When Should My Child Stop Napping?
Dropping the last nap most often occurs between 3 and 4 years old! For toddlers who have low sleep needs, they may drop it as early as 2 and half years old – but this is less common! At the other end of the spectrum, children with high sleep needs may not drop their nap until closer to five years old!
Bonus Tip: It's also common for this nap to return when you enter into the age of parenthood ;)
What are the signs that we need to drop the last nap?
You may see a few different signs! The most common sign is that your child is taking a long time to fall asleep at bedtime. I’m not just talking a little bit longer… I’m talking about not falling asleep until 10 or 11 o clock! LATE.
If this is not happening, then you might notice instead that your child takes a long time to fall asleep for their nap or skips their nap all together! Don’t get me wrong, nap strikes are COMMON in toddlerhood – don’t let a skipped nap here and there make you intentionally drop that nap. We want to wait until that nap is consistently skipped. If your child is skipping their nap most days out of the week for 2-3 weeks, then it may be time to make some adjustments!
WAIT, don’t just drop the nap cold turkey!
Dropping the nap is a BIG transition. Your child will be going from 5–6-hour wake windows to one long twelve-hour wake window! It’s a long stretch, and we don’t want to do it prematurely. Before you drop the nap all together, try these adjustments:
1. Move your daily wake time 30 minutes earlier. I know, no one WANTS to wake up earlier in the morning – but this can help to create a little more sleep pressure for their nap. If your child was waking up at 7:00 AM, try waking them up at 6:30 every day.
2. Cap their nap! This is where we will intentionally start waking your child up from their nap earlier. Reel in their nap length slowly and keep it there for a few days before reeling it in more! Follow these guidelines when capping their nap:
a. If your child has been napping for a full 3 hours, start waking them after 2 hours
b. If your child has been napping for 2 hours (ish) start waking them after an hour and 15 minutes or a hour and 30 minutes.
c. If your child has been napping for a hour and 30 minutes then try waking them after 45 minute.
3. Reduce screen time: It’s so easy to resort to more screen time, especially during the winter, but if your child is frequently being exposed to screens then it may be limiting their ability to sleep well. Try to reduce screen time during the day so that your child is not exposed to as much blue light, which can inhibit their melatonin production. Limiting screen time will also encourage them to be more physically and mentally active which can also lead to better zzz’s at night!
Start with every other day
You do not need to drop the last nap all at once, in fact, I don’t recommend it! Start by offering your nap every other day. Then you can gradually move to offering it every 3 days. There may be a period of time where you are simply going by your child’s cues. If they seem exhausted that day, or have had an overly active day then they may need a short nap.
On days you do offer a nap, cap the nap at a hour and a half and offer bedtime slightly later!
Implement Quiet Time
Just because your child is not sleeping during the day doesn’t mean that they can’t rest during the day. Replace your nap time with one hour of quiet time in your child’s room.
Quiet time can take some getting used to! Take some time to explain the rules to your little one. Don’t overwhelm them with toys, allow them to choose a few books and a couple toys to bring into their room. Using an Okay to Wake Clock or a visual timer (Both of these are Amazon Affiliate links) Can really help with boundary setting around quiet time.
Give YOURSELF time to adjust
By this time, you probably know that it can take your child some time to adjust to a new schedule – but what you may not consider is that this is also a big change for you too! Naps provide a nice breather in the middle of the day, and when that breather is gone, we can quickly become burnt out and overwhelmed.
If dropping the last nap has been overwhelming for you, I encourage you to become much more intentional with your self-care time. During quiet time, put down your phone. There is not a better time suck than doom scrolling on Tik Tok. Plan what you will do ahead of time, and DON’T do anything that you could do while your child is out of quiet time. For example, the dishes and laundry can be done while your child is up. Spend a few minutes actually doing something for you.
Change is hard at first, and I’m not saying that parenting will ever feel easy, but you will adapt and grow with the change. If it’s feeling hard now, just know that you WILL find your rhythm. It won’t always feel this hard.