Is my almost-three-year-old ready to stop napping?

He hates naps, he won’t nap, he refuses to nap – but is it possible that Baby can’t nap? Parents and caregivers know that naptime can’t last forever, but figuring out whether it’s actually time to let go of this part of the daily routine can be tricky.

The truth is that about half of all toddlers stop napping by the time they’re four years old, and by age five, 70% of toddlers will be as done with napping as they are with their very first pair of baby socks – the ones that might not fit over their toes by the time they hit five years old. This doesn’t necessarily mean that toddlers are ready to stop napping as soon as they say they are – most toddlers hit the point when they don’t want to nap a lot sooner than the point where they’re actually ready to stop.

How do you know if he’s actually ready?

One of the best ways to figure out whether a toddler is ready to drop a nap – if he seems like he really might be and is rather happy and energetic when naptime rolls around – is just to let him try it. There’s no rule that says that once you get started helping Baby readjust his sleep-schedule, you have to see it through. If he seems pretty fine and only starts to get over-tired close to bedtime, then he may be right – he may actually be ready to drop his nap.

On the other hand, if he is a cranky, exhausted mess by mid-afternoon, he should probably get his siesta back the next day. Even if he holds it together pretty well and won’t admit that he’s tired, if he’s showing other signs of tiredness – like rubbing his eyes or acting irritable – he may still need a little daytime sleep.

It may take a few days for you to figure out what Baby’s sleep needs are at this point, and keeping wake-up and bedtime schedules consistent can help you know if he truly still needs naps and isn’t just reacting to variety in his sleep schedule. This will be easier if the rest of his life follows a predictable schedule too, including meals, snacks, possibly outside versus inside time, as well as sleeping and waking up.

If, in the end, you decide that he does still need to nap even though he&;s still resisting, you may find that he responds better to a long wind-down, like a mid-day version of his bedtime routine.

How to handle dropping a nap

One important thing to keep in mind when Baby waves goodbye to his regular naptime is that it isn’t all-or-nothing. A toddler who’s ready to stop having regular naps still might need one after a big day, or even once or twice a week on days that feel busy or overwhelming. And if it starts to seem like dropping his nap isn’t working for he, he can always get back into the nap-habit.

If Baby stops napping, he needs to make up some of the lost sleep-time at some point – getting the right amount of sleep for their age-range is important for all toddlers and children, and it’s been shown to improve their attention, behavior, learning, memory, emotional regulation, quality of life, and mental and physical health. One easy way to make up a little of that sleep is to move his bedtime a little earlier, especially if he has to get up at a specific time every morning.

Giving up naptime doesn’t have to mean a full day of non-stop action either. Making the time that used to be for his nap into a regular “rest” time can be a great way for both of you to slow down and collect yourselves in the middle of the day. And if he does happen to be tired enough to take a nap on some days, quiet time or rest time is a great built-in time for it.

When not wanting to becomes being ready to stop

At a certain point, if your toddler is resistant enough to napping, it doesn’t matter if he could still benefit from a couple more hours of shut-eye in the afternoon – the struggle to get him to take naps stops being worth it. In these cases, it can be helpful to – much like when a toddler is ready to stop napping – go ahead and move his bedtime earlier to make up the difference. Not only could he still use the extra sleep, but who knows? If you present that to him as his option, he could decide that dropping his naptime before he’s ready isn’t worth the trade-off. It’s a long-shot, but you never know. 

  • “American Academy of Pediatrics Supports Childhood Sleep Guidelines.” American Academy of Pediatrics. American Academy of Pediatrics, June 13 2016. Retrieved September 29 2017.
  • “Healthy Sleep Habits: How Many Hours Does Your Child Need?” Healthy Children. American Academy of Pediatrics, March 23 2017. Retrieved September 29 2017.
  • “Is your child ready to stop napping?” Sleep.Org. National Sleep Foundation. Retrieved September 29 2017.
  • “When should kids stop napping?” Sleep.Org. National Sleep Foundation. Retrieved September 29 2017. 

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