Sleep & Your Preschooler: Dropping the Nap

Sleep & Your Preschooler: Dropping the Nap

Could it be so? Is it time?

Sometime between 14 and 18 months, your toddler will start to only nap once a day. (Some, like mine, sooner even!) At around 3 years old your child will likely stop napping completely. This can vary greatly though, from child to child. Some are ready to stop napping closer to 2 1/2 and others are not ready until they are well over 3.

So, how do you know when they are ready to stop napping? And no, I’m not talking about when you are ready. If that was the case, all our kids would be napping 3 hours a day until they were in Junior High!

Although there will be less “downtime” for parents and care providers, the good news is that for the first time in years you won’t have to schedule activities around nap times and can spend the day at the beach, a cook-out, or a family gathering without having to rush home for nap time or dealing with trying to nap somewhere other than home.

Here is how to tell when your child is ready…

It begins to take them a very long time to fall asleep.

If your child is in bed playing, chatting, or fussing for a long time before falling asleep, he or she may not actually need to sleep. Instead, think about starting a daily quiet time (more about that later this week, in a blog about HOW to transition away from napping).

Nap-time becomes a huge battle.

This could be in the form of verbally telling you he or she doesn’t want to take a nap, outright refusing/tantruming, or constantly getting out of bed. In any case, this is  your child making it clear that he or she does not want to nap anymore.

Your child has a good disposition and is in a mostly consistent good mood all day long.

(when a nap is missed)

If your child demonstrates that they can make it from morning until bedtime without becoming overly cranky, fussy, or miserable, they may no longer need a daily nap. If they are having meltdowns all afternoon and evening, this is a sign they are not ready to go without. Keep in mind that this is different too, based on how active their day is. If you have been on the go all day or had swimming lessons, etc. then even a 4 or 5-year-old is likely to snooze on the way home.

When your child does take a nap, bedtime becomes more difficult.

Normally adequate naps can help with making bedtime a restful and calm period, where children haven’t become overtired and we don’t worry about whether they have had too much sleep through the day. For infants and toddlers, my experience is that daytime sleep will not negatively impact bedtime unless the child has slept too near bedtime.

For a preschooler though, it can be a little different. If bedtime becomes a lengthy process with difficulty falling asleep or your child is waking up much earlier in the morning, napping may not be working for your child anymore.

Your child doesn’t sleep poorly at night, when a nap is missed.

If you begin to notice that your child still sleeps well at night sans nap (and without multiple wake-ups, etc.) then this is a sign too, that they might be ready to handle life without every day naps.
Keep in mind that even non-nappers will still need to occasional nap!

In the next blog, we’ll touch on the steps to take to actually eliminate this nap, if you think it’s time!

Live Well!