Many parents value nap time as an opportunity to get much-needed quiet time. So naturally, it can be a little disappointing when your toddler doesn’t want to nap anymore. Every child will naturally shift away from the need to nap at some point. However, the timing varies for each kid.
Although it varies widely, most toddlers stop napping between the ages of three to five.
When a toddler stops napping is likely related to brain development, mainly the development of the hippocampus.
Some parents are relieved when their toddlers stop napping, while others consider it inconvenient.
Incorporating quiet time into your daily routine and always allowing your toddler to nap can help ease the transition out of napping.
Sleep is important for toddlers since it helps their mind process and retain information.
If you think your toddler may have a sleep issue, consult your pediatrician.
When do toddlers stop napping?
On average, toddlers stop napping sometime between three and five years of age. This shift occurs when the child’s internal clock matures, causing them to naturally outgrow naptime. Depending on how many naps your child takes per day, they may first drop down to a single nap and then stop nap time entirely.
Children who still require naps well past the toddler age may not rest well enough at night. When your child stops napping, it may still be beneficial to offer them a period of “quiet time” around the same time they used to nap. This can be reserved for calm, quiet activities such as reading or coloring.
What causes toddlers to stop napping?
Minimal research has been done to determine the exact cause of why a toddler will stop napping. However, it has been found that brain development plays a part. One study highlighted the connection between the development of the hippocampus and a child’s dropping of nap time.
It makes sense that an end to nap time is more related to brain development than a child’s chronological age. This is why the age at which children stop napping varies greatly because every kid’s brain will develop at a different pace.
The hippocampus develops rapidly throughout early childhood. Researchers explain that the hippocampus can only hold so much information before it essentially “overflows.” Young children need to nap during the day to give the hippocampus time to “empty” or process all the information they’ve taken in for any given day.
So, research hypothesizes that once a child’s hippocampus is more mature, it can hold and process information better without requiring a nap.
How to adjust to a new schedule when toddlers stop napping
Many parents see naptime as an opportunity to take a break or enjoy some much-needed quiet time, so the prospect of no more naps can be a little scary. That being said, when your toddler stops napping, it gives you one fewer thing you need to work your schedule around every day, making outings and activities a little easier.
Either way, getting used to a wide-awake toddler can feel hectic for most families. Here are some tips to help make the transition feel a bit smoother:
Incorporate quiet time
When your child stops napping, you should still incorporate a period of quiet time during the day to replace the time they used to nap. This can help them decompress so they’re not constantly stimulated all day. Quiet time also allows you to have a bit of a break, as you did before. Quiet time should be screen-free and involve calming activities like reading or coloring. You can also play some peaceful music to help your child unwind.
Always offer the opportunity to nap
Many children go through phases during which they refuse to nap. This can make it difficult to determine when your child truly has outgrown nap time. For this reason, you should always offer your child an opportunity to nap, especially if they seem tired.
Encourage independent play
Encouraging your child to play by himself or herself for a little while throughout the day helps you get some time to yourself. It is good for children to get some time alone, especially if they spend part of the week at school or daycare.
Be mindful of screen time
Screen time can interfere with a child’s sleep. Because screens give off blue light that stimulates the nervous system, staring at a screen can make it harder for children to fall asleep for naps or bedtime. When your child outgrows nap time, try to avoid replacing their nap with screen time. Instead, you can encourage one of the above activities, such as quiet time or independent play.
How much sleep do toddlers need?
The right amount of sleep is important for a toddler’s health and well-being. Sleep can help children retain and process information. The recommended amount of sleep for your child varies depending on their age. In general, it is recommended that preschool-age children aged three to five get 10 to 13 hours of sleep per night.
Toddlers benefit from napping at school because it can help them process newly-learned information, studies have found.
Tips for helping toddlers with sleep
If your toddler is having a hard time sleeping at night, you may need to help smooth the way to better sleep for them. Be sure to have a consistent bedtime routine, such as bathing, brushing your teeth, and reading stories before bed. A bedtime snack can help some kids sleep through the night, so they don’t wake up hungry in the middle of the night. If your toddler is having a hard time sleeping and it is beginning to interfere with your day-to-day life, you may need to seek help from your pediatrician.
It can shake up a parent’s much-needed quiet time when their toddler stops wanting to nap when their child is between three to five years of age. Incorporating quiet time into your daily routine and always allowing your toddler to nap can help ease the transition out of napping.
- PNAS. Contributions of memory and brain development to the bioregulation of naps and nap transitions in early childhood.
- National Library of Medicine. The Effects of Napping on Cognitive Function in Preschoolers.
- Society for Research in Child Development. Words to Sleep On: Naps Facilitate Verb Generalization in Habitually and Nonhabitual Napping Preschoolers.