When Should My Child Stop Taking Naps?

RachelMS, RD, LDN, CSSD, CBS

Read time: 4 minutes

What should I know about my kid stopping napping?

  • Why are naps important for kids?

  • What are signs that your child is ready to stop napping?

  • Tips to help keep your child napping as long as is needed

Naps are an important part of a child’s day because they provide time for little bodies to rest and restore both mentally and physically. This time is often helpful for parents and caregivers too, providing a needed break after constantly keeping little ones entertained and safe.

While nap time is usually a highly anticipated time of day, most children ultimately give up napping between the ages of 3 and 5 years old.1

Why are naps and sleep important for infants and toddlers?

Sleep is an important part of our overall health, and children need a lot of it!

Including naps, here is how much sleep your little one needs:

  • Infants aged 4 to 12 months need 12 to 16 hours of sleep

  • Children aged 1 to 2 years need 11 to 14 hours

  • Children aged 3 to 5 years need 10 to 13 hours.7

Studies have shown that consistently sleeping less than the recommended amount of hours may lead to learning, attention, and behavioral problems, as well as increases the risk of certain chronic diseases.7

Naps in particular have been linked with cognitive development, such as a child’s ability to reason and remember.2

Learn more:

What are Typical Sleep Patterns for 4- to 12-Month-Old Babies?

What are Typical Sleep Patterns for Toddlers?

What age does nap resistance start?

Many children between the ages of 2 and 3 will begin showing signs of nap resistance – they are notoriously busy, curious, lack impulse control, and gain the ability to fight sleep.1 But you can and should encourage your toddler to maintain a healthy nap pattern until you are sure they can function without it.1,2

If your child’s behavior, mood, and coping skills deteriorate dramatically when naps are skipped, the naps are still needed.1,3,8

What are signs my child is ready to stop napping?

Most children will be biologically ready to give up napping between the ages of three and five.1 It is believed that naps are dropped when brain maturity gets to a certain point.2

Here are some signs that your child is ready to stop napping:

  • If your child never or rarely sleeps during their nap period for weeks, or has continual difficulty falling asleep at nap time.

  • If your child is able to cope well while staying awake until an appropriate bedtime (which may need to be an earlier bedtime if a nap is dropped).

  • If your child’s single midday nap begins to sabotage bedtime and you begin to see bedtime problems, such as difficulty falling asleep or staying up too late.1,9

Read more:How do I Transition my Child to a New Nap Time?

Tips to help with your child’s nap time

Hold on to regular naps until at least age three

Offer a nap period each day. As your child gets older, there may be days they are able to resist sleep during their nap period, but still biologically need a nap.1 On these days, be consistent and insist your child stay in their regular nap space for a ‘rest’ period.4

Even if your child does not sleep, their body will benefit from the regular ‘down time’ and they may fall back into their normal napping pattern.4

Provide an optimal nap environment

Your toddler is easily distracted and thinks they have many other things to do during the day besides sleep. Use a dark room for napping to block out tempting visual stimulation. Keeping the room dim can also avoid the disruption that light can have on falling and staying asleep.10

Some parents or caregivers may choose to use a white noise machine to block out external sounds. To protect your little one’s ears, lower the sound machine volume and keep it at least 200 centimeters (about 6 feet) away from them.5

Build a naptime routine

A consistent pre-nap routine will help your toddler know that it is time for them to rest.6 The nap routine can be much shorter than a nighttime routine, but something consistent with little stimulation is ideal, such as a song, massage, or one book to mark the beginning of the nap period.6

Lean more: How Do I Create a Bedtime Routine for my Infant and Toddler?

Transition out of nap time when your child is ready

Transitioning out of naps should be a gradual process so your little one can get used to sleeping less during the day. For some littles, the transition can be rough at first, which is why many parents continue to have ‘quiet time’ in place of nap time, when their little one can quietly play or rest in their room for a short period of time.

Even though naps are dropped, children still need a certain amount of total sleep to ensure they continue to grow and develop normally.11 For this reason, bedtime might need to be moved an hour or so earlier, or your child may start sleeping more in the morning.

Overall, prepare for a time of adjustment once your child drops their nap! Know that you may need to start your child’s bedtime routine earlier to help with their transition, but that a new sleeping routine will soon fall into place.

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For more on this topic, check out the following articles:

What are Sleep Regressions?

How Can I Help My Toddler Sleep Well at Night?

Sleep Challenges: Traveling, Seasonal and Holidays

Setting Up a Safe Sleep Environment