Preschoolers and Naps: Dropping the Last Nap Info

Do preschoolers need a daily nap? Find out what age the nap should be dropped, signs your child is ready to drop it, and how to tell if your child is getting enough sleep in a 24-hour period.

Preschooler lying down and covering her eyes with her forearm. Her arm has closed eyes drawn on it.

Preschoolers and nap time can be very confusing. One of the biggest questions is the best age to drop the nap. 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.

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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.

That means you really need to evaluate your child as an individual to figure out when your child is ready to stop taking naps. 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 average age to stop taking naps is a three year spread from 3 years old to 6 years old. 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. 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.

Here are some things to watch for:

  • 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. Forcing the issue and having your child participate in that activity during a time of day when she really needs to be napping could make her hate that activity, however. This can happen because of a negative association with being tired during the activity. It can also happen because your preschooler struggles with behavior issues due to being tired and is corrected a lot.

What Should You Do When Your Preschooler is Ready to Drop the Nap?

When your preschooler no longer needs naptime, you should still have some sort of rest time or quiet time each day. Keep this part of your normal routine and daily schedule.

  • Be aware that you will likely need to add sleep to your child’s night as you transition from napping to not napping. 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. Over time, your child will be able to drop that extra night sleep. But when we drop naps, we typically rearrange the sleep not lose it completely.
  • 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. Downtime is important. When my youngest was four years old, she could not have a skipped rest time and maintained being pleasant past 7 PM. If we had something scheduled beyond 7 PM, I was absolutely sure to get rest time in her day. Have them do this in a quiet space where they are required to stay put.
  • Around the time your child used to take a nap, have your child sit on his bed or the couch. Go somewhere comfortable. Give your child books he can look at. Set a timer or tell your child what time he can get up if he can tell time.

>>>Read: How to Do Rest Time Instead of Naps

How Do You Know If Your Child is Getting Enough Sleep?

If your child is no longer getting any daytime sleep, how do you know if she is getting enough sleep each day?

This is something that is good to be aware of and watch.

How much sleep do preschoolers need? Preschoolers tend to need 10-12 hours of night sleep and a 1-3 hour nap each day.

Once the nap is gone, night sleep might lengthen. This will be more likely if your preschooler is younger when dropping that one nap of the day. Older children need less sleep than younger children. However, 10-12 hours of night sleep is the recommendation until your child is a preteen.

It is also more likely if your child is sleeping 10 hours at night. If your child already sleeps 12 hours at night, you might not need to extend night sleep at all.

This is one of the big benefits of still having rest time. This provides nap opportunities. If your child is tired that day, then he can doze off during rest time for a short little nap. Daily naps won’t be needed, but occasional naps might be.

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This post first appeared on this blog in April of 2017

4 thoughts on “Preschoolers and Naps: Dropping the Last Nap Info”

  1. I think a really good guideline for when to drop the idea of a nap is based on what the school your child will be going to does. For example- Georgia offers free Pre-k to all 4 year olds. It is a full day program. If my child is going into the program I might need to know that they nap for 1.5 hrs at school. Similarly, in our school system, the Kinder classes (also full day) nap for 1 hr each day. My son is heading into Kinder next year, so I know that I need to be enforcing 1 hr of "nap time" a day throughout the summer so he will be prepared. He will be required to lay down for the entire hour at school, so I will mirror that at home as well.

  2. This is an excellent post! I have a daughter that will be 6 in August and many days she still naps! We homeschool so I am able to still lay her down for naps as she still needs them most days! I have been a little concerned about the fact she still naps but she has always been a high sleep needs child. I'm so relieved to know there is a small percentage that naps until age 6! My older daughter was around 4.5 when she went to rest time and stopped napping.

    • It can always be nerve-wracking when you have a child on the far end of either spectrum of what is typical. It is always nice to see your child is on track, even if it is a track less traveled!


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