When do Kids Stop Napping

How to Tell When Your Toddler's Nap Time is Truly Over

As with all early childhood milestones, the age at which kids stop taking a regular daily nap varies considerably from child to child.

As with all early childhood milestones, the age at which kids stop taking a regular daily nap varies considerably from child to child, with some cutting out naps as early as 2 and others continuing to take them after they turn 5. Adding to the uncertainty of this milestone is the fact that most children don't make the transition from daily naps to no naps smoothly or decisively, leaving parents unsure of the best schedule to implement or the most appropriate ways to keep their youngster well-rested. The transition is rarely without its struggles as both toddlers and parents adjust to a new stage, but with an informed and somewhat flexible approach, it need not be so difficult. Nor does it spell the end of quiet rest time altogether; instead, it's a progression into a new phase.

Average Age to Stop Napping

Every child is an individual with distinct needs who will meet all the expected milestones—including stopping daily naps—at her own pace. Most babies transition from two naps to one afternoon nap between 12 and 21 months. The afternoon nap, which typically ranges from one to three hours, is dropped anywhere between the ages of 3 and 4. Some children continue to nap for perhaps one hour a day even after they turn 5. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 50 percent of toddlers still take a regular afternoon nap at 4, with only 30 percent still napping at age 5.

Signs Your Kid's Ready to Stop Napping

Age alone is not enough of a factor to determine that your child is ready to stop napping. Instead, observe his behavior and mood concerning naps as he gets older. If your toddler continues to fall asleep easily at his regular nap time as well as bed time, then there's no reason to try to stop him from napping, even after he passes the average age to stop or the age that his siblings stopped. Signs that your child is ready to drop the nap include refusing to nap, fidgeting and restlessness at the usual nap time, and not seeming tired at nap time. On occasions when nap time is skipped, a child who is not ready to stop napping might be cranky or poorly behaved later in the day; conversely a child who might be ready to cut out naps will remain content long after the usual nap time has passed.

Tips for the Transition Period

As a parent, you probably know that most children thrive on consistent schedules. Unfortunately the usual sleep schedule goes out of the window when they are in the transition period between needing a daily nap and not needing one. If you've determined that your child is probably ready to drop her afternoon nap, prepare for some upheaval in your regular family schedule. Know that at first, your toddler will probably need a nap on some days and not on others, depending on her activity level, nighttime sleep quality and general mood. The following tips should help you navigate the time of transition:

  • Sometimes your toddler will fight taking a nap at first but end up taking one later than usual. If these late naps end less than four hours before bedtime, this can adversely effect the child's nighttime sleep. Consider substituting the nap with an earlier bedtime instead. 
  • During your toddler's usual nap time, insist on quiet time as a calming replacement for the nap. Encourage her to lie down, perhaps on her bed, and enjoy restful activities such as reading, coloring or chatting quietly with you.
  • On days during the transition period when your child resists falling asleep but you know she would benefit from a nap, try driving with her in the car or going for a walk in a stroller. Both encourage sleep. 

Daycare and Preschool Considerations

If your nap-resisting child is in daycare or preschool, it's advisable to discuss the issue with his care providers and teachers. Most group facilities have a regular nap time for all the children, and your child may be encouraged to continue to participate even after he has stopped napping at home. Ask what the options are for children who don't fall asleep. They might be expected to lie quietly or permitted to play while other children sleep. Express your preference, if you have one. You might also be able to get some great tips from your child's care giver or teacher and benefit from their expertise.

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