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When Do Kids Stop Napping. How to know when your toddler or child is old enough to stop taking naps. Know when it is time to drop that afternoon nap for good.
Some parents cannot wait for the day when their kids will be done with naps and stop napping all together. They want afternoons more open and free to go out and do whatever they might feel like. They want the schedule more open.
Other parents really want to hold on to that nap for as long as possible. The afternoon nap is a nice, quiet time that the whole house can relax and get some rest. If you have younger children, the afternoon nap is a perfect time to have baby sleep and give mom some time to rest or get things done without interruption.
No matter your wishes or preferences as a parent, there are real sleep needs with toddlers and children. All toddlers need time each afternoon to take a nap. They won’t always sleep, but they need the opportunity. They also won’t always greet the nap schedule with open arms. Many fight against it. A toddler not wanting something does not mean a toddler does not need something.
When Do Kids Stop Napping
I do not recommend dropping the afternoon nap until your child is around four years old. Read my Dropping Naps Quick Guide for more details. I also have a lot of details specifically on dropping this afternoon nap. Read my post here:
Essentially, your child needs to be:
- Old enough (around four years old)
- Capable of being pleasant without a nap
- Not napping most (or even all) days
- Not needing that sleep during the day and can get that sleep at night
Once your child is able to pass those four items, you can move to have your child stop taking naps.
Your toddler will most likely insist napping is not for her. I can’t tell you how many people tell me their children stopped napping at age two because the toddler just refused to take a nap. If you have a toddler, you know toddlers refuse a lot of things. A favorite word of every toddler at some point is “no.”
Some toddlers do love that nap schedule. They love to sleep and will willingly go to naps each time you tell them. Most, however, will fight you on it and test that boundary. Your toddler might throw a fit when you announce it is nap time. Your toddler might get out of bed ten times after you put her down for a nap to test to see if you will stand your ground or let the nap slide.
Stand your ground! Your toddler still needs a nap most days of the week.
Even if your child naps only 2-3 days a week, continue to call it a “nap” until your child is closer to four and able to handle the freedom of knowing it is just a daily rest time. Kids do not just stop napping one day. They slowly stop taking naps as frequently. This is completely normal.
Have Daily Rest Time
Do not worry! Just like dropping that morning nap was actually a wonderful thing for your daily schedule and activities, dropping the afternoon nap is also a great moment in your nap schedule journey.
Once your child is done napping, you can go out in the afternoon when that is needed! Do you want to play at the park all afternoon? Go for it!
With that flexibility, you still want some daily consistency. You want to still have a daily quiet time, known as rest time.
Once your child is ready to stop napping, you do not say good-bye to that afternoon quiet time forever. You move on to rest time.
Logistics of a Daily Quiet Time for Your Child
Rest time is time each day that your child spends resting quietly in the bed. This is different from a nap because you and the child are both acknowledging sleep likely won’t happen. You give permission for the child to quietly look at books in bed.
The length of time for rest time will ideally be 30-60 minutes long. Some moms, especially homeschooling moms, will go even 90 minutes.
You do not want your child getting out of bed or playing quietly alone in the room with toys. Playing in the room alone with toys is Independent Playtime. Read all about there here: Independent Playtime Overview. Rest Time is distinctly different from Independent Playtime.
Many moms find it works well to have a 30 minute rest time immediately followed by a 60-90 minute Independent Playtime. That can work especially well if you have younger children asleep for their afternoon nap and you want a longer afternoon break all at once. This also works well if you have a pregnancy going on and need a nice long rest in the afternoon to get through the day and make it until bedtime with grace! Red more on my post about How to Do Rest Time Instead of Naps:
Benefits of a Daily Quiet Time for Your Child
A great benefit of rest time each day is that you can have the child sleep if the child is tired and in need of a nap that day. A child who is sick, fighting off sickness, having a growth spurt, or who simply had a really busy morning will often need a nap in the afternoon. The child who has rest time each day will go to the bed and has a great chance of falling asleep for a brief nap.
Conversely, the child who is not used to rest time can end up fighting a rest time or nap time. Having consistent rest time allows your child to easily fall asleep on those days a nap is needed. Some children will take a nap even into the child years, six and older, on some days. Others will leave the nap behind unless they are quite sick.
The point and benefit is you are providing the opportunity for sleep.
Children also often rarely slow down and just rest. They need time to rest. A child who has rest time each day will get the chance to let the body rest, even if he isn’t asleep. That provides benefit to your child.
If your child is not sleeping during the day, you might need to move bedtime up a bit. You will want to play that by ear and see how your child does, but if your child is having a hard time in the evening, it is good to do bedtime 30 minutes earlier than usual.
When My Kids Stopped Napping
I have four children. They are each individual in their overall sleep needs. I have two who are low sleep needs and two who are average or even high sleep needs.
For all four children, they stopped napping and moved to rest time when they were four years old. I waited until age four for all of them before I stop calling it and treating it as a nap time and moved to it being a rest time.
All four of them would not nap every single day starting as a toddler and slowly napped less frequently over the next couple of years. The high sleep needs children napped more often longer than the low sleep needs children.
All four of them would fall asleep during “rest time” at times. The high sleep needs (Kaitlyn and McKenna) did that more often than the low sleep needs (Brayden and Brinley). Brinley fell asleep during rest time the least of all four of the children.
For all of the children, they would be more likely to sleep for rest time if they had a physically active day, were sick, or attended preschool that day (we do not go to preschool each day; we do preschool three days a week).
For all of them, the rules of rest time were:
- Stay in bed (unless you need to go potty)
- You may quietly look at books
- If you feel tired, it is a good idea to close your eyes and see if your body will sleep
- You may get out when the clock says “XYZ” time
With the clock, for some of the children, I simply taught them how to tell on their analog clock when they could get up (for example: big hand on the 12 and little hand on the 4). For others, we got an “okay to wake clock”. This is the one we used, and my six year old still uses for mornings: OK to Wake Clock
When My Kids Stopped Rest Time
Naturally, your next big question would be “Well, when do you stop doing rest time?”
We kept rest time through the preschool years. We also did it most days through Kindergarten. We have half day Kindergarten here and so our afternoons were open. These little kiddos get so tired after school, so rest time is such a great part of your routine to have in place so they get get some extra sleep if needed.
If the child had a friend over or went to a friend’s house, we skipped rest time that day. If we went out for the afternoon, we skipped rest time that day.
Once my children enter full day school, they do not have rest time on weekdays. I still reserve it as a tool I can use any time we need some rest. If we had a late night Friday night having some family fun, we might need a rest time Saturday. Even if there is no sleep, there is rest happening and that is helpful.
If we have church in the morning on Sunday and are out by noon, we often will do a family rest time all at the same time.
Read more here:
This post has answered what age do kids stop taking naps. Hold on to that nap until age four, even if at age three it doesn’t look so much like a nap. Once four hits, a great birthday milestone can be that your child gets to move to rest time. Keep rest time most days through the preschool years and don’t be afraid to use it through the elementary years and even the teen years!