You may be wondering if it is normal for your toddler to stop napping and you’re not alone.
Many parents are worried that this could indicate something wrong with their child, but the truth is there are many reasons why a toddler might stop napping.
One of these reasons could be because they have outgrown the need for a nap.
As children grow older, they start to develop more energy and don’t feel as tired in the morning or afternoon as they used to when they were younger children.
Another reason could be that the environment has changed where it no longer feels safe or comfortable enough for them to take a nap while at home independently without supervision.
This can happen if another sibling was born, or even just due to changes.
Sleep is essential to the well-being of children. Not only does rest support the overall health of the child, but it also affects a child’s mood and their ability to learn during the daytime.
A lack of sleep can have long-term impacts on a child’s future academic performance and emotional health.
As infants and children grow, the amount of daily sleep they need decreases. These sleep needs are initially distributed between naps and nighttime sleep, but at what age should kids stop napping?
The exact age varies among children, depending on factors such as attending preschool, maturity, and nighttime sleep habits.
At age three, almost all children still nap2 at least once per day. Sixty per cent of four-year-olds still nap.
However, by five years of age, most children no longer need naps, with less than 30% of children that age still taking them.
The number decreases even more by age six, were less than 10% of children nap.
Nearly all children stop napping by seven years of age. If your child is still napping regularly at age seven, consult your pediatrician to confirm no underlying sleep health concerns.
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Signs Your Child Is Ready to Stop Napping
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 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 wakes typically 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.
Of course, even toddlers who nap at their regular 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 regular 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 adverse side effects.
Suppose 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.). In that case, this is a good sign that she is ready to transition away from her afternoon nap.
They have a stable mood. Your child has a consistent personality from morning until bedtime, even on busy days.
Of course, most children have ups and downs throughout the day, but a child whose ready to ditch the naps is generally stable.
They don’t have meltdowns in the late afternoon when they miss a nap.
They experience trouble napping. When your child is put in bed for a nap, they rarely fall asleep.
They may also act fidgety and restless at naptime. (Note that if your child responds negatively to naps but still sleeps for an hour or longer, they’re probably not ready to ditch their midday slumber, says Pantley.)
Naps mess up their bedtime routine. When your child naps, they have a hard time going to sleep at their regular bedtime.
They may take a long time to fall asleep, or they could wake up too early.
Bedtime is generally easy without naps.
Even when your child doesn’t sleep during the day, they go to bed at a reasonable time and sleep well all night.
Your child doesn’t act tired throughout the day. Does your child doze off on short car rides after missing a nap?
Or do you notice yawning, eye rubbing, fidgeting, or antsy behaviour during the day? These are all signs your child might be overtired, and they probably still need naps.
They’re developing correctly. Your child learns new things quickly and has an appropriate attention span for their age.
They’re also typically healthy and don’t suffer from many colds or other ailments.
When Should Kids Stop Napping?
Because the age varies when children stop napping, parents need to be attentive to their child’s needs.
Generally speaking, kids should stop napping when they no longer need a nap to feel energised for a full day.
Many children will stop napping naturally. Several signs indicate a child is ready to stop taking naps:
They have difficulty falling asleep at nap time. Children who are no longer tired during the day — and who have a consistent mood during days without naps — may struggle to fall asleep when nap time.
For instance, children may play or sing while lying in bed or may not fall asleep. If a child is fussy during this time, it may indicate they still need to nap, but when the nap occurs, it may need to be adjusted.
They have difficulty falling asleep at night time. Napping during the day can delay your child’s ability to decline asleep, leaving them with less sleep overall.
The length of nap time can be reduced to help children become sleepy by bedtime. Avoid pushing your child’s sleep later.
Instead, monitor when the child is sleepy and put them down for bed at that time. In general, it is more advisable to shorten naps than push bedtimes later.
They are waking up early. Daytime napping when it is no longer needed may cause your child to be fully rested well before their morning wake-up time.
If your child still needs to nap but is waking early, try shortening their naps rather than eliminating the rest.
They don’t show signs of sleepiness on days without naps. If your child is not yawning or struggling to stay awake during the daytime and is not becoming cranky in the evening, she may be ready to stop taking naps.
They are no longer napping at all. During their scheduled nap time, they may continue to play or read without signs of sleepiness.
When some toddlers hit a certain age, daytime naps become the enemy. You might feel this is your child’s way of letting you know that they’re ready to stop napping.
But before you close the book on this chapter in their life, look for signs that indicate whether your child is ready to stop napping — emphasis on the “.”
The truth is, your child’s actions may speak much louder than their words. Even if they resist, naps may still be necessary if:
Your child is sticking with their daytime nap routine. Falling asleep on their own means your child needs the rest. Ending their nap too early might be met with resistance and a lot of fussing.
Your child’s attitude changes due to lack of sleep. A sleepy child can become irritable, hyperactive, or downright mean. Lack of sleep can affect trusted Source emotional responses. A significant attitude shift in the evenings can indicate that your child still needs shuteye during the day.
Your child shows signs of sleepiness. Even if your child doesn’t pass out in the afternoon, they may have symptoms of tiredness like persistent yawning, rubbing their eyes, or becoming less active.
But your child might be ready to skip naps if they’re not sleepy during the day or if naps (even those earlier in the day) make it harder for them to fall asleep at night. A telltale sign that your child is ready to drop naps is the ability to skip a rest without signs of crankiness or exhaustion.
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When Do Kids Still Need Naps?
Infants until one year of age will take naps 1–4 times per day. As the brain matures, fewer and fewer naps are required4.
