I have never liked car-naps. True, I didn’t ever have a colicky baby that we couldn’t get to sleep. Quite the opposite – I had an excellent sleeper. And that excellent sleep needed to occur in the crib, upstairs, so I could get stuff done. Period. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a time and a place for the car nap, but an unintended one is just the worst. As any parent will tell you, a car nap, somehow, seems to break all laws of time. As the Honest Toddler explains one minute of car sleep = one hour of bed sleep. So annoyingly true!
If any of my little ones fall asleep in the car, no matter if it is a nano-second before I pull into the driveway, they awaken bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as if they have slept for hours. And just like that, there goes
mommy’s free time my child’s much needed, beneficial sleep. This phenomenon is common – and while many will manage to make the car nap work for them, others, like myself avoid it at all costs!
Below are a few tips for avoiding and preventing the dreaded car nap:
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1. Schedule accordingly. Plan all outings precisely to allow for no car travel time near the child’s nap. My twin girls still take two naps a day, so this gets tricky. I have a very small window of time that I can travel with them in the car without worrying about them falling asleep.
If you MUST venture out close to nap time –
2. Music! We happen to love Laurie Berkner’s music – and after three kids, everyone knows the words. Most of the songs are really fun and upbeat. With mommy singing along, you stand a pretty good chance of keeping those little eyelids open.
3. Sippy Cups. Handing them a sippy cup might buy you a bit of time. I’m not one for snacks in the car for really little ones (I had a very scary mommy moment when my son was little) but for older children, a small bag of puffs or yogurt melts are a good option to have on hand.
If you get desperate, you see heavy eyelids, or there is nothing but quiet from those that are rear-facing…
4. Gadgets! I keep a few of my children’s smaller gadget toys in the diaper bag, ones that they don’t play with often (so they’re ‘new’ and ‘novel’). These work great for reinvigorating a toddler!
5. Distract, Distract, Distract! I have gone as far as using the power window to crack the window open & closed. Open & closed….Clearly best done on warmer days, at low car speeds AND with little ones that are not capable of reaching the window. I’ll take a car nap over pinched fingers! Enlist an older child – my three year old knows he is not allowed to poke, bother or otherwise touch his twin sisters while in the car… but I ask him to play peek-a-boo or something similar. Lately, his favorite strategy is making up strange voices and talking to them as a pirate or something like that. Hey, whatever works.
If you do find yourself with that little one asleep in the car, you can choose to accept it – there will be no nap today. By all means, in this situation ATTEMPT to get the child into the house while sleeping. I assure you, it almost never works…but it never hurts to try. You can also, if possible, go with the car nap. There’s been a few times that I’ve parked in the driveway, killed the engine and let them nap a while with me in the car. Some free time, even if in my car, is better than no time at all.