My preschooler stopped napping! What can I do to help him nap more often?
The first step is to think about whether or not your preschooler still needs a nap each day. Most children (in places like the United States, Australia, and United Kingdom) will stop napping between the ages of 3 and 5 years. In other words, it is completely normal both for one 3-year-old to no longer need a nap, and another 5-year-old to nap every day. These two children could even be from the same family! When children do give up their naps, often it happens gradually over a period of several months. Some parents will have their child lie down in bed for a certain period of time (for example, 30 minutes) and then get him up (“nap time is over!”) if he is still awake. If you give your child a rest opportunity each day and he does not always fall asleep, he may be transitioning out of napping.
Sometimes children will go through a period where they are not tired enough to nap earlier in the day but are ready to nap around 4:00 or 5:00 p.m.! Try not to let your child nap this late – a late nap may make it harder for your child to fall asleep at bedtime and can lead to bedtime problems. Going outside is a great way to keep your child awake, as both activity and sunlight prevent unwanted naps. On days when your child does not nap, it may be helpful to use an earlier bedtime. And be patient if he is really irritable and tired around 5pm – this will pass! In the meantime, you may want to keep things low key in the evening if possible, avoiding situations (such as grocery shopping) that may be hard for a sleepy and grumpy preschooler.
About Dr. Sarah Honaker