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Nap Happy

What you can do to solve some common toddler nap dilemmas:

THE ENERGIZER BUNNY

THE PROBLEM Your obviously wiped-out toddler gets increasingly fussy, but simply won't give in and nod off.

THE SOLUTION Sometimes a young child will play and play until she's cranky, and then become so wound up that she can't settle down, says Paula Elbirt, M.D., director of primary-care education in the department of pediatrics at Brooklyn Medical Center. Watch for signs that she's getting overexcited and overtired, and try to calm her early on, by dimming the lights a bit or reading her a favorite story.

THE NIGHT OWL

THE PROBLEM He snoozes for so long during the day that he can't get to sleep at night.

THE SOLUTION Shorten his nap, but don't be abrupt. After he's been asleep for 45 minutes to an hour, move around in his room, let sunlight in, or turn on some soft but lively music. His body will likely respond to these cues and slowly awaken. Within a week or two, he should adjust to the shorter siestas and fall asleep more easily in the evening.

THE DRIFTER

THE PROBLEM She dozes off at the wrong times  -- for instance, just after dinner or during a car ride early in the morning  -- and then gets completely off schedule.

THE SOLUTION It's okay to try to keep her eyes open with gentle entertainment  -- such as a game of peekaboo or lively chitchat. But don't force her to stay awake. If she falls asleep despite your efforts, wake her after 20 minutes; it's frequently easier to rouse a tot after a short nap than to keep her from nodding off. Then try to maintain her normal schedule for the rest of the day.

THE SPEEDING BULLET

THE PROBLEM Quick catnaps are all he takes: 5 minutes here, 10 there, and he's raring to go again.

THE SOLUTION Try to establish a calm period each day when sleeping isn't required but sit-down activities are. This way, at least if he wakes up, he'll be more likely to stay put. The time spent resting will benefit him, and if he can't get up and go, perhaps he'll doze off again. Provide quiet things to do (puzzles, books) in a safe place; playpens are often good napping areas for lively toddlers, especially if you're planning to catch some shut-eye yourself.

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