When Do Kids Stop Napping?
When your child is first born, they'll snooze through most of the day. Sleep is vital for mental and physical development during this early newborn stage, says Daniel Lewin, Ph.D., director of pediatric behavioral sleep medicine at Children's National Medical Center, in Washington, D.C.
Eventually your little one will start going down for two daytime slumbers—usually a midmorning nap and an afternoon nap. This routine will last for a while, but the morning nap usually disappears sometime between 12 and 21 months, says Chicago pediatrician Marc Weissbluth, M.D., author of Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.
So when do children stop napping altogether? The answer varies for every kid, but we spoke with experts to come up with a general guideline.
Signs Your Child is Ready to Stop Napping
Studies show that many children stop taking naps at around age 4, but some experts say that may be too soon. "Daytime sleep remains important for kids during the preschool years and even throughout kindergarten," says Parents adviser Jodi Mindell, Ph.D., author of Sleeping Through the Night.
If your child falls asleep easily at naptime, they probably still need a daytime snooze. But these signs indicate that your child no longer needs a nap—just a quiet rest time during the day, according to Elizabeth Pantley, author of The No-Cry Nap Solution.
They have a stable mood. Your child has a consistent personality from morning until bedtime, even on busy days. Of course, most children have ups and downs throughout the day, but a child whose ready to ditch the naps is generally stable. They don't have meltdowns in the late afternoon when they miss a nap.
They experience trouble napping. When your child is put in bed for a nap, they rarely fall asleep. They may also act fidgety and restless at naptime. (Note that if your child responds negatively to naps but still snoozes for an hour or longer, they're probably not ready to ditch their midday slumber, says Pantley.)
Naps mess up their bedtime routine. When your child naps, they have a hard time going to sleep at their regular bedtime. They may take a long time to fall asleep, or they could wake up too early.
Bedtime is generally easy without naps. Even when your child doesn't sleep during the day, they go to bed at a reasonable time and sleep well all night.
Your child doesn't act tired throughout the day. Does your child doze off on short car rides after missing a nap? Or do you notice yawning, eye rubbing, fidgeting, or antsy behavior during the day? These are all signs your child might be overtired, and they probably still need naps.
They're developing properly. Your child learns new things easily and has an appropriate attention span for their age. They're also typically healthy and don't suffer from many colds or other ailments.
Advice for Stopping Naps
Do you think your child is ready to stop taking naps? It'll take some trial and error, but these tips can help the process go smoothly.
- Encourage your child to replace their nap with "quiet time"—an hour or so when they look at a storybook, listen to soft music, or do some coloring. This lets them recharge and relax on their own. To maintain consistency with quiet time, some experts recommend incorporating it into your daily schedule.
- Don't eliminate naps cold turkey. Your child probably needs an adjustment period, and it's completely fine if they'd like to nap sometimes, says Pantley. This transitional period could last weeks or months.
- If your child becomes tired early at night, you might need to move up bedtime.
- See a doctor if you're worried about your child's napping schedule. Getting too much or too little sleep could indicate certain health problems.