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All About Dropping the Nap

Toddler girl playing with stuffies

It’s hard to imagine this day ever coming when you’re holding your sleeping baby in your arms, but before you know it, you've blinked and your toddler no longer needs any daytime sleep!

For some this is a welcome transition. No longer scheduling days around naptime means more freedom! Other parents have come to rely on naptime to get through each day and have no idea how they will navigate days with their toddler without it. If that is you, don’t worry! I have the perfect solution that will still allow some down time each day (for you and your little one!).

Let’s start with how to know when your child is ready to drop their nap.

Signs your child is ready:

  • [Age] Most children are ready to drop their daytime nap between 2.5-3.5 years old.

  • They refuse to nap or simply can’t fall asleep at naptime.

  • They still take a great nap but take 30+ minutes to fall asleep at bedtime.

  • They’ve started waking earlier in the morning than usual.

But wait!

If your child just recently started playing through or protesting naptime and they are also experiencing significant language development, give it a couple weeks. A burst in language can disrupt sleep. If they are not ready to drop their nap, they will go back to sleeping well again within about 2 weeks.

Ok, now that you are sure they are ready to drop their nap, here’s how.

How to do it:

  • Replace naptime with quiet time.

  • Set aside some activities* in a designated basket, only to be used during quiet time

  • At the time that your child usually naps, set them up in a safe place with their quiet time activities.

  • Clearly explain your expectations for quiet time.

  • Set a timer for a designated amount of time (try a visual timer so they can see how much time is left!).

  • Pick an amount of time that is reasonable for your child to play independently. If you need to start with just 15 minutes, that’s ok! You can slowly increase the time until you’ve reached 30-60 minutes.

  • Put your child to bed early for the first 3-5 days of the transition.

Pro Tips:

  • If your child falls asleep, that’s ok! Let them sleep 30 minutes, then wake them. You can expect them to fall asleep occasionally as their body is adjusting to no nap.

  • Your child will get really cranky around dinnertime when you first begin this transition (I'm talking REALLY cranky). Give it time and know that it will pass as their bodies adjust.

  • Carve out a few days in your calendar where you can prioritize an early bedtime for your toddler the first several days of this transition. Aim for 1-1.5 hours earlier than their previous bedtime.

  • Implement quiet time for about 6 weeks to help with the adjustment. After that time, you can move away from quiet time altogether or go ahead and keep it their day as long as you want! (My school age kids still have a quiet time when we are home on the weekend.)

*Quiet time activity ideas:

  • Coloring books and crayons

  • Water Wow activity book

  • Puzzles with large pieces

  • Books with flaps (like this one)

  • Building blocks/duplos

  • Animal figures

  • Dolls or stuffed animals

  • Finger puppets

  • Simple objects to sort/explore (buttons, shells, large beads)

  • Play soothing music for them

  • Avoid TV/screens

A word of advice: As with any transition for our little ones, have lots of patience and do your best to enjoy each new stage! Best of luck!


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