When Should Kids Stop Napping?
By Kerry on October 22, 2018
Quote of the Week
“Let’s begin by taking a
smallish nap… or two.
- Winnie the Pooh”
TO NAP OR NOT TO NAP…
Every once in awhile my daughter goes on a napping boycott. Now and again we’ve given in letting her have quiet time in her room. But come 3 o’clock the toddler monster unleashes ungodly sobs and tantrums on the whole family from which there is no escape. She gets clumsy and mostly defiant. The girl needs to nap.
But to get her to nap I found that I have to make sure she doesn’t sleep past 7:30 in the morning. If she sleeps longer than that - naps are a no go and from 3 - 8PM we then have to tread lightly.
My son is an early bird. He wakes up at 6:45AM on a good day which means the kid needs to nap and he rarely puts up a fight. His kryptonite is the car. If he falls asleep in the car, even for 10 minutes we’re in trouble. The good thing about him is he’ll fall asleep at some point, usually while we’re on the go so either in the car or in a stroller. He’ll grab another cat nap or a good 30 - 45 minutes and he’ll mostly make it to bed time. His Toddler Monster won’t kick in until closer to 7.
Either way, as you can see, both my three year olds, need that mid day pick me up.
And so do we.
For two reasons:
- To afford our nanny we cut hours and have her only work until naps. The kids wake up at 3 where my husband hangs out with them until 4 then we all spend the rest of the afternoon and evening together.
- On the weekends we need time to reset to either to write newsletters, take naps, do laundry, or prepare for afternoon adventures like parties or mini road trips.
DO TODDLERS NEED TO NAP?
Short answer. Yes.
Children nap until the age of 5. Three out of ten children nap until 6. Toddlers need about 12 - 14 hours of sleep in a 24 our period so unless your child is sleeping 7PM to 8 or 9AM, they need a nap in the afternoon according to the experts. This is true for my children. Even if my daughter sleeps 12 hours at night, she’ll fight having a nap then be cranky the rest of the day.
The other thing that’s true for my children is that naps shouldn’t be longer than an hour and 45 minutes - apparently 90 minutes is the sweet spot. If my kids sleep longer than this they wake up so cranky. My son is best on the 90 minute mark. I just start making noise in the kitchen and he naturally wakes up. 90 minutes is too short for my daughter. She’s better at the hour and 45 minute mark. We open her door and crack the blinds open then leave to let her wake up on her own otherwise 20 minutes after her nap she is unapproachable.
WHAT HAPPENS IF THEY STOP NAPPING BEFORE AGE OF 5
Experts say that if kids don’t get enough sleep in that 24 hour period then they start to struggle in learning, mood, and health. Even having mid-day downtime to just sit in a quiet space could be enough of a reset to help in these areas if a child isn’t napping but showing signs that they’re cranky.
Sleep in general can ebb and flow. The struggle can be very real. Usually during a growth spurt or when your child is starting to really exert their independence. From everything I read, as most things, it really depends on your child. Yes there are guidelines around how much sleep your child should get, but some need more or less than others.
Their signs of being tired in toddlerhood haven’t changed since infancy. Eye rubbing, tired cry, yawning, etc. All signs of needing sleep. While a schedule is helpful, if you see these signs earlier one day then move nap up. If they had a really good night sleep and aren’t showing ANY of these signs, then maybe move it back. Switch to some quiet time and see if reading some books and quieting down helps things along.
If you’re child has already forgone naps and they’re showing some of these overtired signs by the end of the day then introduce quiet time. They’re going to read in their bed with the lights low until momma or daddy say it’s time to come out. Even if they don’t sleep this should give them a bit of a reset and give you time back in your day too.
However you help your child get some quiet time or much needed sleep in the middle of the day, pick your method and create consistency through their schedule. Try it for AT LEAST a week to help create it as the new normal. And forecast it. “Jimmy, starting tomorrow we’re going to have quiet time after lunch.” “Jimmy, today, after lunch we’re going to have some quiet time. You’ll get to sit in your room, all by yourself like a big boy, and read books all by yourself!” “Okay Jimmy, it’s lunchtime then we’re going to have quiet time in your room.” “Okay Jimmy, time for quiet time.”
So. Much. Forecasting. Best Pediatric advice I got from any doctor ever.
We do two things. We don’t let my daughter sleep past 7:30 and we don’t let her nap longer than an hour and 45 minutes. She needs a LOT of sleep. My son on the other hand wakes up at 6:45 and we have him nap for only 90 minutes. He needs less. Remember it really depends on your kids. Look for their signs and decide what method - if any is right for you and them.