Toddler nap time – is this your moment of quiet, your moment to take that long bubble bath? Is it the time when you can get some jobs done (without a little helper)? Or perhaps the time when you take a nap yourself? Whatever you use your toddler’s nap times for, I think you’ll agree that they’re precious moments – so how long will they last? When do toddlers stop napping?
firstly - are naps important?
Night-time sleep is important, but daytime naps for little ones matter just as much. Naps give their bodies and minds time to rest and recharge. From a developmental perspective (language, cognitive and physical), sleep is extremely important, which is why newborns are napping machines as they go through big changes.
signs that your toddler is done with naps
There is a BIG window of time in which your little one will stop napping altogether and can be well before or after the averages. And if your child is anything like mine, they are far from average (more exceptional… I may be biased!) There are signs to look for though which can give you a nudge that your toddler is ready to stop napping.
• They tell you – OK, this may seem obvious but if they don’t seem tired when naptime comes, they may genuinely not need a nap
• It takes longer to get them to go to sleep than they actually nap for
• It takes a long time to fall asleep at bedtime - often linked to the last point - eventually napping later, your little one will wake later which has the knock-on effect of them not being tired at bedtime (and nobody wants this!)
• When they do miss a nap, they cope just fine and don’t seem exhausted or grumpy
• They wake early in the morning and don’t settle back to sleep
when do toddlers stop napping?
In general, most toddlers will stop needing their morning nap between one and two years old, but will still need an afternoon snooze. Try having this nap after lunch, then they should wake with lots of energy for playtime in the afternoon and be ready to sleep again at bedtime. It's likely that this nap will get shorter until, by three or four years old, they will drop this nap too. Of course, every child is different, and some will be far too busy and done with naps much earlier while others will continue to need naps for much longer.
the journey to no naps
To reach the no-nap stage, toddlers are likely to embark on a little journey through days of napping once, napping twice or not napping at all. You'll see them plodding along, struggling to stay awake at playtime, snoozing over their spaghetti at dinner and falling asleep the moment you click the car seat buckle. Finally, they’ll be ready to wave ‘bye bye’ to their last naps.
During this nap transition, you might have to adjust your little one’s bedtime (and possibly dinner time too) because, on the days when your toddler doesn’t nap, they will still need the same amount of sleep. Although you may be missing the nap time, you might find that what you miss in an afternoon nap, you gain in the evening with an early bedtime or in the morning as your non-napper sleeps a little later. *
Disclaimer* - there is no lie-in guarantee especially where toddlers are involved.
how to survive with no naps
Most children will take the final step to ‘no naps’ over a few weeks. Napping some days and not napping on others. These are my top tips on how to survive with no-nap toddlers.
Do as much as you can early in the day. Your little one may get a little grumpy in the afternoons (especially when they first give up their naps). A no-nap toddler can have the most disorganised parents (that’s me!), having dinner cooking in the slow-cooker at 9am and ready to walk to the park by 10!
When your toddler has stopped napping, you can encourage a quiet time in the afternoon. Turn down the lights, play some soft, soothing music, snuggle on the couch or even in bed with some quiet toys or a storybook. You should try and encourage quiet time for around 40 minutes to an hour but even if it’s short, a little rest will be good for both of you.
Why not keep a special DVD or a "shhh, secret" toy box filled with quiet toys, books and drawing just for quiet time? I found that scribblers were great. My little ones could get creative (quietly) and I didn’t have to worry about them getting any ideas about being the next Banksy with crayons on the bedroom walls.
If your no-napper is struggling with the idea of quiet time, a sleep trainer may help. These sleep trainer clocks are great for bedtimes but can be set with nap times too. They use colours and pictures to show little ones when to stay quietly in their room and when they can get up. Don’t forget to give them lots of praise when they stick to the quiet time schedule.
Life with a toddler is always a little unpredictable and likely to change completely in an instant (usually just when you think you have it all figured out). I hope you’ve found some useful tips to survive the nap transition. And if your child still naps, make the most of it! It’s over far too soon!