The thing I am most neurotic about in this motherhood business is my kids' sleep. From day one, I tried to arm myself with sleep knowledge so that my kids would not end up cranky all day, every day. It worked. My kids ended up being pretty good sleepers overall, with the occasional hiccups, of course. And because I was crazy with my consistency, they rarely fought me at naptime, either. But as my son got older, I wondered when he was going to give up that nap. And now, at 5 years old, developmentally, he still requires it, but good ole kindergarten gets in his way. And I wondered how many of his classmates still needed a nap, too.
According to Sleep.org, powered by The Sleep Foundation, "Just 50 percent of children are still napping at age 4, and 70 percent have moved on by age 5." This leaves my son in the smaller percentage of kids who still need that nap. So, on the weekends, he usually does. He's much happier with it — and so am I. I knew my son was not ready to charge through the entire day without sleep because he didn't show any of the typical signs demonstrating that readiness.
Most children go through at least one phase where they do their best to resist that nap. They whine, get out of bed, or cry to wear down their parents to get out of napping. But it's important for parents not to give in to this behavior, typically before age 3, because then they'll have one ornery kid on their hands. What's more, according to Sleep.org, is that sleep is essential for "both the physical and mental development that is happening at breakneck speed from birth through the preschool years — and nighttime sleep just isn't enough." So, how do you know when your child doesn't require a nap anymore?
The biggest indicator that your child is done with the midday nap is that it becomes hard for them to fall asleep at night. Let's say your 4-year-old still naps for two hours every day, and when you put her down at night around eight, she's wide awake until past 10 o'clock. This may mean that it's time to wean your child off of their nap. You can do so by either going cold turkey or giving them a nap every other day to begin with. And if you're like me and love that alone time in the afternoons, you could also try laying them down earlier in the day or waking them up after only one hour of napping. You can watch how they respond with or without the nap. And if they have a reasonable personality in the late afternoon and even into the evening, they're probably ready to ditch the nap. Plus, you'll get your evenings back to yourself, too.
Each child is different. I have a feeling my 3-year-old daughter won't require a nap through age 5 like her big brother, but I'll have to wait and see. Just watch your child's behavior to see how he or she responds with and without the nap. Developmentally, they may still need it, so try not to let them trick you out of it. Sleep is like food; it's vital in order to help our children grow and learn. The nap is just one piece of the puzzle to help kids live a healthy life.