If you have a toddler at home while you’re homeschooling your older child or children, you know what a challenge it can add to your day. Knowing full well that they need a good nap on a consistent schedule means that, at least to some extent, most of your day has to revolve around that naptime. Gone are the days when they could nap peacefully away in their car seat while you took care of your older kids; now, your toddler wants to nap in her bed, nowhere but her bed, and she makes that point very clear! Even if you’re lucky enough to have one who will nap in the car, you need a suitably long journey to make the nap a worthwhile one; and that sleep will not be as good as it is if they’re in their own beds. Every trip out has to be planned around those sacred hours. Running a little late? Sorry, you’ll have to leave early anyway. Want to get an early start on a trip? That’ll be the day you have to wake your toddler up from their nap to do it.
Then there are the days when you’re actually at home for naptime. Inevitably, it comes right at the time of day when your older kids are ready to bounce off the walls. They ask their questions at the top of their voice; they thump and bang every time they reach for something; and worst of all, they insist on being as close as possible to the place where the toddler is sleeping. If they wake the toddler, welcome to cranky city—but if you keep shushing them, then the big kids are going to be cranky, too! What’s a mom to do?
Get a baby monitor.
A good one, with some decent reach on it. Test it out during the day, when your toddler is awake. A closed door is also your best friend. Consider a sound machine in the baby’s room to block out some of what is going on outside. No, children should not necessarily be encouraged to sleep in absolute silence; but the closer you can get it, the more likely you are to be able to enjoy naptime in peace.
Wear all of them out before naptime.
Take everyone outside, and chase them around and around in circles until you’re sure that they’re absolutely worn out. Accept no excuses. If it’s warm out, play in the water. Let them swing, and slide, and bounce on the trampoline. On rainy days, have a dance party inside, pull your car out of the garage and turn it into a hopscotch board or a soccer field, or just chase them around the house. Whatever it takes to keep them active, moving, and wear them out enough that they’re ready to be quiet once naptime rolls around.
Chase the big kids outside.
Obviously, on rainy days, that isn’t necessarily possible; but if you can get them outside, it’s the best way to keep them from waking the littlest member of the family. That’s what the baby monitor is for: keeping an ear on your little one while you supervise the older children.
Plan quiet activities ahead of time.
Maybe this is when you shift to a school lesson that does not require active participation. Maybe it’s when you pull out library books or new favorites for some quiet reading. Whatever you decide, make sure that it’s something that they only get to do during naptime—it’s more likely to keep them engaged.
Have plans for after naptime.
These can be simple, like a regular snack, or more complicated, like a trip to the park, the library, or a walk around the block. Let the big kids know ahead of time that a cranky toddler will likely result in the cancellation of this activity.
Let them be loud the rest of the time.
Sure, it may make you feel like your head is going to explode sometimes, and the noise may reach excessive heights from time to time; but when your big kids realize that if you ask them to be quiet, you generally have a good reason, they will be more likely to oblige.