If you are into toddlerhood you may have a solid nap routine, yet you may be wondering when should your toddler drop their nap. I wish there was a specific age to answer this question but due to each individual toddler’s needs, this age will vary. Let me explain.
We often see toddlers napping until at least the age of two. However, we can see them hold onto their nap upwards of age 5, meaning toddlers will drop their nap somewhere between 2-5 years of age. Now that is quite the range we are looking at.
We know sleep is an integral part of brain growth and development, it is also pivotal for mood regulation. Children who lack proper sleep can face hurdles with emotional well-being and academic performance. Before you decide to drop your toddler’s nap, there should be some key factors you are seeing.
We also want to see the signs of readiness more often than not, meaning for a week or two before we decide it’s time to make the transition to no nap. Ideally, we should also do what we can to salvage a nap for as long as possible.
Families will see a shift in sleep needs around the age of 2 and often parents suspect their toddler no longer needs to nap at all. This is often a big mistake as we can run into a very irritable and overtired 2 year old without daytime sleep. Even at the age of 3, most toddlers truly require a daytime nap.
Usually we will see a reduction in the length of nap they take but it is important to maintain a mid day nap in order to provide their body with a rest period, as mentioned above, this is imperative for mood regulation and brain growth.
It is most common to see toddlers who turn into preschoolers drop their naps completely by the age of 5. Now you may be wondering what to do once your toddler no longer requires a daytime nap, the best course of action is to still provide a rest period.
Having a rest period does not equate to a toddler falling asleep as they would for nap time but allowing them to have a space and quiet time, often ranging from 30-60 minutes with them in their room. Ideally we would have lights off or low and decreasing stimulation.
This isn’t the time for screens or music but a time they can rest in their sleep space with a soft toy, book, or puzzle. This will help allow them to regulate their emotions and recharge for the remainder of the day.
When do toddlers stop napping: main factors that impact toddlers dropping their naps
- Attending Preschool
- Nighttime Sleep Routine
- Shift In Sleep Needs
It is important for parents to be in tune with their child’s needs when it comes to this transition. A nap is required in toddlerhood because many children can only tolerate being awake for so long before their body naturally requires sleep.
Usually see a 4.5-5 hour wake window before they are ready for a nap, followed by a 5-6 hour wake window leading up to bedtime.
Signs your toddler is ready to drop their nap
- Fighting the nap or missing it altogether, is a sign your toddler may simply need a wake window adjustment, meaning their nap time potentially needs to be pushed 15-30 minutes later. You would still end the nap at the same time they previously were waking. However, if your toddler is already down to a 1 hour nap and it’s taking them 30 minutes to fall asleep, this is a sign they may be ready to drop it altogether. In my professional opinion, I would still maintain a nap as short as 30-45 minutes vs getting rid of it completely.
- Your toddler is having early morning wakings all of a sudden, this can indicate two possibilities. The wake window before bed needs to be extended, which usually means cutting back the nap slightly by 15-30 minutes or they are oversleeping during the day. Again this often indicates a reduction in nap time.
- Your toddler is taking an excessively long time to fall asleep at bedtime, if so this is another indication they may need a reduction to their nap. Reducing the nap duration will automatically extend the period of time they are awake before bed or drop the nap altogether. I always caution parents to first reduce the amount of daytime sleep, and dwindle this down before getting rid of the nap in its entirety.
- Your toddler is handling longer wake windows while being in great spirits, this can be a sign they are naturally ready to stay up longer during the day. If you are dealing with afternoon meltdowns, tantrums, irritability and mood swings its likely your toddler still needs to hold onto some form of a nap for mood regulation.
- Your toddler is skipping their nap completely, yet they are in great spirits. You might be waiting for major meltdowns but your toddler goes about the day happy as can be, you may be bothered by the missed nap but they are not phased at all.
The amount of total sleep needed varies among toddlers, those between 12-14 months often require 13.5-14 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period, whereas a 15-18-month-old needs 13-13.5 hours of sleep, shifting down to 12-12.5 hours for the 19-24 month group.
