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When Should My Toddler Stop Napping?

4 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Dropping Your Toddler's Naptime

Around my son's third birthday, he started resisting naptime. Considering that he'd always been a kid who seemed to relish his daily afternoon snooze as much as I did, I was not happy about this change. Like really not happy. I needed those two hours as much as he did in order not to turn into the 6 p.m. monster that I was certain he'd now become every single day, crazy from exhaustion.

We had recently returned from a two-week vacation to Florida during which he had dropped his nap altogether, a situation his dad and I actually encouraged because it meant neither of us were stuck inside missing two hours of afternoon sunshine every day and that he went to bed early enough that we got to enjoy our evenings and a full-night sleep, since he was clocking 12 glorious unconscious hours every night.

But in between returning from that trip and his birthday, he'd started napping again without hesitation, falling back into his routine of a 90-120 minute nap between 1 and 3 p.m., followed by an 8:30 p.m. bedtime and 6:30 a.m. wake-up. So what happened? Well, I partially blamed the recent switch to his big-boy bed, which had given him easier access to the outside world, but still I wondered. Was this it? Was naptime officially gone?

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Not willing to concede its loss, I persevered, and I'm happy to say, after about a week of nap battles, we're back in a good place and I'm hoping my little guy will keep napping for a while longer (most doctors recommend kids nap until around their fourth birthdays, when the amount of sleep they need goes down slightly, but as all moms know, every kid is different).

If you're facing a similar situation or are simply wondering if it's time to give up your child's nap, ask yourself the following four questions before you decide.

  1. On days your child doesn't nap, is he cranky in the afternoon and/or dozing off in the evening? If so, he's probably not yet ready to be nap-free.
  2. Is bedtime becoming a burden? If your child is suddenly fighting bedtime, going to sleep at ridiculously late hours, or waking super early, it might mean she's napping too long. Try to move her nap to earlier in the day so she has more time to wear herself out in the afternoon, or try shortening her naps, even if it means you have to wake her up.
  3. Does he seem tired at naptime? Is he suppressing yawns and rubbing his eyes, or does he seem ready to run around your house for another few hours? If that's the case, consider transitioning naptime instead to quiet playtime, a period when your child stays in their room and plays quietly with toys and books, still giving you some downtime.
  4. Do you need your child to nap? If holding on to a nap is important enough to you and your schedule, despite knowing that your child taking one will also mean a later bedtime and earlier wake-up, then stick with it. Your child will eventually adjust.
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