Older Children While Baby Naps

I think a big challenge with a baby is what to do with the older children while baby naps–or in other words, how do you keep the older children quiet while baby is napping? This is the most challenging while baby is young and taking four naps a day.


From the time Kaitlyn was born, I had two goals I tried to marry. One is that I didn’t want us to feel like we had to tip-toe around the house at nap time–I wanted us to be able to move around and talk like normal people. However, I also wanted us to respect the sleeper. When I was growing up, my mom ingrained in us to respect the sleeper and those of us who were early risers would be respectful of the non-early risers and try to be quiet. So normal sounds were okay, but there didn’t need to be loudness, yelling, and running. 


So that is a nice goal, but how do you implement it? Here are some ideas.



Something I didn’t want to happen with any of my babies was the older children growing to resent the baby. I didn’t want them being frustrated at the baby because we couldn’t wake up the baby. So I taught it with the angle of “we are doing this to show respect and love.” We show our baby love by respecting baby when she is sleeping. See this fore more:

Moral Training: Love



I didn’t figure this out until McKenna came along, but white noise in the baby’s room is very helpful. This helps muffle out normal noises so you don’t feel paranoid to move around your house as usual. You can use noise machines, humidifiers, box fans, mp3 tracks…See

White Noise



A brand new baby usually will sleep through anything (though there are sleep experts who say just because a newborn is asleep doesn’t mean the sleep is ideal–a newborn in a disruptively noisy environment may not be getting as restorative of sleep as one in an ideal environment).


Then the baby seems to enter a phase where sleep is more sensitive. Noises will wake baby up. After some months, baby will start to sleep through those noises. The trick is keeping noises normal so baby can get used to it and staying patient through the sensitive sleep times. And some babies are more sensitive than others.

Have your structured activities happen during baby’s nap. Some ways I pair these is chores/independent play in the morning nap, and learning time/reading/rest time in the afternoon. 


Independent Playtime
Occupy the older children by having independent playtime during one nap. Obviously you won’t cover the entire nap, but you can get a good chunk in there. Have it in a place where the noises your child makes won’t be too noisy for your baby. This is an especially helpful thing to do when you have three or more children. More than one child makes for noisy interactions. We always have independent play on Sunday mornings during Brinely’s nap (our church is currently at 1 PM). This way, the kids won’t get all riled up and loud and wake her up early before church. See Index: Independent Play for more.


Naps/Rest Time
Another great thing to do is to align nap/rest time with baby’s afternoon nap. 


Learning Time
You can also have some learning time. Learning time is another structured activity that you can keep your child’s noise levels at a reasonable level. See Index: Learning Development for ideas.


Read stories to your child during baby’s nap. If your child is old enough for SSR, do that during baby’s nap, too. See SSR for more on that.

You can do your chores during nap time. Just be aware of when your baby will reach the age to benefit from observing chores being done. I didn’t do chores in front of Kaitlyn and I think that contributed to her not wanting to do chores at a young age. She has overcome that and now is a great worker, but in her younger years, she had no desire to work. With Brayden I had always worked with him around, and with McKenna I was careful to do cleaning in front of her. I think by 9 months, it is good to do at least some cleaning in front of your baby. Brayden was copying me by 9 months, though, so even 6-7 months might be a good idea. See Chores Index for more.


TV Time
If you do TV Time each day, do it during baby’s nap. This is win/win because it keeps kids quiet and it makes it so TV time is at a time when baby won’t be around to watch the TV. See television  for more.

Make sure your child is getting as much exercise as is optimal for him. A child who has too much energy is going to have a harder time being appropriate indoors. You can all go for a walk or bike ride together and this will help your child to not have so much energy to burn in the house during baby’s nap. See exercise  for more.


Once you have worked your rules and schedule for the best environment for baby’s naps, have some consequences for when your children get too loud and crazy during nap time. Especially in the younger days of baby’s life, you can’t really fill each nap with structured activities. Baby sleeps too much to do that. Your children will have times they get loud.

We start with a reminder. Kids are kids and when kids get together, they have fun and get loud. We start playtime with a reminder about respecting sleeping people.

If/when they get loud, we tell them they are being too loud. Again, kids are kids and kids don’t necessarily know what level is “too loud.”

If they can’t calm down, I bring in a consequence. Going back to me not wanting resentment to build up, I try to make the consequence apply very logically (which is the way I am in all consequences naturally, but I am careful to make sure in this instance that holds true). An example of a consequence for group of siblings being noisy is that they don’t get to play with each other for the rest of the nap.

I also have a rule that if you can’t be appropriately quiet inside, you need to play outside.

My favorite consequence came one evening when the children obviously had way too much energy built up. They could not be quiet at all–they obviously needed some exercise. So I sent them outside to run laps. We have a large yard and I told them they each needed to run three laps. They ended up enjoying it so much they each ran at least ten laps. What they needed was to burn some energy!

What have you found to be helpful in occupying older children while baby naps?

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