As a sleep consultant I am often asked when should my child give up naps? The answer is not based on a certain age but on each individual child’s sleep needs. Some children give up naps around 3 years old but most children do not give up naps until they are 4 or 5 years old and beyond. So how does a parent determine when it is time? Here are some guidelines to consider.
When a child can go from wake-up time to bed time without being tired, fussy or irritable even on busy days. This may be one of the first signs he is ready to give up naps. Another factor to look at is if the child is placed in his bed for a nap and he will not fall asleep, you get him up after one hour. This happens several days in a row.
If your child can sleep all night long with no interruptions (about 11 hours). This means he has a regular bedtime schedule and wake up time and you are consistent and keep to the schedule. He is also able to wake up happy and often wakes on his own at his usual wake up time.
All children are going to have challenges during the day as they grow, learn and form new relationships with others. However, if your child is generally happy during the day and any mood changes that occur are in line with his personality, age, and situation. He has a good attention span and open to learning.
The hardest thing for parents is to make the transition when they begin to see some of these signs. It usually happens slowly and not all at once so he may have to nap some days but not every day. Parents need to watch for the tired sign closely and go from day to day to see what is appropriate. I would try and keep the same nap times when you feel a nap is needed and if you are not sure you may want to create a quiet time instead of a nap.
Quiet time is when the child is required to stay in his room or bed but not required to sleep. He can have books, listen to some quiet music or entertain himself in a quiet way. If he falls asleep fine but if not get him up after one hour. Some parents do this during the transition time when naps are inconsistent and the parent still feels his child needs more sleep. They are hopeful the child will fall asleep and get a short nap. Some parents like to make it a regular habit as it allows the child and parents to regroup offering benefits to both. A so-called relaxation time away from each other.
Naps will be an ongoing issue during the early years so don’t be ready to get rid of them too early. So many children and even adults do not get enough sleep and even more have trouble falling asleep. Allowing your children to learn healthy sleep habits which include naps and learn how to relax even if sleep is difficult can be beneficial to them during their entire lives.