It can be hard to know when it’s time for your child to drop their nap as there’s lots of conflicting information as well as it being hard to follow their nursery’s schedule for naps.
I hear plenty of parents talk about how their 2 year old just doesn’t want to nap anymore. but this doesn’t mean they don’t need one. After all, I’m sure they’d much rather play all day rather than having to stop at all to sleep! But dropping the nap too early will just result in overtiredness which can then lead to all kinds of sleep problems including bedtime battles, night wakings and early wakeups. You’ve got to power through the phase where your 2 year old may be resisting the nap as they do still need it and will need it for a while still.
Some parents drop the nap too soon and ‘just get by’ without one until it comes a time when the child can just cope. But most children will need some sort of nap or quiet time until about the age of 3 ½ years old. Even if they’re not napping regularly, they will still need some sort of quiet time and you may notice they still take a nap at the weekend especially if you’re in the car when it’s harder to resist one. This could be a sign that they may still need a nap a little bit.
As a test, if you can go out at about 3.30 or 4pm, in the car for about 30mins and your child doesn’t fall asleep, then you’re probably safe! But the car will probably lull them off if they’re tired enough.
It can be hard to know when to drop a nap, especially if your child is in nursery or pre-school. A lot of nurseries surprisingly don’t cater for naps well and you may see that a lot of other children aren’t napping there. It feels like overnight they are expected to go the whole day without needing a nap anymore… and they might be okay! They might even be okay for a few months! But then a few months down the line, you might start to see lots of night issues such as night wakings or early rising and just not know why suddenly. But it’s all because that nap was dropped too soon and your child still needed it. If that’s the case, it may be worth reintroducing it.
I would advise you to ask your child’s nursery if your child can take some time out after lunch in a quiet area for a little lie down. You may be surprised how many of their friends may catch on and join them for some quiet time together!
The average 2 year old will need 2 hours sleep in the day but it might naturally get shorter as they get closer to 3 years old. Based on a child who’s typically a good sleeper i.e. settles and resettles themselves, aren’t woken by other children or hunger etc, they might just start to wake sooner and sooner until they just rely on less daytime sleep until they then just don’t need one at all or will just need some quiet time.
You may have a well-trained napper whose just so good that they just keep sleeping and the nap doesn’t get shorter! But.. they then suddenly start to struggle at bedtime- with procrastination, requests and stalling tactics starting to appear. This could be a sign that they are actually getting too much sleep during the day. They are almost so good at napping and self-settling that their daytime nap is too long and they’re not tired enough come bedtime. In this circumstance, the answer is to reduce their daytime sleep slightly until you find their sweet spot i.e when bedtimes start to become easier again. And you can then keep reducing their daytime sleep bit-by-bit until it just becomes quiet time and bedtime is easier again.
The main thing to be careful of is to make sure you don’t confuse overtiredness with undertiredness as both of these can look very similar! A way to tell the difference is to look at what their mood they’re in- both overtiredness and undertiredness can present itself as them using stalling tactics, requesting lots of things or procrastinating going to sleep but with overtiredness it can seem like they’re on the brink of a meltdown whereas with undertiredness they’ll often be fairly happy and content but just not tired enough to sleep.
If you need any help with dropping naps or any other sleep related problems, don’t hesitate booking a free call with me to find out more about how I can help you. Just click the ‘consultations’ page on my website and book a time that suits you.