By 18-24 months, children need only one nap each day. Children who take early afternoon naps for a set duration of fewer than 60 minutes 5have been observed sleeping well at night. However, naps should not be shortened if the child is sleeping well at bedtime.
There are a few clear signs that your child is not ready to stop napping. Kids whose behaviours shift negatively in the evenings—such as becoming more irritable or overtired—are probably not ready to stop sleeping.
A lack of sleep can negatively affect their emotions6. If your child struggles to stay awake during the daytime after a whole night of sleep, they likely still need a daily nap.
You might decrease the length of the nap to help them prepare for transitioning out of naptime habits.
Advice for Stopping Naps
Do you think your child is ready to stop taking naps? It’ll take some trial and error, but these tips can help the process go smoothly.
Encourage your child to replace their nap with “quiet time”—an hour or so when they look at a storybook, listen to soft music, or do some colouring.
This lets them recharge and relax on their own. To maintain consistency with quiet time, some experts recommend incorporating it into your daily schedule.
Don’t eliminate naps cold turkey.
Your child probably needs an adjustment period, and it’s lovely if they’d like to nap sometimes, says Pantley.
This transitional period could last weeks or months.
If your child becomes tired early at night, you might need to move up to bedtime.
See a doctor if you’re worried about your child’s napping schedule. Getting too much or too little sleep could indicate specific health problems.
How to Drop a Nap?
Dropping naps is a gradual process that starts with your toddler going from two naps to one down, and then, sometimes years after the shift from two to one rest, slowly decreasing the length of their one fur.
Children who no longer need a nap typically fall asleep faster at night and sleep through the night, making the bedtime routine a little easier on them.
But although some kids eventually wean themselves off naps, you can give your child a slight nudge.
While you shouldn’t eliminate naps cold turkey unless you want a cranky, grumpy little person on your hands, you can shave minutes off your child’s naps and wake them up sooner.
You can also try to drop one nap a week to get your body used to less daytime sleep.
Your child will slowly adjust to less sleep. But keep in mind that less sleep during the day means they may need more sleep earlier at night.
They likely will fall asleep earlier or may sleep later in the morning if allowed. So be prepared to move up the bedtime routine or adjust the morning schedule.
You can also help your child drop naps by avoiding afternoon activities that could cause drowsiness — at least until they break the habit. This includes long car rides and long periods of inactivity.
Keeping your toddler moving can keep them stimulated and awake. Be mindful that heavy lunches might also make your child lethargic and sleepy.
So opt for healthier, lighter lunches with plenty of vegetables and fresh fruit.
Benefits of Rest Time at Home and School
Even though your child may no longer need naps, they can still benefit from a bit of downtime each day.
Rest periods give your child’s body and mind an opportunity to relax and recharge. A “quiet time” routine also comes in handy if they’re in a school or daycare where naps are still part of the schedule.
Your child might not be required to fall asleep, but they might be required to lie on their cot quietly and not disturb other children.
To assist your child’s school or daycare, incorporate quiet time into your schedule at home, where your child lies down or sits with a picture book or a small stuffed animal or lovey.
The length of quiet time is up to your discretion and depends on your child. Just know that when they’re at school or daycare, the facility determines the rest time, and they’ll expect your child to comply.
When to See a Doctor?
Although children stop napping at different ages, you might have concerns about an older child who still needs a nap or a young child resisting a rest but still clearly needs the midday snooze.
When it comes to older children who are still napping, you probably have nothing to worry about, but it doesn’t hurt to talk with your pediatrician for peace of mind.
Different reasons might explain why an older child still naps. It can be as simple as going to bed too late and waking up too early. Or it could be due to:
- too much inactivity
- a sleep disorder
- a medical condition that causes fatigue
Either way, your doctor will work with you and your child to find answers.
If your child is resisting naps but still needs sleep, your doctor may be able to provide suggestions for what you can do to help them get more shuteye.
Or you may consider working with a sleep consultant, though their services can be expensive and unrealistic for many parents.
Your child may be resisting naps if they are concerned about missing out on something fun, are overtired, or even if they are having nightmares.
Here are some things you can do to try to help get the nap back on track:
- Create a calm environment in the 15 to 30 minutes before nap time.
- Avoid talking loudly near your child’s rest area. And if you have older children who are no longer napping, set them up with a quiet activity in another room, if possible. This can help keep your younger child from feeling like they are missing out on something.
- Look for signs that they’re ready for nap time. You may be missing their sleep window if their nap is too late. Alternatively, you may try to put them to bed too early, which can lead to resistance.
- Consider adjusting their bedtime routine, too. The time your child goes to bed at night can affect when they wake up in the morning. It can also affect their quality of sleep. If they are waking up early, they may need a nap earlier than you think. And if they aren’t getting good quality sleep at night, they may also be overly tired when nap time arrives.
- Feed them a healthy, balanced lunch, and avoid or reduce the sugar. Hunger can affect a child’s ability to take a nap.
How Do You Transition Kids Away from Naps?
Transitioning away from naps may take time. Rather than quitting naps altogether, replacing nap time with quiet time can allow children to choose whether they’d like to sleep or play quietly. Many daycares and preschools offer this quiet time for children.
Like nap time, quiet time should be structured in a specific location and set in a particular period.
If they are not napping, children should have a stimulating activity to sleep at night.
Offer your child the choice of quiet activities such as reading, putting together a puzzle, or colouring.
Whether sleeping or not, a period of rest can help with memory consolidation and recharging for the rest of the day.
Avoid replacing nap time with activities that induce drowsiness, such as driving or watching TV.
Parents should also avoid loud activities themselves to encourage the child to play quietly. Loud noises may cause the child to leave their quiet time.
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