Naps are an integral part of your child's day for the first few years of life. For many children, they physically cannot make it through the day without a nap. For others, going without a nap will affect their mood, behaviors and sleep habits at night.
So who says our kiddos should ever get rid of their nap? I mean, couldn't we all benefit from a little midday snooze?
And let's be honest—do we actually want our child to drop his nap? For many of us, this is the time of day we get stuff done, so it might actually be harder for parents to accept that it is time to move on without naptime.
The good news is—there is wiggle room throughout this process and you'll have plenty of time to make the adjustment.
While there are general recommendations around when your child should drop his nap, it does vary from child-to-child, and ultimately you will be the one who determines the appropriate time to make the transition.
Fortunately or unfortunately, there is an overwhelming amount of information out there that instructs parents on when and how to drop the nap—leaving many parents feeling less than confident about how to take on this endeavor.
Truthfully, it is actually quite simple, your child will start to show a handful of shifts in his sleeping habits, along with changes in his schedule, that will be a sure indication it is time to start thinking about dropping his nap.
Here are five ways you will know your child is ready to graduate from nap-time:
1. He is able to make it through the day with minimal behavior changes or melt-downs.
This is usually a pretty easy one to read. Once your child seems generally happy throughout the day without a nap-this tells you that he doesn't necessarily need it for his emotional well-being. Sure-he still might throw a tantrum mid-day, but it may not be related to being over-tired. If there is a specific situation that contributes to a tantrum, chances are it isn't related to lack of sleep unless it is happening more often than normal.
2. Night-time sleep increases.
For example: your child all-of-the-sudden goes from an average of 10 hours of sleep per night, to 12 hours consistently, this is a sign that he is relying on night-time sleep to fuel him throughout the day. If your child isn't getting enough sleep at night, he will most likely need that mid-day siesta. But if he is getting solid sleep at night (11-12 hours +) you can feel confident that he is ok without a nap.
3. He doesn't actually fall asleep during a nap attempt.
Quiet time is encouraged for any age at some point in the day. But if your child rarely sleeps when you put him down for a nap, it can be a sign his body no longer needs it.
4. He is in an all day school program that doesn't schedule nap-time.
Sometimes nap-time no longer becomes an option because of school or day-care schedules. While it is recommended that children still nap until the age of at least three—their bodies can often adjust to new schedules if nap-time is no longer an option. Be cautious though—-if his behavior proves otherwise, you might need to consider an alternate school or program that allows for naps.
5. He keeps up energy throughout the day.
Energy levels are a pretty big indicator when it comes to your child's sleep. If your child is crashing (such as in the car), it is fairly obvious that he is not ready for no-nap days. If he is able to sustain adequate energy throughout the day, then that's a good sign! Something to keep in mind here is that you may have high activity days when your child may be worn out-thus a good idea to still have quiet time or a lay down in these situations.
Dropping the nap is meant to be a transition. There will be days that still call for a nap months or even years after making the transition. It is important to stay in-tune with your child's moods and behaviors and let that drive your decision to try for a nap or not.
Be prepared to adjust bedtime if needed to fit your child's new schedule. Even though your child might be ready to rid of naptime, he still might not be able to make it 12+ hours awake.
You know your child best, so follow your instincts on whether now is good time for your child to drop his nap or not.