Is My Child Ready to Stop Napping?
Has your perfect sleeper suddenly started waking up in the middle of the night? You might be wondering if it’s time to drop their daytime nap.
Sleep disturbances are the number one indication that your child is done with napping, but don’t jump to that conclusion too soon. There are few other reasons why sleep might get a little wonky in the toddler years. Pulling a nap too early might make matters worse.
Let’s break down how to know when it’s time to drop that nap and when you should hold onto it. Generally, you’ll want to hold onto it as long as you can, but when it’s time for napping to end, it’s time!
Signs That Your Toddler Needs to Stop Napping
Your toddler may fight bedtime or stay up late talking and singing to themselves. You might also see an increase in early morning or middle of the night wake ups. They might stay up through their entire nap or they might fall asleep for a nap very late in the afternoon.
These are all signs that your toddler may need to stop napping or that they might need a schedule change, such as a shorter nap.
What Age Do Kids Stop Napping?
The age at which toddlers stop napping varies considerably. It generally falls between ages two-and-a-half and five years old. Most kids will stop napping around three-and-a-half.
If your toddler doesn’t show any signs of needing to drop their nap, it is best to allow them to keep it as long as possible, which is generally until kindergarten. Naps are restorative and help improve mood and learning.
Toddlers younger than two-and-a-half most likely need their nap. In this case it’s best to continue to enforce your child’s nap while trying to find the sweet spot during the day when they’ll fall asleep but it won’t make bedtime too late. Try to keep about five hours between the nap’s end and bedtime. Capping the nap can help you achieve this.
If you are concerned about your child’s sleep schedule or sleep habits, always reach out to your pediatrician or a certified pediatric sleep consultant.
Sleep regressions often happen around age two. But this doesn’t necessarily mean you should cut the nap out.
At around eighteen months of age to age two, young children begin to test limits. This is normal. They may try to come out of their bedrooms at night or protest sleeping.
The best thing to do is to continue calmly enforcing limits. Stick to a consistent bedtime routine and bring back any sleep training methods you used when they were a baby. They really do need their sleep, and the novelty of testing limits will wear off if you don’t make a big deal out of it but instead continue to enforce them.
Toddler sleep needs tend to drop around age one-and-a-half and again around age two-and-a-half. This might mean that your toddler needs a shorter nap or a later bedtime. But that afternoon nap is still beneficial to them.
If your toddler is getting less than ten hours of cumulative nighttime sleep, it’s probably best to drop the nap. Solid nighttime sleep should become a priority over naps at around age two and a half.
Transitioning Away From Naps
There are a few ways to help your toddler adjust to their new sleep routine once they stop napping. Some kids can do it cold turkey and after about a week, things should fall into place.
Others do best with a gradually shorter nap. You can take 15 minutes off the nap each day until it’s gone.
You can also move the nap time up earlier and earlier in the day until the child is not tired at that time. If you do this, don’t be afraid to use an early bedtime for about a week. This will help reduce crankiness or meltdowns in the evenings.
While transitioning, try to get your toddler outside for fresh air during the day time. Keep them distracted!
Quiet Time: The Nap Time Replacement
You might want to hold onto your toddlers nap as long as you can. Maybe this is your time to recharge your batteries or wrap up some chores. Maybe you work from home and nap time is your golden hour to get work done. Or maybe it’s your only chance to have a rest during the day.
If you are not super happy about dropping the nap, we do have some good news for you. There is a way to preserve your daily break time, and it’s beneficial for your child too.
Replace nap time with a daily quiet time. This gives toddlers some downtime each afternoon.
Teach your toddler to stay in their room but keep the lights on and do not require them to sleep. Having special quiet time toys that only come out at ‘quiet time’ can help.
Start small. It’s okay if the quiet time is only five minutes long on the first day. Slowly extend the time to about 45 minutes. Younger children may do better with 30 minutes while some kids can entertain themselves and rest for an hour or more.
Quiet time length recommendations by age:
- 2-and-a-half to 3: 30 minutes
- 3 to 4: 45 minutes
- 4 to 5: 1 hour
Some kids will fall asleep during quiet time. That might be okay with you. As long as naps don’t impact bedtime or night sleep, napping some days is fine. However, if napping takes away from your child getting at least 10 hours of sleep overnight, try to keep them awake during quiet time.
To stop your child from sleeping at quiet time, move it up earlier in the day for a while. You can move it back to the afternoon once they have entirely stopped napping.
Handling Preschool Nap Time
Preschools may be required by law to offer an hour of daytime sleep. Since many kids will drop naps before reaching age 5, this can lead to a host of issues. Some kids just can’t sleep during nap time. Others will sleep, but this might have a negative impact on their nighttime sleep.
A good preschool will understand that some of their little ones are done with naps. They may be able to offer a quiet time in a separate room. If anything, they can give each kid some books and soft toys and let them lie on their nap map quietly through nap time.
It may be a little more complicated if your child will nap, but then they are up until 10pm. Talk to your child’s daycare provider about this. They may be able to have your child do their rest time a little earlier if they have a younger group doing two naps. Or they may have other creative solutions. Ultimately, your kid might just nap at school and then have a period of quiet play time in their room before going to sleep at night.
Did you find this helpful? To gain more knowledge about toddler sleep schedules, read about our Simple Steps to Ending Toddler Bedtime Struggles!