I really didn’t think this would be happening already, but my son Luke, who just turned 4 in December, is dropping his nap. My 7 year old daughter, Meghan, who was never as big of a napper as Luke and dropped down to 2 and 1 nap earlier than him, didn’t stop napping until 4 1/2. I thought for sure we had at least until summer for me to enjoy his afternoon nap time. Nope. Just when you think you have this parenting thing figured out, it throws you a curve ball.
Since I’m right in the thick of it, I thought I’d write about how you know your child is ready to drop a nap. There are tell-tale signs that he’s ready, and more signs that tell you he’s not ready, even if he says he is.
5 Signs Your Child is Ready to Stop Napping
#1 He genuinely doesn’t seem tired at nap time.
Many toddlers or preschoolers will say they aren’t tired, even when it’s clear they are. Don’t take your child’s word for it, but keep a close eye on how he’s acting. If your child seems energized and isn’t slowing down around nap time, it’s a sign he may be ready to drop the nap.
#2 He has trouble falling asleep at night.
This is often one of the first signs that it’s time to drop the nap. If your child naps in the afternoon and then has trouble falling asleep at night, he may be getting too much sleep during the day. You can first try to limit the nap time. Try cutting it back in 30 minute increments until your child can easily fall asleep at night again. If that doesn’t work, the nap may need to be cut all together.
#3 He starts randomly skipping naps.
If you put your child down for his nap, but he never falls asleep, it’s a sign he’s not tired enough to sleep and is ready to start dropping his nap. Keep in mind that skipping a nap one time does not mean he’s ready to drop the nap immediately. Sometimes it’s just a short phase and your child will go back to napping regularly. When your child starts consistently skipping 4 or more naps per week, it’s a good sign he’s ready to drop the nap.
#4 When he doesn’t nap, he makes it to bedtime just fine.
When a child isn’t ready to drop his nap, he gets cranky and difficult to deal with when he doesn’t get his nap. If your child has no problem making it to bedtime, he’s probably ready to drop his nap.
#5 He starts waking up earlier in the morning.
If your child is still napping and starts waking up earlier in the morning, it may be because he’s waking when his body has enough sleep. Cutting back the time of the nap or dropping the nap all together can help with early morning waking.
Beware! Waking early in the morning can also be a sign of overtiredness and he may need an earlier bedtime. Use your judgement according to how much overall sleep he’s getting, keeping in mind that toddlers and preschoolers need between 11-14 hours of total sleep each day.
3 Signs Your Child is NOT Ready to Stop Napping
#1 His behavior is undesirable.
Poor behavior is often a telltale sign your child isn’t getting enough sleep or is tired. If it’s close to nap time and your child is acting like a bear, he most likely needs that nap.
#2 When he skips a nap, he is unable to make it to bedtime easily.
Whether your child is so sleepy he can’t keep his eyes open at 5pm, or he’s acting cranky and fussy, these are signs he’s not ready to stop napping.
#3 He falls asleep at random times or in random places.
If your child won’t nap, but then falls asleep while eating a snack or in the middle of doing a puzzle, he needs the nap.
How To Make the Transition to Stop Napping
Very few children can stop napping cold turkey. Most likely, you will find your child is showing signs in both categories for a time period. That’s where Luke is at right now. So instead of just having him be done with napping, we are helping him transition into no naps.
This means we have to watch him closely. Some days he needs to nap, other days he’s okay to not nap. Napping 4-5 days a week and not napping the other days is usually how the transition starts. Take it slow. When your child is showing the signs he’s ready more consistently, allow him to skip more naps. The days when he skips naps, he will likely need an earlier bedtime than normal.
Eventually he will reorganize his sleep and the amount of nighttime sleep should extend and take the place of the day time sleep he was used to getting.
Don’t be surprised if it takes months until your child is ready to stop napping all together. The slower you take it, the easier the transition will be on everyone in the family.
Even if your child no longer needs the nap, a short period of quiet/alone time in his room can still be beneficial. It’s good for the child and good for the parents, too! We all need some time to recharge our batteries midday, don’t you agree?