How do I help my toddler keep napping as he gets older?
Virtually all 2-year-olds and about 87% of 3-year-olds nap, while only about 8% of children still nap at age 5. A number of things influence the transition from a having a nap plus nighttime sleep, to nighttime sleep only. We know that a child’s biology and how quickly they are developing are related to when they give up naps. But, parents, family, and childcare/school also influence child napping. As a parent or caregiver, you can influence whether or not your child naps; but you can’t really control your child’s napping.
A few thoughts about napping and toddlers
First, it is important to remember that children who do not get enough sleep overall tend to be crankier during the day and may have other behavioral struggles. Surprisingly, when children are overtired they will also have problems settling at night. Overtired children may also resist a nap.
Is your child getting enough sleep?
Child’s Age Nighttime sleep Naps Total sleep
2 years 11 to 13 hours 1 to 3 hours 11 to 14 hours
3 years 11 to 13 hours 1 to 3 hours 10 to 13 hours
4 years 10 to 12 hours No nap or up 2.5 hours 10 to 13 hours
5 years 10 to 12 hours No nap or up 2.5 hours 10 to 13 hours
Second, if your child is ready to give up naps, requiring them to nap probably won’t be helpful. The opposite is also true. Trying to keep regular nappers from napping will probably backfire. Many parents of 2- or 3-year-olds try to cut out naps to help their child sleep better at night. Parents often think if their child needs more sleep, he will just sleep longer at night. This isn’t true. Young children need enough sleep both at night and during the day.
How can you tell if your child is ready to give up naps?
1) Your child is not napping on some days or does fine on those days that they miss their nap. If you cut out naps too soon your child may be overtired – and that can show in their daytime behavior.
2) Have a set nap or quiet time every day. Follow the “Keys for a good naptime.” You cannot make your child sleep at nap time, however you can set the stage for them to relax in an environment that supports sleep. If your child is a regular napper but does not nap on a given day, you can still insist on a quiet time that occurs when they would typically nap.
The following are clues your child could be ready to give up naps:
• They nap early in the afternoon (starting at around 1:00 p.m.) and then have trouble falling asleep at their typical bedtime.
• They are not cranky or irritable late in the day if they miss a nap.
• They start having a hard time lying quietly at nap time.
There is no one sure sign that a child is ready to give up naps. It may take weeks to months of napping on and off before your child stops napping altogether. They may have a few days with naps, then a few without – this is totally normal. This can certainly be a tough time for parents. Be as patient as you can.