Lifestyle
Lifestyle

When Do Kids Stop Napping?

Written by: Lana Adler

Updated March 12, 2021

 

Naps are an important part of life for your toddler, contributing to learning and memory (1) and possibly helping children build vocabulary (2). They're also a precious time for parents to get chores done or relax. Yet there comes a day when your toddler will outgrow their nap. Paying attention to a few sleep cues can help you know when your child is ready for this milestone.

When Do Toddlers Stop Napping?

Between the ages of 2 and 5 years (3), children's naptimes gradually get shorter and eventually disappear altogether. Experts agree it's impossible to state the age at which toddlers should stop napping, as every child is different.

Around 18 months (4) of age, most toddlers go from two naps to one, with naps getting progressively shorter. From this point on, it's common for different children of the same age to have varied napping habits. Cultural expectations, daycare schedules, parental preferences, and other factors may all play a role (5) in when your toddler stops napping. However, the majority of children stop napping by the time they are 5 years old (6).

How Do You Know If a Child Is Ready to Stop Napping?

At first glance, a tired toddler can look like a very active toddler, which makes it difficult to know for sure if your toddler is ready to give up their afternoon nap. If your toddler is nearing the age where they might be ready to stop napping, monitor their behavior for a few weeks and see which category they fall into:

Your Toddler May Still Need a Nap If... Your Toddler May No Longer Need a Nap If...
  • They are grumpy (7) or hyperactive when they skip a nap
  • They show signs of sleepiness such as yawning or rubbing their eyes
  • They sleep better at night if they've had a nap that day
  • They nod off easily during monotonous activities
  • They are more restless (8) than usual, and they have trouble falling asleep at naptime
  • They take longer to fall asleep at night or they wake up earlier in the morning if they've had a nap that day

Some toddlers may resist naptime because they don't want to miss out on anything, especially if other siblings are still awake. Before phasing out naps, try establishing a relaxing pre-nap routine and a calm bedroom environment. If they're still not drifting off, it could help to look at eliminating the nap.

How Do You Help Your Toddler Stop Napping?

When phasing out naptime for your toddler, it's best to do it gradually. Try keeping the same schedule, but when you put them down for a nap, offer them the option to read, color, or do another quiet activity. Many daycare centers are flexible about allowing toddlers to stay awake during naptime, provided they are quiet and calm.

During this transition, some toddlers may still occasionally fall asleep at naptime. If they consistently fall asleep at naptime, you could look at reinstating the daily nap. If you're not sure whether your toddler should still be napping, try moving the nap earlier in the day and making it shorter to see if this helps them sleep longer at night.

It's natural to compare your toddler to other little ones, but the reality is that every child will have different sleep needs at this age. If you're concerned about your toddler's sleep patterns or you're unsure whether to forego the nap, the best thing to do is to consult your child’s pediatrician.

What Can You Expect Once Your Child Stops Napping?

As you eliminate napping, your child should start sleeping longer at night. Toddlers need between 11 and 14 hours of sleep, while preschoolers need 10 to 13 hours of sleep (9) per 24-hour period. Once they're no longer napping, you'll have to move their bedtime earlier so they don't go short on sleep. Keeping a consistent bedtime routine and being proactive about sleep hygiene (10) can help your toddler adjust to their new schedule.

The end of naptime is a sad day for many parents, but it marks an exciting step on the way to becoming a big kid. Another perk of embarking on this new phase is that falling asleep at bedtime may become easier for a child who doesn’t nap, and this can lead to a better sleep for everyone in the household.

 

References

 

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29576733/ Accessed on March 11, 2021.
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27277329/ Accessed on March 11, 2021.
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21217402/ Accessed on March 11, 2021.
  4. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002392.htm Accessed on March 11, 2021.
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25915066/ Accessed on March 11, 2021.
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31862445/ Accessed on March 11, 2021.
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21988087/ Accessed on March 11, 2021.
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31118848/ Accessed on March 11, 2021.
  9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29073412/ Accessed on March 11, 2021.
  10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25598710/ Accessed on March 11, 2021.