The toddler nap. It’s a time of day when both parent and child can get a little rest and regroup for what’s left to come in the next 5 or 6 hours before bed.
It makes sense that one question many parents want (and don’t want) to know the answer to is: When do toddlers stop napping?
As children age, they tend to sleep less during the day. And eventually naps will be phased out all together. But how soon after infant-hood should you expect your little one to truly go from morning until night and stop napping for good? Let’s break it down:
Remember: Sleep Is a Milestone
You may or may not know that the development of sleep patterns is considered an important developmental milestone for children. As you child grows, their sleep needs will change and often times their bodies will adjust before you even have time to realize that their norms have changed.
According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) a toddler between the ages of 1-2 years old should get 11-14 hours of sleep total per day with naps typically accounting for around 1-2 hours of that total sleep count.
And at some point between 15-18 months, your toddler will transition from two naps to just one. Preschoolers ages 3-5 years old should get 10-13 hours in total. Children at this age who take early afternoon naps typically sleep for fewer than 60 minutes at a time.
So, When Do Toddlers Stop Napping?
Some toddlers stop napping by age 2-3, while other kids will continue to need naps past the ripe old age of 5 years old. Some kindergarten classes still have nap time. However, the current average age for kids to stop napping is between the ages of 3 and 4 years old.
The age for kids to stop napping varies greatly. And it’s important to remember that the transition from biphasic (two-part) to monophasic (one-part) sleep is a major developmental milestone and it shouldn’t be rushed or intentionally delayed.
The Benefits of Naps for Toddlers
Perhaps you want to put an end to nap time to get a little more freedom back to your daily schedule. Or maybe your child just seems less willing to go down for that morning nap that they used to enjoy. Either way, it’s important to make sure that your child is truly ready to say goodbye to naps altogether before folding up the nap mat sheets.
You see, while it’s been thought that naps contain mostly light sleep stages and serve little function for learning and memory during preschooler age, a study from the National Library of Medicine has sighted contrary findings.
Evidence was found that that classroom naps of preschoolers can support learning by enhancing memories acquired earlier in the day compared with equivalent intervals spent awake. Alternatively, performance losses when nap-deprived are not recovered during subsequent overnight sleep.
These results suggest that distributed sleep is critical in early learning. As this is a time when short-term memory stores are limited and memory consolidation must take place frequently.
Signs Your Toddler Is Ready to Stop Napping
No matter the potential benefits though, there will come a time — that is natural for your child — to stop napping.
As with all of parenting, it’s important to tune into your instincts and also follow your child’s cues. Here are some of the telltale signs your toddler no longer needs a daytime nap.
They struggle to fall asleep at night.
You may notice that your child becomes less inclined to go along with your bedtime routine. If nighttime sleep doesn’t come easily, your child may be sleeping too much during the day. This can be a signal that they’re sleeping too much during the day so they are not tired at their regular bedtime
They struggle to fall asleep or don’t seem tired at naptime.
You may also notice that your child simply doesn’t need an afternoon snooze to stay happy and engaged throughout the day like they used to. When this becomes more of a habit, you can experiment with removing that nap or turning that hour into quiet or rest time.
Keep an eye on your child’s behavior. If they seem consistently annoyed to come inside or stop playing with toys to take a nap, it might be time to adjust their schedule. Conversely, you’ll want to keep paying attention to their mood because that lack of rest may come back with a vengeance as exhaustion and crankiness later in the day.
How To Help Your Child Adjust to No Naps
To help your child adjust to a new routine, try replacing nap time with quiet time. You can still set up a nap mat or prepare their bed for them to lay on, but instead of turning down the lights and expecting them to rest, supply quiet activities like puzzles and picture books for them to do.
You can even set a countdown so they know they have 30 minutes to be quiet and read or create a mindful meditation craft. Added bonus: you still get a little quiet time for yourself too!
If your child is ready to move on from naps, perhaps it is also time for a big kid bed! Check out our favorite Montessori floor beds which make for great sleep place options for toddlers and preschoolers.