Most kids give up their last nap between 3-4 years old, and at 3 1/2, Olive has been in the process of dropping her nap for the past 4 months. I blogged about the transition from 2 naps to 1 here, but I think the final nap is the hardest to drop because it’s often a months-long process.
A couple months ago, Olive started fighting bedtime like crazy and it would take up to 2+ hours to get her down at night. We experienced some bad bedtime battles around the 2 year mark with both kids, but sometimes fighting sleep is related to cognitive leaps and not necessarily readiness to drop naps. They definitely still needed their naps at 2, but now Olive is 3 and half of her friends nap and half don’t. Olive was only getting less than an hour long nap at preschool, so we couldn’t cut her nap any shorter, and she was napping about 2-3 times a week there. Since she was getting enough sleep at night (12+ hours), we asked her school not to let her to nap anymore. Luckily this was an option because kids can play in the classroom if they don’t nap while others nap in a separate room.
No naps meant much earlier and easier bedtimes. But some days Olive would be so exhausted in the evening that she would start melting down. And after a couple of days of not napping, Olive would be so tired she would literally fall asleep at the dinner table and it would be impossible to wake her up. Sometimes she would sleep until the next day, but sometimes she would wake up after a couple of hours and then be up close to midnight!
She needed a nap every 2-3 days in the beginning, but after a couple of months of that she no longer naps during the week. She’s much better about not passing out in the early evening and is usually in a good mood too. But on the weekends when we’re out and about, it’s almost impossible to prevent her from passing out, especially because she’s extra tired from all the sun and activities. She pretty much can fall asleep anywhere whether we’re home or we’re out. This is where we are now — late bedtimes every weekend because she always naps. We have a busy summer ahead of us, so I don’t think she’ll completely drop her nap until the end of the year after she starts pre-k and she eases into her new routine.
This is what I wrote about Charlie’s naps in a Swarm about dropping naps when he was 3 1/2:
Shortly after Charlie turned 3, he started fighting his one nap. We knew he still needed it because he would often meltdown near bedtime if he skipped his nap. He also continued to nap well at daycare, but fought naps at home on the weekends. We instituted quiet time for one hour in his room, and Charlie napped about 40% of the time. That was a phase that lasted about 2 months, and he’s back to napping every day. His bedtime was around 8:30, but it kept inching later and later (it’s 10pm now!) because he just wasn’t tired enough at bedtime with the 2+ hour naps he was taking at daycare. I think he still needs a nap, but we need to limit it to 1 hour or he’s not tired enough at bedtime.
Shortly after I wrote that, Charlie dropped his weekday naps when he started pre-k at 3 3/4 of age. On weekends he had an hour of quiet time in his room, and in the beginning he would always fall asleep. Kids are typically exhausted after starting public school because so much is going on. A couple months into the school year his body adjusted and he started napping less and less during weekend quiet time. Over 3-4 months he completely dropped his weekend nap. Now he’s 5 1/2 and the only times he naps is if we’re traveling and he’s had a full day, or if he’s sick.
passed out at the dinner table
Do you think your LO may be ready to drop a nap? Here are some signs to look for:
1) They’re between 3-4 years old, although some drop it a little sooner and some continue napping until they’re 5+.
2) Daytime sleep interferes with night time sleep. Even if they take a short nap, it pushes bedtime very late (past 9pm).
3) They consistently fight naps/bedtime and don’t seem tired at naptime/bedtime. If you can tell that your child clearly still needs a nap but fights it, you can resort to stroller/driving naps during the transition.
4) It takes them a very long time to fall asleep.
5) They’re generally happy/energetic in the afternoon. This one may be a work in progress during the transition, and sometimes when Olive seemed tired/cranky, we’d go on a walk to keep her busy.
6) They sleep well at night, getting at least 11 hours. The total amount of sleep they get in a 24 hour period is important, and they may get more with one long stretch at night. Dropping the nap doesn’t necessarily mean less sleep but a reorganization of the sleep.
7) You want/need them to drop their nap. Every family is different and maybe a nap + later bedtime works better for some while no nap + early bedtime works better for others. Another reason to drop the nap may be that your child attends an afternoon preschool program where there are no naps. I think kids are pretty resilient and I’ve seen lots of them make the transition to adapt to school schedules.
T I P S
– The process of dropping the final nap may take many months to happen and can be a very gradual process. You can try allowing them to nap every couple of days then stretching out the days, and limiting naps to 45 minutes so that it doesn’t affect bedtime.
– On non-napping days, your LO will need an earlier bedtime.
– If your child doesn’t want to nap, institute “quiet time” in their rooms where they don’t have to sleep, but they have to rest or play quietly, or you can even play audiobooks.
– Some kids go on nap strike but go back to napping again. Watch your child’s cues and rhythms.
. . . . .
I really mourned Charlie dropping his nap because he and Olive were on the same nap schedule and that break in the day was glorious. It was tough at first but not having a nap gave him more opportunities for independent play, and now that he’s older I don’t need that break like I did when he was younger because the kids are much more independent and easier. I can’t wait until Olive drops her naps for good because it means early bedtimes for all (yay!), and more flexibility with going out. You mourn the loss of the last nap with your first child, but look forward to it with your second!
When did your LO drop their last nap? How did you know they were ready?
– More about dropping the last nap on this boards thread.