The topic: Nap time. Specifically when to be nap free. So I did an (unscientific) poll to find out when kiddos give up taking a nap. The results showed my children were on the early side, stopping before 2. The consensus was somewhere between 2-4 years of age. Mr Teacher Karen napped consistently throughout his kindergarten years and many parents posted comments that their older children napped well into their 3rd, 4th and 5th years too.
It’s been too long for me to remember if dropping daytime naps caused me any issue or not. I’m guessing it must not have been that difficult—thankfully—because I noticed several pleas for help coming from parents of young children now.
Shock is the only word to describe my reaction to the cost of some of that help. For example, $500 for a class with weekly phone check–ins. I thought that was bad enough but then someone put up another experience they had noting $1000 for phone only. WOW! Really?! Frankly, I figured parents would have called up their folks and asked what they had done. And got those tips for FREE!
So I did some research to refresh MY memory AND to save you some $$$!
SLEEP–We All Need It, But How Much & For How Long…
Babies will get a lot of it, but for new parents sleep is usually in short supply! According to AAP, newborns need 12-16 hours/day including all nap times. A newborn’s life is pretty much sleep, eat, and sleep some more. Sometime during that 1st half year, this on-demand feeding schedule, followed by naps and/or bedtime, settles into more of a routine. Baby stays awake for longer periods during the day with a total number of naps, that started with upwards of 7/day, usually dropping down to 2.
Typically sometime after their 1st birthday, the number of naps drops down to 1 in the afternoon.
How to Know When to Drop the Nap:
It’s fairly straight-forward: Your child’s behavior or body language will likely tell you!
● Try as you might, your kiddo just does not seem interest or tired! So don’t fight it. As children grow it’s normal for them to be able to stay awake for longer periods of time. If there’re no meltdowns or crankiness let naps go the way of the pacifier. In other words, they were needed and helpful when they were babies, but they’re not babies anymore. Toddlers do not like to be likened to babies!
● Impacted bedtime? If, in trying to enforce naps, it takes longer for your kiddo to go to sleep it only makes sense that it’s going to disturb your child’s bedtime routine. Often, when the time has come to eliminate that last afternoon nap, children’s bedtimes start earlier and/or end later.
Yes my children, and one of my grandchildren, gave up naps early. Most children though continue napping in the afternoon through the preschool years. Preschoolers don’t need as much sleep as newborns do, but they still need 10-13 hours/day including naps.
Nap Time is Rest Time for Parents…
Do you look forward to the quiet and peace nap time brings you? Are you worried how you’ll fare after eliminating that last nap? There’s a win-win solution! Quiet time!
● Arrange to have your kiddo play quietly, or rest, in their room during the time they used to nap.
● They’ll look forward to that time if you have special toys, activities or books available only during Quiet Time.
● To keep things manageable, let them pick out 2 or 3 items to PLAY with them during Quiet Time.
NOTE: I remember several preschool folks telling me how they transitioned out of naps. Their kiddos would, by and large, do fine without a nap but would need a booster nap say every 2nd day or so. You might try starting your child off with alternating days of nap day and no nap days and gradually adding days between the nap days.
But maybe you’re trying to still encourage napping…
To facilitate nap time, or sleep in general, follow these simple guidelines:
● Create a routine—Maybe you sing a song or read a story, but find a routine that’ll help signal to your kiddo that nap time is approaching. You want your child tired, but not overtired as that may make it actually harder for them to fall asleep.
● Be consistent—All children respond positively to consistency. They find comfort in knowing what to expect. Try your best to start naps at the same time of day and let them sleep for about the same amount of time each day.
● Create a Sleep Environment—Shutting curtains/blinds and closing their door to make their room dark and quiet will help your kiddo sleep. Optimal room temperature for sleeping is 65-70°F. Consider using some kind of white noise, like a fan or an white noise app, if the room faces a busy street.
● Do NOT let your baby or toddler fall asleep before laying them in their crib! As tempting as it may be it will only make your life harder in the long run.
● Back is Best! Always place your child on their back to sleep and keep their sleeping area clear of any soft items like pillows or blankets.
● IF you happen to have a Rock-n-Play Sleepers do NOT use it! These have been recalled. Contact Fisher Price for a refund.
For another great resource, one that also gives information on pediatric sleep disorders in addition to general sleep problems, read the Parent’s Guide to a Child’s Sleep from Sleep Advisor.
Whether you or your child are ready to give up napping altogether at 2 or 5 rest easy. Focus on what’s best for your family! Besides I hear people’s feelings towards naps change as they age…
Yours in Play!