Children aged 3-5 have a range of 10-13 hours of total sleep, either all obtained at night or during bedtime plus one shorter daytime nap.
Moving Towards No Nap
It would be best to do this in a gradual process vs cold turkey. It is also a great reminder that during any nap transition, somedays we will still need to offer a nap, and other days your toddler will do okay without one. I mentioned above the importance of replacing the nap with a period of rest time. This may be half hour past the usual nap time.
You don’t necessarily need to throw on PJs and white noise but you can have your little one dim the lights, pick out a stuffed animal or book and they can spend some time alone in their sleep space. This can be practiced as long as you think is necessary for your toddler.
The reason quiet time or a rest period is important, it helps them recharge for the remainder of the day but it also allows time for memory consolidation and an easier transition to bedtime later on.
If your toddler is napping well during the day, falling asleep easily at bedtime and sleeping through the night, there is no reason to make a change. Keep in mind, your toddler will naturally drop their nap as they get older. Ideally, you as the parent are preserving a daytime nap for as long as possible.
You continue to offer a nap even if this allots to a 45-60 minute nap. As long as the daytime nap has no negative impact on nighttime sleep, hold onto it for as long as possible.
A 30-45 minute nap can still do wonders in the mood department for your little one, instead of viewing this as too short or pointless, know that a cat nap can be the glue that holds the rest of the day together.
Why 5 years of age is often the final mark for dropping the nap
The reason we usually see children dropping the nap altogether at the age of 5 is due to the fact they need less daytime sleep in a 24 hour period and they are often within a school system where naps are not offered.
If you have a five year old and a busy weekend, having a quick cat nap during the day may be all they need to feel rejuvenated. This will always give you a break in your day to focus on yourself.
FAQs Regarding When Toddlers Stop Napping?
Question: Is it okay if my 2-year-old misses their nap?
Answer: If your 2 year old ends up striking nap time and misses it altogether, it would be highly encouraged you shift bedtime to be earlier than their usual time. Your 2 year old may protest nap time but developmentally they likely still require a nap to help avoid daytime meltdowns. The other option is offering a shorter nap 30-60 mins past their usual nap time.
Question: What to do if my 3-year-old refuses to nap?
Answer: Between the ages of 2-5, your child will naturally drop their nap altogether. If your 3-year-old has been on one nap for a while and the length of nap ranges between 45-60 minutes, they may be ready for a short 30-minute cap nap. I would offer a rest period instead of expecting them to fall asleep for their nap. Having a period of time to relax can help avoid or lessen extreme emotional meltdowns.
Question: When do toddlers no longer require a nap?
Answer: When toddlers are between 12-18 months we often see naps shift from 2 naps a day to 1 nap a day. The one nap is approximately 2-2.5 hours in length (on average). As your toddler matures, we see the length of nap decrease over time, eventually, they no longer nap at all. This often occurs by the age of 5 when children are in the school system.
You know your little one best, tune into their sleep signals, assess how they are handling their nap or resisting, as well as the process of nighttime sleep. Always check on their age and total sleep need requirements as this is the best guideline to use.
Dropping your little one’s nap is a huge developmental milestone, if you have held onto the nap as long as possible but recognize your child is showing multiple signs of readiness, you can go ahead and make the transition.
Never underestimate the power of a rest period, the entire family can benefit from this and as parents, we can all use a little break.
Read also: Sleep Regressions Explained
Kayla is a mama of two littles, each born during the Covid-19 pandemic. Prior to becoming a mom, she worked as a Registered Nurse for 12 years. Now as a Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant, she owns and runs Serenity Sleep Consulting full time.
After having her first baby, sleep deprivation hit hard. She was desperate for rest and knew she needed to focus on establishing a healthy sleep foundation. Kayla researched infant sleep and started to focus on what she likes to call Sleep Shaping. Her son went from waking every hour to sleeping 4-5 hour stretch, followed by 6-8 hours, and eventually 12 hours at 3 months of age. This method has turned into her signature service, it allows her to provide education and tools to help families with newborns. She also works with those who have babies 4 months upwards of 4-5 years.
We all function at our optimal level with a full night’s rest and Kayla loves to support parents in this journey!