when do toddlers drop the nap

Do you think your toddler is ready to drop their daytime nap but you’re not sure on how to do it and whether it’s just a false alarm?

When it comes to dropping the last daytime nap, toddlers tend to go for it before their body is really ready to cope with it. 

They insist they won’t be sleeping at their usual time, however once the clock rolls on to 4pm they’re nodding off on the sofa, the floor and in their dinner plate. 

It’s tricky to know exactly what age a toddler is ready to drop their nap, because every child is different. 

However as a general rule of thumb, toddlers may be ready to ditch the nap from around age two.

A four-year-old may still take a nap, and you can guarantee your five-year-old will be looking like they wished they had a nap when they come home from their first day of school!

Signs your toddler is ready to drop their nap

I’ve written a longer post about the key signs that your child is ready to drop the nap, but to summarise these are: 

  • Fussing and refusing to settle at naptime. 
  • Being difficult to settle at nighttime after having a daytime nap.
  • Coping reasonably well if they have skipped the daytime nap. 

There’s no exact science but you will get a hint that something is up with them and you’ll just know that it will be time to say farewell to the daytime nap soon!

It doesn’t necessarily follow that dropping the nap will be easy you may find your toddler is really cranky as they head towards losing the nap.

You may sometimes find your child nods off for a danger nap every now and then too! This is any nap that happens after 4pm and can have an impact on getting your child to sleep at bedtime.

My eldest daughter dropped her nap at around two years. It was shortly after her sister was born so I was genuinely gutted. I wanted to get the napping at the same time so that I could have a break! My dreams of a daytime nap of my own were shattered. 

She started by refusing to nap at nursery. Then she refused to nap at my parents’ house when she stayed there. Finally she refused to nap at home. 

She would stand in her cot and sing loudly, or kick the sides of the cot. 

My second daughter is following much the same pattern. She refuses to have the nap 90 per cent of the time, and actually functions quite well without it most of the time. She turned two a few weeks ago. 

While losing daytime naps is sad, I personally would rather have a child who sleeps well all night, as that’s when I get to recuperate before another day of parenting madness. 

How to help your toddler drop the nap

So if you think your toddler is ready to ditch their nap, here are some tips to help you, and them, survive the transition.

Don’t force the issue

I understand that losing that time to yourself can be really frustrating. But you can’t force a child to nap in the daytime if they don’t want or need to.

It’s tough for you to adapt to this change, as well as your toddler. 

Try to accept that this is a natural stage in your child’s progression and that you simply need to find new ways to get you time.

Instead of the nap you can try to encourage your child to have some quiet time where they get cosy on the sofa with a sticker or reading book.

They may go back and forth for a while

Just because they won’t nap a lot of the time, doesn’t mean they don’t need a nap some days. 

If your child has had an exceptionally busy morning doing something very physical then they may well be grateful for the nap.

If you think they will sleep, put them down for a nap as you used to and see if they will go. 

You may see your toddler really struggling with fatigue on some days, while others they are full of beans all day.

If you think your toddler really needs a nap, then let them have one. Don’t presume that you have to go cold turkey with the naps.

Try to give them some quiet time

If your child isn’t napping, that doesn’t mean they have to be racing about at 100mph instead. I always give my two a quiet hour or two in the middle of the day where we read a book or watch TV. 

Don’t keep them on the go for hours

While your toddler is going through the transition of dropping the nap, try not to give them a hectic schedule to handle.

Take them out first thing in the morning when their energy levels will be at their highest. Then in the afternoon you could do simple, easy activities at home.

If your child is in daycare then have a conversation with their carer about how they can make the routine work for your toddler. Try and get everyone on board with what you’re doing to help your child cope with no naps.

Danger naps

A child who is refusing their usual nap is a high risk for the danger nap! This is where your child naps any time after 4pm and can cause arguments at bedtime.

If you’re in the car or they’re out and about in the buggy and they nod off, there’s not really a lot you can do. 

This will happen from time to time, just roll with it and remember they will be able to cope with the longer days soon. 

If you want to wake them, do it very gently. They may be cranky for a while afterwards. This is frustrating for you, but just try not to overstimulate them and keep calm.

I hope these tips are useful. Please do drop me an email or leave a comment if you have any questions.

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