Ah, naps. That glorious hour or two when a mom can drink a hot cup of coffee for five minutes straight and perhaps get some work done without being constantly interrupted. As adults, most of us would probably give our right arm to have a nap every day. However, our children seem to look at naps in a very different light. For most of their first years, they fight tooth and nail to avoid their naps. Then a few years later, they downright refuse. The day a child drops their last nap is a day that no parent is really prepared for. Luckily, I’m here to give you a head’s up on when you can expect your kid to stop napping and how to deal with it without losing your ever-loving mind.
Most babies will take two naps a day until about 18 months when they drop their morning nap. Nearly half of all kids will stop napping altogether by age four (sad day!), and most kids will be done napping by kindergarten.1 But when can you expect your kid to stop napping, and what are the signs?
How to Tell When Your Kid is Done Napping
1. He takes a long time to fall asleep at nap time or doesn’t fall asleep at all.
My son started having trouble napping around age 3-1/2. He would roll around in his bed, kick the wall, or get up and wander around. At first, it made me angry, and I would try to force him to nap. Soon, though, I realized that he was, sadly, growing out of naps. I had to come up with a solution fast.
2. She takes a long time to fall asleep at bedtime or doesn’t seem tired.
When my daughter was about four, she would go to bed at night without a fight, but she couldn’t fall asleep for the longest time. She would stay up singing and telling herself stories. This was cute for the first few evenings but became annoying (OMG, PLEASE GO TO SLEEP!). After I transitioned her to quiet time, she was out like a light at bedtime. And all was right with the world.
3. He can skip his nap and not turn into a terrorist.
Granted, kids can be tiny terrorists at any given point in time. However, the “I’m being a jerk because I skipped my nap” style of terrorism is very different than the “I’m just generally a jerk today” variety, and as a mom, you know which is which. When they start being mild, garden variety jerks even without a nap, you know he’s probably ready to transition to quiet time.
How to Transition to Quiet Time
1. Treat quiet time like nap time.
By now, you should have a pretty structured nap time routine. For me, it was getting a drink of water, going potty, closing the blackout curtains, setting the timer, go to sleep. When we transitioned to quiet time, everything remained mostly the same, except I would let the curtains stay partially open and provide quiet time activities. I would also remind my kid that quiet time meant we could rest in bed or play quietly until it was time to wake up. Giving him that option made him feel like he was in control of the situation, and you know how much toddlers love that.
2. Use a toddler clock.
This is probably one of the best things I have ever bought for my kiddos. There are a few sleep training clocks for toddlers on Amazon. For example, this popular clock lets you set it for a certain amount of time for a nap. The clock’s face turns blue when you start the countdown. 30 minutes before the allotted time is up, the clock turns yellow. Then when the allotted time is up, the face becomes green. All I would have to do is tell my kid, “You may not come out of your room until the clock turns green.” They did very well with this rule.
3. Provide plenty of quiet activities.
Books, puzzles, coloring books, Legos, blocks, etc. – all great quiet time activities, and I would make sure my kid had plenty on hand.
4. Be clear and consistent with the rules of quiet time.
Some days a designated quiet time may not happen, and that’s okay. But try to be as consistent as possible and clear about quiet time rules at home. This helps your child know exactly what to expect daily. Kids thrive on schedules. So keeping quiet time consistent will be easier and more productive for you both.
5. Don’t be afraid to let your kid feel bored.
Listen, I know it can be hard to see your kid wandering around, tearing up his toy box, or throwing a fit because he wants out of his room. But, the beauty of quiet time is that if he gets bored enough, he will likely lie down and FALL ASLEEP. I lived for days like this because I knew that if he did fall asleep during quiet time, he needed the sleep anyway, and the rest of the afternoon would be easier for both of us because he’s rested.
Milestones can be challenging, exciting, and scary all at the same time when you’re raising kids. I hope these signs help you know when to expect your kid to stop napping. Transitioning from nap time to quiet time is one of the hardest, but it can be done without much angst for you or your child. As long as you are proactive about making the change as smooth as possible, this will be just another well-executed step in watching your baby grow up. Hang in there, mama. You’re doing a great job!