When should my toddler stop napping?


By Sarah Bibi Patel – Good Night Sleep Consultant

I don’t know about you, but as a mom of three, I LOVED nap times for my children! I was almost draconian in my approach to naps – my children eventually learnt that there was no 2 ways about nap time. What Mummy said, goes.

All of my children followed age appropriate naps and it certainly meant SANITY for this mum! An hour or more of quiet where I could take time out for “me” and recharge my batteries – it was BLISS!

However, there certainly comes that day (a very, very sad day) when our toddlers no longer need a nap. Every toddler is different, so it’s important to look at ALL the signs, so that you will know when that day comes…

What age will my toddler drop a nap?

Dropping a nap can be very confusing as sometimes a toddler’s signals may be muddled. It can also take time for a toddler to drop a nap, if you allow it to happen naturally.

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to dropping a nap – it often depends on your toddler, how much sleep they are getting at night and how active they are in the day.

The general rule of thumb is as follows; toddlers from 2.5 years to 5 years can go without having a nap. The earliest age being 2.5 year old and the oldest is 5 years – the most common age is the pre-school years.

Occasional hits and misses with regards to naps is common, but it would be better to keep with the nap when:

  • Your child is sticking to their daytime routine – if they continue falling asleep on their own for the nap, it is a sign that they still need it.
  • Your child’s attitude changes due to lack of sleep – when toddlers skip their nap and are not ready to do so, they are often crabby and irritable in the late part of the afternoon – a sure sign that they still need that nap.
  • Also keep your family dynamic in mind – if you have a 3 year old toddler and a younger baby, you can try and synchronise their afternoon nap to be at the same time. It will allow you some peace and quiet and the nap for your toddler would mean a slightly later bedtime than their younger sibling – providing some much needed one on one time with mum and dad, whilst baby is asleep.

However, as all good things MUST come to an end, these are signs that signify that your busy one is ready to drop the nap:

  • More frequent night wakings, when your child was otherwise sleeping through
  • Earlier morning wakings than usual
  • Bedtime resistance, which results in your toddler taking a long time to fall asleep
  • Resisting a nap, or taking a long time to fall asleep
  • Waking earlier from a nap

Once you’ve established that indeed, your toddler no longer needs that nap, here are some guidelines to manage the change:

  • Remember to move bedtime earlier – it will help your toddler adjust to the change.
  • You can help your child drop the afternoon nap by avoiding activities that could cause drowsiness – a long car drive or long periods of inactivity are recipes for disaster – at least until your toddler no longer requires a nap.
  • Keep your toddler moving – it will keep them stimulated and awake.
  • Even though your child might no longer need a nap, they can still benefit from a little “downtime” every day. A period of rest gives your child’s body and mind an opportunity to relax and recharge. Try and encourage this quiet time by having your toddler lie on their bed with a picture book, or a beloved stuffed toy – the length of it will depend on your toddler and your discretion.

As much as I loved naps, it was a poignant moment when my son officially dropped his nap – I was sad to see the nap go, but it was a proud moment too – it was yet another step my baby took to being older – and as is often the case with motherhood – sometimes, it’s about accepting the growth of your tiny loved ones, even when your heart might not be ready for it.