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When Should a Toddler Stop Napping – an Expert Weighs in

When should your toddler give up their nap? Find out what a sleep consultant says the signs are to look for! Parenting toddlers, toddler sleep, toddler isn't napping, nap tips, sleep tips

When should you give up your toddler’s nap? Read a sleep expert’s insights and signs your toddler is ready to stop napping.

When my textbook sleeper began taking longer and longer and longer to fall asleep at nap time, I persisted with iron-clad determination.

She would sleep.

I had worked so hard to get my then 18-month-old and two-and-a-half-year-old to nap at the same time.

My toddlers’ nap time was my refuel time. I needed both toddlers to nap.

I could eat lunch uninterrupted, wash the floors, or nap with them. My son was a terrible sleeper and so I didn’t want to give up the only time I could get some R&R.

I remained hopeful that maybe there was research to suggest that kids needed to nap until at least grade school, if not longer…

Related reading: 15+ Calming Toddler Activities For When Your Child No Longer Naps

After way too long of desperately trying to get her to sleep, and after a few missed naps and a grouchy girl, I messaged one of my good friends. Chelsea is a Certified Sleep Sense Consultant. I messaged her in the hopes that she could give me a few insightful tips to get my toddler’s naps back.

What I got back was that it was very clear at a few months shy of three, my little girl was ready to give them up. Nevertheless, I had to ask Chelsea, ‘If she’s ready, why is she so temperamental without one?’ Chelsea assured me this was normal, and to facilitate quiet downtime with a carb-rich snack such as fruit or bread to give her energy.

Related reading: Why you shouldn’t punish tantrums and what to do instead

So, When Should Your Toddler Stop Napping? A Sleep Consultant Weighs In

It’s a question I am asked often, ‘Is my toddler ready to stop napping?‘ I know they want to hear a ‘No’ from me. Many parents, myself included, enjoy the 2-hour break when their toddler snoozes away. They can get things done. But we can’t deny the signs that our toddler is ready to stop napping. – Chelsea, the sleep consultant

There are two signs to look for when decided your toddler is ready to stop napping.

Your toddler will let you know when they are ready to drop naptime in their schedules. You need to be on the lookout for the following signs:

When Do Kids Stop Napping: Sign Number 1

The first is that they will spend their entire naptime playing, giggling, talking to their toys. Basically, your toddler is doing their utmost to forgo going to sleep. Even if this only happens a couple of times a week, this counts as a sign.

When Do Kids Stop Napping: Sign Number 2

The second sign to look for is your child delaying bedtime. Your child will nap readily, but won’t go to bed at a proper bedtime. Chelsea’s advice is that if you notice this starts to happen, wait about a week. Avoiding bedtime could be a temporary phase. But, if your child is at least two-and-a-half-years-old and showing these signs fairly consistently, it’s time to pull the nap altogether. Your child should get 11-12 hours of consolidated sleep each night. It is much better to have this than two hours during the day and 9 or 10 hours at nighttime.
Making this change is a big adjustment for your toddler and it as long as four to six weeks for their little body to adjust. It is important to stay consistent with them. Waffling between naps and no naps will be harder on their body and will not allow their internal clock to normalise. Chelsea suggests you replace their normal nap-time with a minimum of 30 minutes of quiet time. One suggestion she has is to create a quiet time bin with special activities such as colouring books, puzzles, and stickers. During this time, offer your child a snack with natural sugar such as fruit. It’s also a good idea to move bedtime as early as 6pm until their body has adjusted.
bedtime story with mother and child
When my daughter stopped napping, it took time but we got into a new routine. And I have to say, our new normal has been quite nice. We have used the time to do activities that her brother is too young to do. Having that quality one-on-one time has brought out the absolute best in my little girl!

What does a Toddler Schedule Look Like?

Every toddler is unique, and their schedules may vary. However, consistency and balance are key to your little one’s daily routine. Their day typically revolves around their need for rest, play, and meals.

A Day in a Toddler’s Life

Most toddlers aged 1 to 3 years still benefit from daytime sleep, usually lasting one to three hours. This nap can help your child recharge their energy and enthusiastically continue their day. After waking up, they’re ready for active playtime, exploring the world around them and engaging in creative activities.

Mealtimes are also crucial, with regular breakfast, lunch, and snacks to satisfy those tiny tummies. Naps may gradually decrease as they grow older. Paying attention to your toddler’s cues can help you discern if they’re getting too much sleep or too little.

Lastly, establishing a bedtime routine can help ensure your kids will fall asleep with minimal or no struggles (yay!) at all. If your kids fall into a sleep regression, don’t worry. You can manage it using these hacks.

Here’s a Toddler Schedule You Can Try

Infographic on a sample toddler schedule

Getting Ready for an Active Mornings

7:00 AM – Wake Up: Greet the day with a smile! Start with a cuddle and a diaper change. Then, it’s breakfast time.

8:00 AM – Playtime: Engage in creative play, such as building blocks, coloring, or reading books. This period is an excellent opportunity for learning and bonding with your little one.

