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How to tell when your toddler is ready to stop napping

Signs Your Toddler Is Ready to Drop Their Nap

I don’t even want to say the words out loud, but I’m worried the time is coming. Emmy is almost ready to stop napping. I had started to see nap time wasn’t coming as easily as it used to and when it did happen, bed time seemed to get pushed back. 

I was hesitant to just drop the nap all together, not knowing for sure if we were ready or not. 

So like with ANY sleep related issues we face, I reached out to Becca from Little Z’s Sleep. Becca is literally a baby (and toddler) whisperer when it comes to all things sleep. I explained to her what was going on and she offered to send over some pointers. Here’s what she has to say about toddlers saying buh-bye to their nap time! 

P.s. If at the end of this post, you still feel like you need more help getting your toddler to sleep well, check out Becca’s sleep coaching services! I’ve heard nothing but AMAZING feedback from those who have worked with her. Here’s the link. 


Being the parent to a tired toddler is exhausting. But, BEING that tired toddler is even MORE exhausting.

Let that sink in!!

Tired toddlers are not exactly a joy to be around…but there does come a day when naps need to disappear, and you’re not loving the over-tired monster that is left behind! Never fear, I’m walking you through the process of dropping the nap for your toddler so we can get back to that happy kid we love!!

Typically children are ready to stop napping around 3 years old. However, I have worked with clients who were ready to ditch the nap around 2.5 years old. By 3 years old children really only need 12 hours of sleep, in a 24 hour period. Starting with these totals, I want you to think about your child’s sleep as a math equation.

Are they taking a 2 hour mid-day nap? Then they will only sleep 10 hours at night.

Have they refused their nap? Then they can be sleeping ALL night!

SAYING GOODBYE TO NAPS

Saying goodbye to naps is never a fun thing to talk through with parents. It’s a pretty sad day to lose that nice mid-day break!!

But, you will start to notice some of these signs from your little one that will give you the encouragement to drop the nap:

  1. You put your child down for their nap, and they never fall asleep! Instead, it’s 1.5-2 hours of solid independent play time in their crib!
  2. They happily take a 1.5-2 hour nap but then it’s taking up to 2 hours for them to fall asleep at bedtime.
  3. Mid-day nap happens easily, but they are taking a while to fall asleep at bedtime AND waking up around 5/6 AM ready to start the day!

Whenever I see these situations happening with my clients I evaluate their child’s daytime environment. Based off their location, we can either take the nap away OR shorten the nap.

AT HOME:

  • Take the nap away and implement 30-45 minutes of independent quiet time.
    • Just because they have rejected a nap doesn’t mean they can be GO GO GO for 11-12 hours a day! They will need to recoup and be still for at least 30-45 minutes in the middle of the day. Tell your child that they no longer need to nap. Instead, they can be in their room, in the living room, or wherever you’d like and do quiet activities. I love implementing a Quiet Time Basket JUST for this situation! Coloring books, puzzles, books, activities THEY can be in charge of! Set a timer for 15 minutes to start, and slowly build up their quiet time to 30-45 minutes.
  • Shorten the nap to 60-90 minutes.
    • If your little one easily falls asleep for their nap, I want you to go wake them up at the 90 minute mark. This is enough to re-energize them, but also still have them fall asleep at bedtime. With a 90 minute nap we might also need to evaluate bedtime and adjust 15-30 minutes LATER. The goal is to find a time that allows your child to fall asleep within 10 minutes. Tweak the nap and bedtime until you’ve hit the spot! As an example, I recently worked with a 3 year old who needed a 60 minute nap (12-1 PM) and an 8:30 PM bedtime.

AT DAYCARE:

  • Ask them to have your child go to another room!
    • If possible, ask your child’s daycare if they can have your child go to another room who is awake during their nap time. Express how their napping has caused issues with bedtime, and in turn creates a very difficult night of sleep. Eventually this bedtime/night fight will bleed into the child’s daytime activity. We want everyone to enjoy your child! By asking to remove the nap it will help him/her fall asleep quickly at bedtime, and have a FULL night of sleep.
  • Ask if they can shorten the nap.
    • Perhaps they cannot go to another room, but MAYBE they can wake your child up, or put them to nap 30 minutes later? A 2 hour nap is way too much for a 2-3 year old, so if it’s possible- shortening the nap to 60-90 minutes can be a key to helping them still fall asleep at bedtime.
  • Daycare says they cannot cut the nap or shorten it:
    • Occasionally I’ve seen situations where daycare will not allow the child to NOT nap, and will not wake the child. How do we solve this?! Well, we have to make a later bedtime M-F and take the nap away (or cut to 60-90 min) on the weekend. I once worked with a 3 year old who no longer needed to nap, but was offered a 2 hour nap at school. The teachers were on board to wake him up- but they found he was impossible to wake up!! So instead, we had to let the 2 hour nap go and aim for an 8:45 PM bedtime, with a 6:30 AM start time. ~10 hours at night, plus a 2 hour nap…12 hour total is there!

If you are ready to take the plunge and remove naps the biggest thing you need to remember is to be PATIENT!!!  It will take your toddler 4-6 weeks to adjust to being awake all day. I highly suggest an early bedtime (45 minutes to 2 hours earlier, depending on the child!) to help them avoid becoming WAY overtired. Over-tiredness will look exactly like hyperactivity in a toddler. And this means they will be energizer bunnies at 7PM, instead of ready for sleep! The best gift you can give when taking the nap away is to get them to bed ASAP, and allow their bodies to acclimate to the change.

Want to learn MORE about taking the nap away? Listen to my Podcast Episode 18!

Above all, take a deep breath! Saying goodbye to naps actually brings a lot of sweet freedom to your days, and only means your little one is growing and thriving!!

Sweet Dreams!!

Becca Campbell

Your Pediatric Sleep Consultant


A big thank you to Becca for sharing all of that. Based on what she is saying, I definitely think Emmy is ready to start dropping her naps. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes!

Visit Becca’s website and follow her on Instagram for more sleep tips!

 

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