Is your toddler dropping nap time? This is what to do.

There comes a time when your child graduates from a little thing called nap time. The age at which this happens can vary greatly, but 94% of children stop napping before the age of 5, and less than 2.5% of children stop napping prior to age 2. (1)  Is your toddler dropping nap time? Let’s talk about what you should do when this happens. 

(I know I panicked when this happened with my 2-year old. Read on to find out how we helped her to continue taking naps.)

What do you do if your toddler is dropping their nap?

First, you need to determine whether or not they are going through a nap strike, sometimes called a regression. This is when your child resists an age-appropriate nap. The cause of this is sometimes unclear, but sometimes developmental changes can trigger it, or big life changes (moving, getting a new sibling, etc.). 

Sometimes toddlers just have an extremely hard time napping because they are excited to learn and play. 

How do you know if your toddler is dropping nap-time for good, or if it is a strike? 

Pay attention to their behavior on the days that they don’t nap. Are they cranky? Do they act out more often or whine more and need more attention? This is all behavior that may indicate nap-time is still necessary. 

If you suspect that your toddler still needs a nap, then you should do the following to help them to nap better: 

Keep the same routine

You should still be going through the motions and routine of nap time. A good nap routine would be: eat lunch, go potty (if they’re potty trained), read books, turn off lights, then lay in bed.  

Make it positive/Call it “Quiet Time”

If they aren’t napping, make sure they know it’s okay if they don’t nap and don’t pressure them. How would you feel if someone told you when you had to sleep? I know I would feel pressured and probably wouldn’t be able to fall asleep.

Have active mornings

Make sure your toddler is getting enough physical play and exercise in the morning time. Get outside! This will help them get their energy out so they are tired by nap time.

Don’t overstimulate

Before nap time, make sure you have a little “buffer” period of a little quiet time before they sleep. Have them read books, draw, or engage in other quiet activities with you. 

Use white noise or a fan

This helps to drown out noise from elsewhere in the house so they don’t get excited about things that are going on without them!

Make it dark

Some people recommend keeping nap times in a bright area so they’re not dependent on having darkness to sleep. (Like if you need them to nap in the car, for instance.) 
For me personally, I like to keep the room dark because that is how I like to sleep, too–I think it is easier to sleep when it’s at least a little bit dark.  If possible, use blackout curtains or dark curtains to help darken the room. It may be harder for them to sleep during the day if too much sunlight is peeking in. 

Try different times

If they are not sleeping at noon, try a later nap time. This will be trial and error. Try not to put them down for a nap any later than 3pm because this may impede with their bedtime. 

If you think your toddler is dropping their nap, and they don’t need it anymore:

Consider this

They might not need a nap every day! 

I know, crazy right? Some toddlers do not nap every day, which can be frustrating because it creates uncertainty in  your schedule and can make for some cranky, sleepy days. 

Offer them a nap daily by keeping the naptime routine. Give them some quiet time to play in their room, and they’ll go to sleep if they need it. If they don’t, try again the next day. 

If you do give them time to have some independent play or quiet time in their room, this is healthy for you and healthy for them! Make sure they have a way to get you if they need you, or you can hear or see them on a baby monitor.

FAQ’s 

How do I know that my toddler is ready to stop napping?

Typically this can be determined by observing your child’s behavior throughout the day on days they don’t nap. Are they really cranky or glazed-over by bedtime?  Are they rubbing their eyes or showing other signs of drowsiness?  If this is happening, it is likely your toddler still needs their nap time. 

When do toddlers stop napping?

A 2020 study found that less than 2.5% of children stop napping prior to age 2, while 94% of children stop napping by age 5. In between ages 2-5, there is a large variation in number of children who still nap. (1)

How long should your toddler nap?

This may take some troubleshooting to find the answer to that question. Typically, toddlers nap anywhere from 1-3 hours. 

How do I know if my toddler needs a nap?

Read your toddler’s cues to see if they still need to nap. If they are falling asleep in the car, acting overtired and cranky, or drowsy on days they haven’t napped, they likely still need to napd

Final Thoughts

Toddlers are mysterious creatures. Hopefully this post helps you understand more about your toddler’s nap time and make sense of what to if they stop napping. 

Stay insightful, my friends!

Want to Read More about Toddlers? 

Check out my other posts on toddlers here>>

Resources: 

1. Staton, S., Rankin, P. S., Harding, M., Smith, S. S., Westwood, E., LeBourgeois, M. K., & Thorpe, K. J. (2020). Many naps, one nap, none: A systematic review and meta-analysis of napping patterns in children 0–12 years. Sleep medicine reviews, 50, 101247.

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