So the day has come when you can no longer go into your toddler's room, lay her down in her bed or crib and have her drift off to sleep for the blissful one to two hours you depend on to get a few things done. This is often when I will hear, “Is it time to let it go or should I continue to encourage them to nap despite the battle?”
This can be a tough moment for parents who have had a pretty good napper. After all, you depend on nap time to get a few things done in peace and a moment by yourself. But there does come a time when your toddler is ready to let it go. So how do we know if our toddler really needs to drop there nap, or if this is a short term regression?
Here are the three factors to consider when deciding to drop the nap.
1) Is your child age three, give or take a few months?
The magic nap dropping number is around the age of 3. If your child is only just turning two then it is not time to drop the nap just yet. If you are a few months away from their third birthday, then it may be time to let it go or at least entertain the idea. Consider the next few factors when making the decision.
2) Are they getting at least 11 hours of consecutive sleep at night?
The National Sleep Foundation recommends children between the age of 3 and 5 get 10 to 13 hours of sleep daily. I lean more toward 11-13 hours for most children this age. When healthy habits have been implemented and practiced, most children I work with will fall comfortably in this rage. A typical bedtime schedule should be going to bed around 7 to 8 o’clock and then rising sometime between 6 and 8 o’clock without waking for any long durations throughout the night. If you child is getting this much sleep and are three years of age, then they may be ready to drop the nap. If they are getting fewer than this recommended number, it may be worth keeping the nap in the middle of the day to ensure they are getting enough zzz's for healthy growth and development.
3) How active is your child?
Very active children need more sleep than less active children; up to an additional hour or two. So take a look at your child’s activity level. Are they physical in their play by climbing, jumping, running, or wrestling? Do they go to an active play group, preschool or daycare? These activities all take a lot of energy. On the other hand, you may have a child that spends more time doing sedentary activities like coloring, trains, Legos or dolls, time on the tablet, watching movies, or reading stories. They may not use up as much energy and require less sleep.
Remember your child’s mood can be a good indicator as well. Crankiness, increase temper tantrums, falling asleep while in the car are indicators your child needs to keep their nap. If you notice your child is refusing to nap, but their behavior suggests that they may still benefit from more sleep, you may want to encourage the nap for a little longer; even when they don’t want to take one. Toddlers are not always the best judge of their actual needs versus their wants.
If you have decided that it is time to let the nap go, but aren’t sure how to transition there is something I like to implement called quiet time. This is time that the child spends playing independently in his/her room that allows them to have down time. This can be an important transition, as completely dropping a nap and having active play all day may overwhelm you child and make him/her overly tired. Keeping a quiet transition period in the middle of the day is good for the caregiver and the child. If you are interested in learning about transitioning to quiet time please stay tuned for my next entry. How to implement quiet time with my toddler.