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When Do Toddlers Stop Napping?
Knowing when your child is ready to drop a nap can be difficult. Knowing when they are ready to drop the very last nap, can be a bit daunting.
Our children like to go through phases (sleep regressions) where they try and tell us they no longer need the nap. We have to be savvy enough parents to see through this and know whether or not they truly need a nap or not.
Click this link to read more about age specific sleep regressions.
The good news, is that there are some general guidelines that you can follow on when to drop the last nap.
There are also some telltale signs to keep in mind, and behaviors that your toddler will exhibit (or not) if they are ready to drop the nap, versus just being stubborn and not wanting to sleep.
Things to consider when determining if your child is ready to stop napping:
First and foremost is to consider your child’s age. A 2 year old is not ready to stop napping. Odds are, your 3 year old is not ready to stop napping, although can be ready at this age. Typically it is not until age 4 that your child is truly ready to drop the nap all together.
So, if your child is 2 and it appears that they are dropping their last nap of the day, rethink this and give it time. They are most likely in a sleep regression.
Click this link to see how we handled our 2.5 year old trying to drop her naps. (We powered through and she’s now 3.5 and still going strong with her naps a year later).
If your child is 3, and appears to be ready to drop naps, you have some investigation to do (see napping patterns and behavior below).
If your child is 4, and seemingly to the point of dropping naps, it’s still good to give it time and do some investigation on napping patterns and behaviors before you throw the nap out all together.
Often times, parents jump the gun and drop the nap too soon. If this happens, you’ll have a cranky toddler on your hands, so be careful and don’t be too quick to drop the nap!
2. Napping Patterns
Observe and take note of your child’s napping patterns. Do this for at least a solid two-three weeks so you have a good set of data to go on. Don’t make any sudden changes based on a sample set of a few days.
Is your child napping every day?
Are his/her naps getting consistently shorter?
Does your child nap every other day?
Maybe your child naps 3-4 times a week?
Is your child refusing to take naps every single day for a couple of weeks?
Other things to consider…
Is this a season that your child is not as physically active (winter)?
If you incorporate more physical activities into the day, is he/she napping better?
Is your child getting enough mental stimulation before nap time?
Is your child learning new skills?
Take a few weeks and really take note of your child’s behavior. They might go several days without napping, but then take a 3 hour nap 2 days in a row.
Children go through phases.
It could be due to lower physical activity in the winter months, lower mental stimulation in the summer months, he/she could be learning something new and really excited about it, or they could be going through something emotionally that is altering their desire to sleep for the time being.
These are all phases and things that can cause nap and sleep disruptions. But often they are not permanent.
And, if your child is taking any naps at all (even only 1 day per week), they still need their naps.
Consider the entire package before making a judgement call. Wait it out if in doubt.
A 3 year old not napping in the winter, might very well be napping in the summer.
Click here to try using our rest time tactic to keep the consistency of a “nap time”, if your toddler seems like he or she is not yet ready to drop the nap completely, but also not sleeping much during nap time.
A tired child is a cranky child. It is that simple. If removing naps has put your child in a funk, they were not ready. Get that nap back into routine asap.
They may end up napping only a few times per week. Or maybe their nap is short, but still there. That’s ok.
A well rested child is one that is happy and ready to learn. They behave MUCH better than a tired child.
4. Total Sleep
A child that is age 3-5, needs a total amount of sleep (in a 24 hour period), of 11-13 hours on average.
Keep in mind, that this is an average and all children are unique, so your 3 year old may need 14 hours of sleep, and your 5 year old might end up needing 10.
But most children in the 3-5 age range will fall into the 11-14 hours of sleep category. If your child gets that all at night, they may not need a nap (assuming their behavior stays fine without the nap).
If they can’t handle dropping a nap based on their behavior, you may need to push bedtime out to a later time, in order to be able to keep a nap in place.
Total sleep in a 24 hour period should be in this range, and it is up to you as the parent to figure out when and how it should happen.
Making the Decision To Keep Naps or Drop Naps
Don’t forget that this decision to drop naps should not be up to your child. You set the bedtime, you set the nap time (if they still have one).
You know best because, as the parent, you are looking at the whole picture and considering all of the factors.
If you have any doubt, don’t drop the nap! Put rules in place, implement a rest time as I discuss in this sleep regression post, and simply give it time.
See if it is a season that your child will outgrow. Give it a couple of months. That is an ok thing to do!
We’ve been through many phases where I thought Caroline was ready to drop her nap, and she always came back around to it.
I am one happy mama that I held onto the nap, because I’d have one cranky toddler otherwise!
Caroline is currently 3.5. There are many days she doesn’t nap. She’s still in bed, however, having rest time. Then, on the days she does nap, she takes long solid 3 hour naps.
If you are ready to drop the nap, check out this post on how to drop it and still hang on to rest time.
We’ve also made the choice to extend bedtime to 7:30/8pm (from her previous 7pm time). That one change helped a lot in keeping her napping, keeping her behavior on par, and in getting her to sleep faster at bedtime.
If you are interested in even more resources on this topic from my fellow Babywise Friendly Blog Network bloggers, please take a look at this post from Valerie called “How to know when your child is ready to stop napping“. Valerie goes into some of the same concepts I’ve discussed here.
And, if your child is ready to drop their last nap, Kimberly talks about how to make the transition to from nap time to rest time here, and Carrie talks about what rest time looks like in their household in this post.
I hope you join us for all of these amazing sleep topics. I will bring them all to you on the blog daily so you can find the links easily!
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