10:00 AM – Snack Time: Offer a healthy snack to keep their energy up. Fresh fruits, yogurt, or a small sandwich are great options.

11:00 AM – Outdoor Play: Head outside for fresh air and physical activity. Whether it’s a park visit or a neighborhood walk, toddlers thrive on exploration and play.

Nourishing Meals and Recharging Naps

12:30 PM – Lunch: Recharge with a nutritious lunch. Include vegetables, grains, and a protein source like chicken or beans.

1:30 PM – Nap Time: It’s time for a nap. Most toddlers need a nap that lasts 1 to 3 hours. Make sure the sleep environment is cozy and conducive to rest.

3:30 PM – Wake Up: Gently wake your toddler up if needed. Have a small snack, like a piece of fruit, to wake them up entirely.

4:00 PM – Playtime: Continue with more play and interactive activities. Building social skills and imagination is essential during this time.

6:00 PM – Dinner: Enjoy a family dinner together. Offer a well-balanced meal with plenty of love and conversation.

7:00 PM – Wind-Down Time: Start winding down with a warm bath and a calming nighttime routine. It can include reading a story or singing a lullaby.

7:30 PM – Bedtime: It’s time to tuck your toddler in for the night. Ensure their sleep environment is safe and comfortable, and wish them sweet dreams.

Remember, this is just a sample toddler schedule, and your child’s needs and preferences may vary. It’s best to create a routine that works for both of you, providing a balance of activities, nutrition, and rest to support healthy development.

How Much Sleep Does My Toddler Need?

Navigating toddler slumber is quite tricky. Parents often ponder the age-old question: How much sleep does their little one need? Ideally, toddlers aged 1 to 3 find the sweet spot of 11 to 14 hours of restorative sleep per day.

Why is 11-14 hours of Sleep the Magic Number?

The recommended 11 to 14 hours of slumber for toddlers is grounded in extensive research. It highlights sleep’s crucial role in the child’s physical, cognitive, and emotional development. Numerous studies emphasize the impact of adequate sleep on various aspects of a toddler’s well-being.

toddler sleeping

Science Has Spoken: Toddlers Need More Sleep

The journal Sleep Health published a study that underscores the importance of sufficient sleep in toddlers for optimal daytime functioning, including improved attention, memory, and emotional regulation (Walker, 2017). Another study in the journal Pediatrics shows the link between sleep duration and cognitive development, emphasizing that shorter sleep duration in toddlers is associated with lower cognitive scores (Liu et al., 2015).

Additionally, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) supports the idea that adequate sleep is essential for overall health and well-being in young children. According to the AAP’s guidelines, toddlers aged 1 to 2 should aim for 11 to 14 hours of sleep per 24 hours, and those aged 3 to 5 should target 10 to 13 hours (Hirshkowitz et al., 2015).

Give Toddlers the Sleep They Need!

Studies say 11 to 14 hours of sleep a day for toddlers sets the stage for brainpower and emotional well-being. So, here’s the plan: stick to a cozy bedtime routine, make sure your little one gets enough shut-eye, and pay attention to what works for them. By doing this, we’re building an environment where toddlers can grow and flourish.

  1. It’s really hard when kids drop their nap. Both my kids dropped theirs before three but it was good because otherwise they would stay up way too late. This is great advice.

    1. It is hard! It’s a part of parenting I would have been happier holding on to for about a decade or so 😛 Same thing happened with my daughter, she would nap but hen go to bed at 9:30!!! It’s a better balance now. Thanks for sharing your own experience, Melissa!

  2. We are in your same boat with the nap time situation. I don’t want to let it go. But the boy is starting to fight back. If he does nap during the day, it is harder and harder to put him down at night time, and he’s approaching the two and a half age. I’m so glad and thankful to read this. We kinda have been struggling with what to do.

  3. My kids never napped. When my son was younger they would put him in the age above his during nap time since he would wake up all the other kids trying to ‘whisper’ talk to the teachers. hahaha

  4. I’m so glad I read this! To be honest, I really didn’t want to because I am not ready for my oldest to drop her nap. When I first started reading, I was able to come around. Maybe it would be cool to have some extra one on one time with my girl again. But by the end, I think it’s clear, she is not ready to give them up yet (phew!!). But she might be ready in a few months, and when she is, I’ll embrace it. 🙂

  5. NEVER! haha My son will be two in August. I know the time will eventually come when he needs to drop his nap, but I’m not ready for it. Thanks for sharing these signs to look for though.

  6. What about preschool? Some preschools give them naps if they stay in the afternoon. Mine took naps until they were 4 or 5. It depended on the child.

    1. Thanks so much for writing and commenting. These are markers to indicate a child is ready to give up their nap. The markers are meant for 2.5 on but it doesn’t mean at 2.5 they’re done, it just means when they hit 2.5 and beyond and start to show these signs they’re done. My daughter’s school facilitates naps but it’s just meant as quiet restful time as the majority at age four have outgrown theirs. For the ones who haven’t, they can sleep.

