In the preschool age group, "naps" vary among the children more than any other age group. One three year old may be done napping 99% of the time while the next three year old turns into a swamp monster if the nap is missed. If you read Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child (affiliate link) under preschool naps, you will see that "Years Three to Six: Naps Disappear" (page 338). Guys, that is a three year spread of when naps disappear. Remember the spread of dropping to one nap? 14-20 months of age seemed like a huge range. Instead of six months, we are talking three years. So how exactly do you navigate the naps for your individual preschooler?
What Age Will Your Preschooler Drop the Nap?
As I just said, the age of dropped naps is a three year spread. While it is normal to have the age of dropping the nap spread quite a bit, there are some very common consistencies.
- Most three year olds still nap (91 percent according to Weissbluth).
- Half of the four year olds will still nap.
- Only about 25 percent of the five year olds still nap.
- Most six year olds do not nap (page 338).
For most of you, your child will stop napping as a four year old. There are outliers. Some will stop at three and some will stop at 6. Four is a good anchor age, however.
What Are Signs Your Preschooler is Ready to Drop the Nap?
Look for signs of readiness that your preschooler is ready to drop the nap time; however, always remember you are the parent. Most preschoolers aren't going to thank you for having nap time each day. Some might love it. I had one child who was that way. Some might seem kind of neutral or just resigned to understanding that is life. I had one like that, also. Many will hate it and fight with every ounce of power they have--even mentally and physically. I had two who used every ability of cunning as could be dreamed up to try to get out of naps. I say that to say, you need to lead out on when it is dropped, not your child. You are the parent and you get to decide. Decide based on your observation skills.
- Your preschooler will stop napping altogether, or may still nap but stop sleeping well at night. If the latter is the case, you might start with shortening the nap rather than cutting it altogether.
- If you drop the nap and your child slowly gets less obedient and more grumpy, do not write it off as being a "three year old" or "emotional four year old." There is an excellent chance your child is acting out because he/she wasn't actually ready to not nap at all.
Please be wary of dropping a nap in order to add in extra-curricular activities. If your child is truly ready to drop and activities are available to do at the old nap time, that is totally fine. Do not, however, drop a nap in order to start an activity. If you can't move that nap, do not do the activity. I promise delaying the activity by a year will not prevent your child from a lifetime of happiness and achievement in that area.
What Should You Do When Your Preschooler is Ready to Drop the Nap?
- Be aware that you will likely need to add sleep to your child's night. This might mean an earlier bedtime, and/or it might mean your child needs to sleep in later in the morning. If neither of these things is possible in your life at the moment, hold off on dropping that nap.
- Keep a rest time. Rest time is your insurance policy to provide a time for naps to happen as needed. They also allow your child to get a mental and physical break even if not sleeping. My youngest is currently four years old, and she cannot have a skipped rest time and maintain being pleasant past 7 PM. If we have something scheduled beyond 7 PM, I am absolutely sure to get rest time in there.