Although you probably want your toddler to nap until the end of time, unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. But when do toddlers stop napping, exactly? Well, it can be a tricky thing. You want to balance milking out that nap as long as possible, but also protect nighttime sleep.
I always recommend holding onto that last nap for as long as possible, for many reasons, but once it starts causing some unwelcome sleep changes, then it’s time to transition out of it.
In this post, I’m going to go through:
So dump out the contents of your kitchen drawer, sprinkle some cheerios around, and let’s dig into this while your toddler is occupied for the next 12.5 minutes.
Why toddler naps are important
Toddlerhood is a time in your child’s life when their brains are learning and growing SO much, and sleep is important to foster this growth. Sleep is essential for their physical, emotional, intellectual and social development.
Just like adults, toddlers can only go so long without sleeping. The difference is, they have a much shorter wake window tolerance than we do. If they become overtired then they have difficulty regulating their emotions, focusing, and overall will not be getting the most out of their days. This is why naps are so important. Toddlers need this time to rest and recharge; they are just not able to rally all day yet.
If your toddler is younger than 3 but is fighting their naps, it is likely a sleep regression. Keep offering the time and space for their nap and they will start napping again. Maintain a gentle but clear and consistent boundary around why they need their naptime, and what naptime looks like.
Toddlers can be quite willful and their FOMO can be super intense, so for everything you need to know about toddler power struggles, naps, and bedtime battles, check out my toddler guide pack!
How to tell if your toddler should stop napping
Just like most elements of parenting, knowing when your toddler should stop napping is not a straightforward answer. The most common age for toddlers to stop napping is around 3, however since every child is different, there are a few signs that will signal to you that the nap is no longer beneficial for your toddler.
1. Fighting naptime
Fighting naptime can look like protesting, trying to leave the room, saying they don’t want a nap, and/or straight up refusing to nap. The first time this happens, it’s worth it to stay consistent and keep offering the time and space for the nap since it could just be a sleep regression, FOMO, illness, teething, etc. However, if this continues on for a few weeks AND it seems like when they don’t get their nap, they are not overtired, then it’s likely that it means your toddler just doesn’t need a nap anymore.
2. Nights are a challenge
Maybe it’s that bedtime is suddenly a huge fight and they just don’t seem tired at their usual bedtime, or you are having middle of the night wake-ups where they seem happy and awake. Neither of these situations is any fun, and if it is starting to seem like more than a few “off nights”, then it likely means your toddler is getting too much sleep during the day and thus they don’t need as much sleep at night because of it. In this case, we want to protect nighttime sleep, so dropping the nap is the best solution.
Speaking of toddler bedtime battles, check out this Instagram Reel for 3 tips! Click here or on the image below:
3. Waking up early
Toddler’s go through phases of having early morning wake-ups, mostly due to their extreme FOMO, so I wouldn’t jump to dropping their nap right away. But if early mornings persist for more than a few weeks and they do not seem overtired during the day, and don’t compensate by taking a longer nap than usual, then it likely means they are getting too much sleep per 24 hours and dropping the nap is the best way to get your toddler back to sleeping a full night.
So if your toddler is around 3 years old and you have one or more of these sleep situations on your hands, it’s time for your toddler to stop napping.
All is not lost, though. I have a substitution for naptime that I think you’re going to like. Read on, my friend.
How to transition out of naps
Once you have determined that your toddler is ready to stop napping, then it’s time to transition nap time into “quiet time”. This little gem will be your lifesaver. Your perpetually hot cup of coffee. Your Sunday morning sleep in from the good ‘ol days.
It’s gold because not only do you still get that hour to yourself, but your toddler will greatly benefit from that time to reset and recharge.
Quiet time is exactly like naptime, without the expectation that they fall asleep. So it’s one hour, in their room, with some quiet, (screen-free) activities. Think books, puzzles, coloring, etc. If they end up falling asleep during this time, then great! They obviously needed it. But most likely they will just hang out and play quietly, which is beneficial as their little bodies really need the downtime.
If your little one needs help with following the expectation that they stay in their room for the hour, I highly recommend introducing an “Ok to Wake” clock. I really like this clock or the Hatch! They help with setting the boundary because you can program them to have a light come on/change color at a certain time, signalling to your toddler that it is time to get up. Pro tip: these are also fantastic to help curb early morning wake-ups!
Most toddlers can hang on to quiet time until around 4 or 5 years old. At which point, it’s time to bid a sad but appreciative farewell to your daytime alone time.
Want more tips on dropping that nap and transitioning to quiet time? Check out this Instagram Reel. Click here or on the image below:
Recap on when toddlers stop napping
So there you have it. The short answer for when toddlers stop napping, is around 3 years old, however it’s so important to tune into YOUR toddler so you can make decisions around their sleep that are best for them.
Knowing exactly how to tune into your toddler’s cues can be tricky, which is why it’s sometimes helpful to work with an expert. Our sleep consultants can work with you and help you learn your toddler’s cues. They can watch the baby monitor with you, and they have years of experience behind them to answer specific questions about YOUR baby. You don’t have to figure this out alone. Check out all of our consultation options here!