My method for handling this has actually been pretty much the same for both kids. This is surprising because I have had to do things pretty differently with each for most situations.
- First, I wait to see if they will just go to sleep on their own. I give them about 10-15 minutes to go to sleep.
- If they don't go to sleep in that time period, I go in, lay them down, and tell them firmly that it is time to go to sleep. We can play after the nap, but right now it is time to sleep.
- That honestly usually solves it. If you child is accustomed to following your voice commands, this should solve the problem. With a baby, there is a good chance they will cry for a minute or two after you leave. A toddler knows what he should be doing and will likely concede and go to sleep. If not, repeat the first two steps.
I grew up with horses, and the phrase, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink" is so true. You can force the head into the water bucket, and still no drinking unless the horse wants to. I believe this is true with children and sleep. You create the environment, you direct them, but ultimately they will only sleep if they want to. You can have rules and expectations. Rules would be that they must be in bed and they must down. You expect that they will take a nap. In the end, sleep will come when they let it.
Try to not stress if one nap goes bad every so often. It happens. Both my friend and I have noticed that our sons tend to skip about one nap a week, especially when the weather doesn't allow for running around outside. You can do an early bed time if that happens. Try to take things in stride. I understand the stressing; I have been there. But naps will be disrupted. It is bound to happen. Move on and do what you can to prevent it from happening often.