At what age do toddlers stop napping? Is it okay if a 2-year old doesn’t want to nap anymore? Learn about what experts have to say here.
In this article, you’ll read:
- How much sleep do kids need?
- At what age do toddlers stop napping?
- Signs that your child is ready to stop
My three-year-old’s afternoon nap time is essential.
If my son doesn’t take his 1-hour afternoon nap, he will be cranky and more irritable come dinner time. Worse, he’ll take a long “nap” before dinner, then wake up in the middle of the night where he has enough energy to eat or play. Naturally, my bedtime suffers because I need to watch over him while he plays.
Not only is my son’s nap time important for his mood and overall health, but I also need it too.
As a work-at-home mom, I get a huge chunk of my work and chores done when my toddler is asleep. I need him to sleep so I can work on my articles, or clean up the mess he made in the room, or get a few minutes to myself too.
I’m lucky that I’m accorded an hour or two in the afternoon where my toddler naps peacefully, and wakes up refreshed and in a better mood. But for some parents, those days are gone, try as they might to have it back.
Which leaves us asking, at what age do toddlers stop napping? And is it okay for them to do so at their age, or should we force afternoon nap time on them whether they like it or not?
How much sleep do kids need?
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Just like nutrition and physical activity, having adequate rest and sleep is very important to a growing child. When they were babies, they could sleep for 18 hours a day, nap for 5 to 8 times, only waking up to feed and get a diaper change.
Now that they’re growing up, their sleep patterns have changed. Their naps got less frequent as they have learned to sleep through the night.
But despite the change, sleep is still very important in your child’s overall wellness and development. Lack of sleep in children has been linked to problems with weight, mental health, behavior, and cognitive performance.
So, if that is the case, how much sleep do kids need?
Here is a chart from the Sleep Foundation website on the recommended hours of sleep according to age, as advised by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF).
Recommended hours of sleep
||0-3 months old
||14 -17 hours
||4-11 months old
||1-2 years old
||3-5 years old
||6-13 years old
As the chart above shows, the recommended total hours of sleep vary according to age. We also know that as your child grows, his naps become less frequent, but longer in length.
Keeping those things in mind, it’s safe to assume that the nap schedule of a 1-year-old would be different from that of a toddler and an older kid.
When your baby reaches his first birthday, his nap time decreases compared to when he was an infant and frequently accounts for around 1-2 hours of his daily sleep.
2 naps per day is normal at the start of this period (one in the morning and one in the afternoon), but it’s not rare for older toddlers to take only an afternoon nap, which can be longer (up to 3 hours).
Most kids stop napping when they reach the preschool stage, although some still take naps during the afternoon. However, the problem arises when they take long naps in the afternoon and they can’t sleep at night because they have “too much energy.”
After age 5, kids no longer need to take naps. But some do (especially school-aged kids who are tired from a busy day at school) and see the wonders that a 30-minute power nap can bring them.
And on that note, let’s discuss briefly the benefits nap time can bring to your child.
Benefits of taking a nap
As our children grow and develop, naps give their bodies and minds time to rest and recharge as they encounter those big changes.
Also, if a child gets overtired or overstimulated throughout the day, it will be harder for them to soothe themselves and get a good sleep as their bedtime approaches. Take our word for it, a tired or overstimulated toddler equals a cranky toddler.
According to WebMD, the other benefits of taking a nap are the following:
Napping help in your child’s brain development.
Research shows that memory consolidation may be one of the primary functions of daytime napping in preschool-aged children, and regular daytime napping in school-age children were “associated with better performance on measures of perceptual reasoning and overall IQ.”
Napping helps keep your child fit.
Studies show that kids who don’t get enough sleep — or who get irregular sleep — tend to have higher rates of obesity. One possible reason may be tied to how children eat when they’re tired (kids tend to overeat and choose to munch on unhealthy snacks when they don’t get enough sleep).
Another setback is when kids are tired, they won’t have as much energy to be participating in physical activities and exercise, another important part of having a healthy weight.
Napping gets your child in a better mood.
As previously mentioned, kids who are tired are usually cranky. For this reason, they need a reset; a way to recharge their energy.
One study found that toddlers who skipped their naps were less joyful, more anxious, and had a worse reaction to frustrating events.
Napping is good for our bodies and our moods. We hope our children would take our word for it. However, there just comes a time that your child would just decide that he’s “over it.”
Image from Pexels
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What age do toddlers stop napping?
According to the Happiest Baby website, about 20 percent of 2-year-olds have abandoned naptime, much to their parent’s disapproval. By their 3rd birthday, 43 percent of kids no longer nap. That ratio increases as they grow, to 74 percent for 4-year-olds and 85 percent at age 5.
Sleep Foundation says it’s normal for napping to slowly phase out during early childhood with naps becoming both shorter and less frequent. This can happen naturally or as a result of a child’s schedules for school or activities during the day.
Sometimes, kids transition from taking naps to having afternoon quiet time, to none at all. When this happens, you will find that your child retires earlier at night, as his body’s way of compensating for the hours of sleep lost during daytime.
According to Isabela Granic, a developmental psychology professor and co-author of Bed Timing, the major cognitive changes that are happening around 18 to 24 months, and again at 36 to 42 months can prompt some children to fight the habit of napping.
“It’s not necessarily because their physical bodies have decided they don’t need it, it’s their cognitive capacity to want more autonomy and power in the relationship, to fight for stuff when they aren’t allowed to fight for almost anything,” she says.
Signs that your child is ready to stop napping
What age do toddlers stop napping. | Image from Pexels
So how do you know if it’s time for you and your kid to say goodbye to naptime? One way is to observe his behavior without the nap. Monitor how your child handles these days when she isn’t taking her afternoon naps. If you notice that your child is feeling groggy and has low energy after skipping naptime, it may mean that she probably still needs her rest.
Manisha Witmans, director of the pediatric sleep program at Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton says,
“If she’s cranky and unmanageable, then probably the nap is still needed,”
If that is the case, you can find ways to help your little protester go back to sleep by removing stimulation and distractions. Stick to your routine and create a conducive sleeping environment for your baby.
Meanwhile, according to Dr. Harvey Karp, author of the bestselling book Happiest Toddler on the Block, one telltale sign that your child is ready to drop naps is if they don’t feel sleepy during the day, or if taking naps (sometimes we still make them do it) make it harder for them to sleep at night.
“If your child is able to skip naps without any sign of crankiness or exhaustion, then they may be ready to stop napping,” he said.
Granic agrees with this idea. According to her,
“A sleep-deprived child will show increased aggression, crankiness, hyperactivity and inattentiveness on days that he doesn’t nap. “If those signs are missing, then the child might not need to nap,” she said.
And as they say, there’s no use fighting a lost cause. If your child seems to be okay even without his afternoon naps, then it may mean that his afternoon naps has come to an end. You may just substitute naps to quiet time just to ease the transition, so you can still have a bit of the peace and quiet that you need.
Just think of it this way: your child is starting to show independence by being in tune with his body and having the agency to be responsible for it. Praise this positive behavior rather than focusing on all the sleep that is lost.
Instead, work on making dinnertime and bedtime earlier to compensate and make sure that your child still gets the recommended amount of rest that he needs.
Take our word for it, Mommy. One day, your child will want to nap again. But until that day comes, just enjoy your afternoons bonding with your little one.
Sleep Foundation, Happiest Baby, Today’s Parent, WebMD