It’s probably a day that most toddler parents dread – the day your little one no longer naps. I always remember nap time as a few moments of peace for myself where I could either catch up on housework or even just sit and drink a cup of coffee while it was still not. Nap time was my sanity saver!
Dropping that last nap typically happens between 2 and a half and 3 years of age, but every toddler is different and some may continue to nap until 4 years old.
How to know it’s time to drop the nap?
First we need to know the difference of your toddler not wanting a nap vs not needing a nap. Just because they start refusing a nap doesn’t mean they don’t need it. If your toddler is a total disaster if they skip a nap and fall asleep in their dinner plate they’re probably not ready to drop that nap yet. It’s ok for kids this age to push the boundaries, so keep that in mind when you start thinking it might be time to drop that nap. Keeping an eye out for those signs of a tired child can help you figure out what’s happening and if it’s time.
Like when you dropped from two naps to one nap, you’re looking for similar ‘symptoms’ that indicate the it’s time to drop that nap for good. Bedtimes become more challenging, new night wakings, or your little one is getting up earlier in the morning then they were before. And they may also just not be tired at all when nap time rolls around.
These are all signs that they are needing more awake time and less sleep, which is a natural part of your little one growing up! You want these ‘symptoms’ to be happening consistently for 2 – 3 weeks with an absence of anything else like colds, travel, milestones, or teeth, before deciding it’s time to drop the nap.
If your toddler is suddenly having trouble sleeping and is still in the crib, try dropping the nap first if he’s showing the symptoms above instead of moving him to a bed. It’s best if you can wait until the age of 3 before moving from a crib to a bed, and rarely does making the move solve a sleep problem. Tackle one thing at a time, mama!
How to drop the nap?
Go slow. Your toddler may nap some days and not some others. Make sure you have lots of activities and snacks available to keep them occupied until bedtime. During the transition you may need to move bedtime earlier, closer to 6pm, until your toddler has adjusted to the no-nap routine. Kids between the ages of 2-3 still need 11 – 14 hours of sleep time in a full 24 hour period, so if they’re not napping they’ll need more time to sleep at night. Once they’ve adjusted to not napping, you can bring bedtime back to 7pm by moving bedtime back slowly. It’s also important to stick to your bedtime routine to help ease the transition,
You can also use a “quiet time” instead of nap time during the transition process to help you both adjust. Allow your toddler to pick a special ‘quiet time’ toy or book and let them hang out in their room. Keep the lights dim and noise low. If they sleep, they sleep. But if they do fall asleep, don’t let them nap too late in the day otherwise it’ll affect bedtime.
Like most things in relation to kids and sleep, it’s a learning process. It will take a few days to a couple weeks for your little one to adjust to a no-nap schedule.
Just because your toddler has dropped naps doesn’t mean they will never nap again – Illness, travel, big adventure days; can all tire out your little one. If they’re tired, let them nap, but again not too long so they won’t affect bedtime.
If you need help with your toddlers sleep, reach out to your local Mama Coach!