When do kids stop napping?
Ever heard the expression ‘all good things must come to an end’? It proves true in many cases, doesn’t it? Good books, beach vacations, chocolate cake… sooner or later, good things end.
We can add something else to this list – naps. It’s true! The naps that were (or perhaps are) a regular part of your baby’s life will gradually decrease. At some point in your little one’s young life, they will stop altogether.
But how do you know when your toddler is ready to drop the last nap and stop napping completely? We are answering that question in today’s article.
Today we’ll outline signs that your toddler is ready to stop napping, as well as share tips for how to handle this transition.
Nap Transitions: A Quick Glance
In the first 12 months of your baby’s life, nap transitions tend to happen fairly quickly. Your baby will transition from 5 or 6 naps each day to just 2 naps in their first year! Then, at some point between 15-18 months, your toddler will transition from 2 naps to just 1.
The age for kids to stop napping varies greatly. Some toddlers stop napping by age 2-3, while other kids will continue to need naps past age 5! However, the average age for kids to stop napping is sometime between age 3 and 4.
3 Signs Your Child is Ready to Stop Napping
Obviously, the window of time in which that transition from one nap to no naps can happen is a BIG window. So even though you know the averages, how can you be sure that your toddler is really ready to drop that last nap? What signs should you look for?
Taking Too Long to Fall Asleep at Naptime
Your toddler takes a long time to fall asleep at naptime, and generally does not seem tired when naptime rolls around. This is a classic sign that your toddler may be starting to transition away from her afternoon nap. Remember, as your toddler grows, she can gradually handle more awake time during the day. For example, let’s say your toddler normally wakes up at 7 a.m. While it may be true that, just a few weeks ago, she was tired and ready for a nap by 12:30 or 1, as she grows, she will be able to stay awake longer.
Taking Too Long to Fall Asleep at Bedtime
Your toddler takes a long time to fall asleep at bedtime, and generally does not seem tired when bedtime rolls around. This sign often goes hand-in-hand with the previous one. Let’s say that lately, your toddler has been resisting his afternoon nap, and instead of falling asleep when you lay him down at 1:30 p.m., he does not actually drift off to sleep until 2:30 p.m. This could mean that, instead of waking up at 3:00, he wakes up at 4:00 (or perhaps even later). The problem here is that this later wake-up time will almost surely translate into problems at bedtime.
Of course, even toddlers who nap at their normal times may go on to put up a fight at bedtime. Why? Again, now that your toddler is older, he can handle more awake time. So even his normal nap will eventually be too much afternoon sleep, and it will begin to impact bedtime.
Your toddler skips the afternoon nap entirely, but does not show any negative side effects. If your toddler sometimes skips her nap altogether but seems fine (no crankiness, does not seem exhausted by early evening, can go to bed at a reasonable time, etc.), this is a good sign that she is ready to transition away from her afternoon nap.
“When my eldest was 2 1/2 years old, he would take his normal nap, which had grown to a glorious 2 1/2 hours, but then he began to need 7 hours of awake time before bed! You can imagine that a 10 pm bedtime was practically past my bedtime! It pained me to cut his nap down and then cut it out completely. His brother, on the other hand, took naps on some days and not others for over a year, yet never reached a 10 pm bedtime (he got pretty close with 9:30, though). Keep in mind, though, that skipping a nap one day here or there is one thing, but every day is quite another.”
Here is something to keep in mind: the signs listed above can seem like problems that we parents need to solve. While this can certainly be true (especially for toddlers who have a history of nap issues, or problems sleeping through the night), these ‘issues’ can also be a sign that it’s time to cut out the afternoon nap. Sometimes, all parents need to do is phase the afternoon nap out of the schedule, and their toddlers’ sleep problems resolve themselves.
How to Help Your Kids Stop Napping
Nap transitions can be tricky. How do you handle the transition from one nap to none?
Well, for starters, keep in mind that it will look different from toddler to toddler. Some toddlers may be able to stop napping from day one, and will almost never need another afternoon nap. Other toddlers may make the transition more gradually.
When Kids Sometimes Nap and Sometimes Don’t
For instance, your toddler might go 3 days without an afternoon nap, but on day 4, he may need that nap. Believe it or not, my middle son did this for over a year! It started out as an every other day thing when he was about 3 years old. He’d nap one day but not the next. Then, over time, he had more and more no-nap days, until we were down to napping once a week, or once every 10 days. It wasn’t until he was about 4.5 years old that he was able to go weeks at a time without a nap.
When Kids Aren’t Tired
As you work through this transition, use your toddler’s cues as a guide. If your toddler genuinely does not seem tired at naptime, then don’t try to force a nap. Instead, have ‘rest time’ – put your toddler in bed with some books and small toys, and have her play quietly for an hour. This is a win for everyone: it gives you a break, it allows your toddler to entertain herself and rest, and, if your little one is tired, she has the quiet and relaxed environment she needs to lie down and sleep.
Adjusting Bedtime for When Kids Stop Napping
Keep in mind, too, that in the early stages of this nap transition, you may need to adjust bedtime a bit. Remember, overall sleep amounts tend to stay consistent for babies and toddlers.
2-year-olds need 12-14 hours of sleep each day, while 3 years olds need more like 11-13 hours.
So, if your toddler is no longer napping, he may need to go to bed a bit earlier (and he may wake a bit later in the morning) in order to compensate for that missing daytime sleep. This is normal. Or, if your toddler is like my middle son, on the days when he does nap, you may have to wake him from sleep. (This ensures that he doesn’t sleep too late into the evening.)
No Nap, Rest Time Toy Ideas
PRO TIP: Have several items that will live in a special “rest time only” box or closet. Before rest time, allow your toddler to choose one or two for that day. After rest time is over, have him or her put them back in place. These toys are only available for rest time. This will make rest time more appealing and fun and avoid your toddler from getting tired of them. Win, win!
Here are a few ideas for rest time toys:
Books – We spent SOOO many hours with this book! Look at all the animals! The book is so colorful that it keeps toddlers busy for long periods of time. There are other books in the series with different types of animals, colors, trucks, things that go, and numbers. Choose any topic and your toddler can marvel in whatever they might be interested in.
Hot Wheels – These Hot Wheels cars kept my boys occupied for hours. Of course, toddlers want to play with cars throughout the day so consider having specific cars just for rest time. Or, you can consider having a Hot Wheels Garage or other accessory that’s just for rest time. Just make sure they’re safe for your little one and it’s not something they need help with since the goal is independent play.
Puzzles – Melissa & Doug make some wonderful products. These puzzles are great to keep toddlers occupied and help them learn spatial recognition. There are many different themes for these puzzles so choose one that appeals to your toddler. They’re offered in dinosaur, marine life, farm themes, and more. The big pieces make it a lot easier for toddlers to do on their own.
Latch Board – Puzzles not your toddler’s thing? Try this Latches Board instead! You open the latch and see something inside. This will help your toddler work on their fine motor skills without even knowing it!
Duplo Legos – These large Legos are perfect for little hands! Let your toddler use their imagination during rest time and build to their heart’s content.
Little People – Many toddlers love to play with dolls and people so they can play make-believe. These Little People toys are great for all types of toddlers.