  7. My girl is not 20months old yet, but her sleep schedule is 9,5 hours per night and ~2h per day. She doesn`t want to go to sleep during the naptime lately. But she falls asleep within 10 minutes. Her nighttime sleep seems really short. Is it possible, that it really would be better at this age to take away her nap time, so she gets 12 hours of consolidated sleep even before she is two years old? (+we`ll have a baby boy by the time she is two… I bet he`ll wake her up, even if she tries to nap, cause her sleep is not that tight during the day time)

  8. Wow my son is 4 1/2 and still naps u m trying to stop the naps but he end up falling a sleep by himself in the couch or the carpet!!! I m trying this I hope it works!

  9. Here is where I am stuck. My son is 3 and just wont nap. I get that at this age they can give it up, but there is no room in our day to adjust for an earlier bed time or a later wake up. He is so cranky in the morning, and there has been a very negative change in his behavior. Im just stuck!

  10. Hi

    My son is 3 and naps consistently for about an hour problem is he went fall asleep before 8 and only sleep 9.5 to 10 hours for the most what should I do? Please advise

  11. Hi, thanks for the advice. My oldest napped consistently til 5 and still slept 12 hours at night but my second son doesn’t seem to require as much sleep. He is only slerping 8-9 hours at night regardless of bedtime (between 7:30 and 9; we would prefer the former). So, some days he is awake at 4:30 am and ready to get up for the day. He naps 2 hours in the aftetnoon, so I am guessing he needs to give up naps but please weigh-in. Thank you!

    1. Oh my goodness, that can’t be easy. I really recommend The No Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and Preschoolers. He likely does need to give up naps though. Some children give up naps as early as 18 months and some as late as 5 as you said. I hope the book helps. I found it so insightful.

  12. What if my son just turned 2 and a) won’t nap, either yells or plays the entire time we try. And b) if he does nap, even to just fall asleep in the car, he won’t go to bed until 10, 11 or even later. He sleep 12 to 13 hours a night when he gets to bed at a decent time.

    I know it’s signs of dropping his nap, but also could be the 2 year regression thing. So we keep trying For a month now. So here I sit, trying to calm and get to sleep a crazy 2 year old who keeps taking his clothes off and laughing and playing and we are approaching 10pm.

    Just came across this article as I was googling by night light and saw some great replies so I thought I would comment. Thank you for the article.

  13. My daughter is right At 2.5 and has started not wanting to nap. She even tells me “but I don’t want to take a nap.” 😳 she’s started playing with her toys and a few times over the last couple of weeks I have just let her play. Then when bedtime rolls around she starts telling everyone goodnight on her own. We just started potty training a week ago too and it’s going great. Not sure if we should drop the nap so she’ll go to bed earlier while we are potty training. Seems like a lot at once.

  14. I came across this site in desperate search for any help. My son is 4.5 and has always needed naps. He is transitioning to kindergarten where they do not nap and it has been tough. He is showing signs of crankiness, personality shifts, and increasing aggression which I believe are all due to lack of sleep. I commute far for work so drop offs at school must be around 7-730 and pick ups are at 5:30 so with dinner the earliest I can try to get him I to bed is 8 if I am lucky to be on top of a schedule. I am at a lost for what to help with this transition.

    1. This is exactly our situation, except that our almost 5 year old is in Pre-K 4 due to a late birthday, so he still gets a 1 hour nap at school. On the weekends he could nap up to 3 hours and still go to bed 8/8:30. We have a 2yo as well, who naps at the same time at home on the weekends. 4yo gets to school by 7:45am and pickup is after work at 5:45pm, home by 6:45 and hope to get both kids to bed by 8:30. More often than not, 4yo gets to bed closer to 9pm and I wake him up at 6am.

      I think he still needs naps as he tends to get cranky and unruly if he doesn’t get a nap, and we’re also dealing with aggressive behavior at school, but not at home.

  15. My son is about a month away from being two, and has started showing all these signs. So, I’m guessing hes probably ready to let go of the naps, he usually sleeps from about 7:30pm to roughly 7:30 am and has since he was about 6 to 8 months old, always been a good night time sleeper. It was obvious enough when it was time to dump the morning nap, guess it’s just as apparent, that the afternoon nap is a thing of the past too. I definitely don’t need the fight in the evening for bed time that’s for sure, thank you!!!

  16. My son is only 20months and starting refusing his nap twice this week at home (but did nap at childcare). It seems way to young to drop his nap right?! Any tips on how to get back the nap?

  17. My son has been fighting bedtime for the last month. He’s 18 months, and I’m pregnant (and exhausted). He’s usually a great overnight sleeper of 10-12 hours but never great on naps. He dropped to 2 naps at 6 months and 1 nap at 9 months. I’m dreading stopping this nap as it makes driving anywhere difficult (live in the country and he falls asleep in the car) but with a forced nap at 12 or 2ish he wakes grumpy and then refuses to go to sleep until 9.30-10pm.

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