I have some news for you. It might come as good news, but it might come as bad news. I always give it to you straight, so here it is.
At some point, your child will stop napping every single day.
And that point might come sooner than you think.
This is the inconsistent napper.
It seems to start somewhere as a two year old--but it is rather rare for the two year old. Every so often, the child will just not take a nap. This usually results in a cranky toddler, and it is wise to end the day with a slightly earlier bedtime (30 minutes should suffice).
As a three year old, this inconsistent napping starts to happen more frequently. I have never noticed a predictable pattern with my kids, but it does start off with maybe once a week, but by age four, naps happen as often as they don't it seems.
As a four year old, naps slowly start to happen even less often. Some officially move to rest time as a four year old. Brayden didn't do that until he was 5.25; Kaitlyn is almost four and I am guessing she will also be a five year old when she moves to rest time most days.
As a five year old, the child naps every so often during rest time. It is a foil of a two year old. The two year old doesn't nap every once in a great while; the five year old does nap every once in a great while.
Why is this good news? Well, it is good news for you in that when it happens with your child, you know there is no need to panic. Why is it bad news? Because we all like nap time :).
Now that you are assured this is a normal cycle, you might wonder what you do about it.
As a two year old, I put the child down for a nap every single day unless there is some great reason not to. Nap time also lasts the same, normal length of time whether the child is sleeping or not. Relaxing in bed is better than being out being overstimulated. The two year old is very sensitive to missing naps and probably can't miss more than one, maybe two, in a week without having a meltdown.
As a three year old, I still continue having a nap every single day unless there is as good reason not to. Closer to three and the reason needs to be pretty compelling. Closer to four and it can be something as simple as nice weather outside. Yesterday, Brayden and Kaitlyn were having a lot of fun playing with each other and it was Brayden's last day of Spring Break from school, so I didn't put Kaitlyn down for a nap. If you do this, you cannot have a later-than-normal bedtime and will likely need an earlier-than-normal bedtime. By bedtime, Kaitlyn was tired and wanted to go to bed. Also, as a caution, don't skip naps too often. Once a week is probably okay. Twice might even be fine if you let about three days go between. So far as how long to be in bed if not actually napping, I stick with the length of a normal nap, but naps do shorten in this year from the two year old length.
For the four year old, I still continue to have a nap every single day unless there is a pretty good reason not to. As a four year old, I start to shorten the amount of time the child to stay in bed if a nap isn't going to happen. I cut Brayden's to an hour as a four year old. If he napped, he slept for about two hours, but I would check on him at one hour and if he was awake, I would let him get up.
As a five year old, Brayden moved to rest time and we moved the length back to 30 minutes. If he does fall asleep, I don't let him sleep longer than 1.5 hours or else he will have a hard time falling asleep that night. If family is visiting, we are visiting family, we are on vacation, or we are having a rare nice weather day, I don't require rest time; however, that 30 minutes is great for taking a breather and great for some rejuvenation, so it is still highly valuable on a regular basis.
So now you know (if you didn't already). Sometime as a two year old, your child will most likely start boycotting sleep every so often for a nap--this is the beginning of the weaning process from a nap. But at least it is a weaning process that takes a couple of years :). Try to not stress about missed naps and know your child is being normal.
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