Average age to drop the nap
You may find this surprising, but most children still need a nap until they reach 3-3.5 years old, although many children do drop it earlier. The reason is that Toddlers begin to resist naps, and after all – why wouldn’t they? They have so many other exciting things to do.
But, it doesn’t mean they no longer need a nap.
If you do drop nap time too soon, it can quite often lead to:
- Bedtime battles (resistance to bedtime is not always due to under tiredness)
- Frequent night waking
- Early rising (between 4am and 5am)
It can take some time before the impact of a naps dropped too early starts to show. Weeks or even months in some cases – so it’s even harder to spot the link.
Of course, this is all dependent on your child’s temperament too. For some naturally easy-going children, you may find they drop their nap earlier, and none of the above scenarios occur. But, if you have an overly alert little one (naturally inquisitive, very active mind – my youngest is a prime example!) they will find it harder to shut down, and can often appear not to need much sleep – and it’s more likely that you will experience the problems I mentioned above.
What are the signs to look for?
Struggling to settle
If your child is taking more than 30 minutes to settle, simply playing or chatting to themselves, this could mean that they are under tired. Sometimes spotting the difference between overtired and undertired can be tricky, but generally, if a child is under tired, you will notice they are alert but calm, they do not get upset and create a fuss as they would if they were overtired.
No longer accidently falls asleep in the car
Taking them out in the car around their nap time to find they are not falling asleep in motion, which they would have previously done.
Still naps, but does not settle at bedtime
Some children will be quite happy to continue napping – but you then risk them eventually resisting bedtime, often taking over 30 minutes to go to sleep. Take note if this is consistent for at least 1 to 2 weeks.
How to drop the nap?
Reduce the time
You can start to gradually reduce the amount of time your little one naps. Your child may already have started naturally reducing the amount of time they sleep, so it could be less than an hour now. But make sure you reduce it gradually, say 15 minute increments over time.
Early bedtime or occasional naps
You will get some tired days and some not so tired days, so you may need a short nap every couple of days, or an early bedtime. Going to bed as early as 6pm without it affecting their wake-up time is fine.
If you are out in the car and your child falls asleep, that’s fine; they clearly need it – just be careful not to let them nap too late in the day or for too long.
Introduce Quiet Time
When your child is ready, it’s a good idea to have 30-45 minutes of quiet time where there is no TV, noise friends or other stimulation. Instead, do some puzzles or read some books.
You will find that although your child may show all the signs of needing to drop their nap, it will not happen overnight. Be prepared to allow for early bedtimes or occasional naps for a few weeks whilst they build up their stamina to be able to get through the day, every day, without a nap.