adjust as needed.

2. Don’t save everything for nap time

Sometimes I’ve planned to get something done during nap time, but then I look around and the house is chaos and I decide to spend *just a few minutes* straightening up.  It’s never just a few minutes.  Even if it is, that’s still time I could have used toward whatever I planned.

So I really try to do that straightening up when James is awake.  It is a more efficient use of my time and I also think it’s beneficial to show even very young children that cleaning up is a part of playing and a part of life.  Sometimes it’s comical trying to put things away with my little sidekick following me around “fixing” everything, but I just remind myself that I have all the time I need.  I also do things like folding laundry while James is playing next to me.  Some chores, like sweeping and mopping, are pretty impossible with a baby nearby, but I am often surprised by how much I can get done while he’s happily playing in the living room or kitchen.

3. Divide the time

I’ve pretty much come to terms with the fact that I will never again be fully caught up on everything, at least not for eighteen years or so.  Housework is pretty quickly undone around here, and that’s okay, it’s just part of this (mostly really fun) stage.  Still, I don’t want to spend every minute of James’s nap time cleaning, that’s just no fun and it would leave no time for things I love (like writing this blog!)

So I roughly divide what I work on by his two naps.  I generally use his morning nap for computer projects, like the blog, freelance writing, working on his baby book, planning trips, emails, etc.  I then use his afternoon nap for cleaning and prepping dinner.  This helps the house not get too out of control, but also ensures I have time to work on other things.

This also works for me because I’m a big time morning person, so it makes sense to do the things that require thought / creativity in the morning.  I think it helps to figure out what time of day you do your best work.

Obviously he won’t always take two naps.  When he moves down to one nap, I’ll probably either divide the time in half, or alternate days, depending on how long his nap winds up being.

4. Commit to relaxation

While it’s tempting to use every second of every nap trying to catch up, that would make me crazy.  Everyone needs some time to just chill (and we’ve already established we’re never catching up anyway, so might as well take a break).

I usually use at least one Friday nap and read a book.  This is one of my favorite times of the week.  It feels luxurious to sit with a book in the middle of the morning and it’s something nice to look forward to at the end of the week.  Because I’ve planned it ahead of time, I have an easier time just relaxing instead of thinking about everything I should be doing instead.

5. Be flexible

This is definitely the hardest for me.  While I do think it really helps to have a plan, obviously baby isn’t in on this plan and he may only sleep for thirty minutes, regardless of what you need to get done.

One thing that helps me with this is setting a minimum nap time.

I didn’t do this when he was younger, and would often wake up crying, but now I pretty much always make nap time at least an hour, even if he wakes up sooner.  He stays in his bed until it has been an hour (this isn’t a hard and fast rule, I would certainly go check on him if he was really upset).  He usually just talks to himself in his bed when this happens, and sometimes even falls back to sleep!

How do you maximize your time, any tricks?

Are you a morning or night person?

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  1. These are great tips! I’m lucky that in general my kids are good nappers, but I also use a lot of your suggestions and they work so good. My toddler goes down for his one nap at 1:00 and I try to leave him in his crib until 3. He never fusses about getting up, but if he’s really decided he is done he will stand and jump in his crib. When he does that, I get him out even if it’s early. He has never showed a desire to climb from his crib and I don’t want to passively encourage that by leaving him in there too long! My toddler is also used to playing alone while the kitchen is cleaned after meals, this really helps keep housework caught up. And absolutely we love to relax too! On the weekends, I’ll do chores during the baby’s naps, but when our toddler goes down, my husband and I like to sit and relax – especially since football has started 🙂

    1. Thank you! That’s awesome that your kids are such great nappers. James falls asleep easily for naps, but doesn’t always sleep a long time…it has gotten MUCH better though, so I can’t complain! I am with you on trying to prevent the urge to climb out of the crib. My little brother started climbing out of his crib at 9-10 months old, so I’ve always been a little scared of that. I totally agree, it is so important to just have down time during some naps, especially on the weekend!

  2. Great tips! When my oldest was really small I never wanted to pick up or anything while he was awake, but getting little chores done or tidying up with the kids has made it easier for me to focus on other things while they sleep. Also, I totally agree it’s good for them to see that picking up is part of the routine.

  3. Confession time: I nap when the kids nap. My house can wait, the dishes can wait, I can cook dinner when they are up, but getting in a quick snooze in the middle of the day recharges me. I’m also a night owl so I stay up pretty late doing the things I would do if I were productive during nap time. Now, if I have something time sensitive and need to take care of something mid-day, I begin right when the second child goes down and then I go down for my nap. LOL! It’s the only way I can keep sane during this newborn stage with baby #2.

    1. You totally should!! I should have specified, I did NOT do this when James was a newborn and I was getting no sleep. I’ve never been able to nap…I just lay there, I can’t fall asleep, but I would totally lay in bed and watch Netflix or read while he was napping in the early days when I was exhausted. I only do this now that he sleeps through the night. I also go to bed super early and get nothing done at night lol.

  4. We are a house of baby wearers. Having grown up in Africa and having a strong German heritage too (baby wearing is common place in Germany and Scandinavia), we purchased a baby carrier with our first and learnt through her, the best brands and “carries”. Now with my second, he pretty spends most of his time in there. He is old enough and strong enough now to go on my back and will happily sleep there for up to three hours at least twice a day. With all that time, the first few days it was easy to spend the time catching up on not so useful things like TV and Web browsing, in all the euphoria of what a golden sleeper he is. But to get things done, it helps that I made a list of things I wanted for my maternity leave, and that I have a routine…kitchen first, bedrooms next..interspersed with specific actions for that day..wash the microwave, laundry day. The trick now is to get writing and other activities requiring a bit more thought, into my day. I am the world’s worst procrastinator (though I am getting better) and most impulsive writer..middle of the night, during cooking type ideas and writing fever times..not useful.

    1. Wow, that’s so interesting! I have a couple of carriers, but I don’t know a ton about baby wearing. I have the K’tan and ergo 360. Honestly I could never figure out the ktan well enough to feel like I didn’t have to support his head (I haven’t tried it since he was little) and I love the ergo for errands, but he’s never liked to be in there for too long. Maybe because I didn’t do a ton of baby wearing when he was a newborn so he was never really used to it. What carriers do you think are the best?

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