If your child is between the ages of three and four, he might be showing signs of being ready to drop his nap. For some parents, this is a welcome change, as they find naps inhibit their ability to get out of the house and get things done (i.e. feeling "trapped by the nap"). For others, though, this is a rather unwelcome adjustment; not only does it mean you lose a couple hours of free time while your child snoozes during the day (buh bye, hot tea and Facebook scrolling! Tear!), but it may also mean that your child has some cranky afternoons during the transition, as his body adjusts to not having that snooze.
Again, most children are ready to drop their naps between 3 - 4 years of age. The transition can be a bit tough for some (i.e. 4pm meltdowns and falling asleep in their dinner!), but there are certainly ways to make the transition smoother for your little one (and for you!):
Don’t bid naps farewell too soon: A few days of nap resistance does not mean your child is ready to give up his nap. Ninety percent of children still need a nap by age 3, so don’t jump the gun and eliminate the nap early if your child has only been refusing to nap for a week or so. Watch for signs that your child is ready for no nap: If any of the following are occurring consistently for at least two weeks, then it is likely time to forego the nap:
- Your child is consistently taking more than an hour to fall asleep at naptime
- When your child does fall asleep, he naps less than an hour, or doesn’t sleep at all.
- Your child is consistently showing little to no signs of tiredness when he misses a nap.
- Your child is having trouble falling asleep at bedtime when he has had a nap that day.
Make sure your child has "quiet time" each day, even if he doesn’t nap: Even if your child is no longer falling asleep at naptime, use this time for a quiet rest. Implement “quiet time” for your child, alone in his room for an hour in the middle of each day. If your child resists, talk to him about how important it is for him to rest so that he will have energy to do fun things later that day, and discuss what these things might be. A Gro Clock is a great idea for helping your child understand when “quiet time” starts and ends.
Move bedtime earlier during the transition: Remember, the more overtired your child is when he goes down for sleep at night, the harder it will be for him to fall asleep. So, give your child a slightly earlier bedtime (30-60 minutes earlier than usual) for about a month after he stops taking his daily nap. This will help prevent overtiredness, which should also help prevent night wakes and early morning wakes.
Re-implement naps when necessary: Maybe your child hasn’t taken a nap in months, but starting kindergarten has been very overwhelming and exhausting for him; maybe you took him to Disney and he just can’t handle all that fun without a break in the middle of each day! There will be times, due to everything from growth spurts to environmental changes and stimuli, that require your child to have naps again for a short time. For example, many children begin to need naps on weekends again for the first couple of months after he begins kindergarten. This is fine! Watch your child’s cues and know when he needs rest and when he can go without.
Be prepared for some “off” days and tough afternoons of overtiredness and crankiness during the transition but, ultimately, be patient and know that this is a phase your child will pass through with flying colours with a little time and lots of flexibility and consistency.
Erin Junker is a Professional Infant & Toddler Sleep Consultant, and owner of The Happy Sleep Company (thehappysleepcompany.ca). She works closely with tired parents to help them help their little ones get the healthy, restful sleep they need. Follow her at www.facebook.com/thehappysleepcompany and on Twitter @TheHappySleepCo, and let’s get your family the healthy, happy sleep you deserve!