This summer the time came for my third, and last child to drop his nap. Dropping the nap is always the hardest for the child and the parent. This was the time I would do phone calls, work, clean up the house, or even just take a break and eat a meal and shower. The truth is once my eldest dropped his nap almost 6 years ago, it’s never been the same, you’re “on” the whole day! But somehow this time around, I guess I was more resistant, maybe cause he’s #babyj.
The decision came two-fold; he’s over the age of 3, and he’ll be starting full day school now in August. Unfortunately, our school doesn’t allow for naps at this age, so it was time to remove. Also, I started to see the signs that he was sorta ready; not wanting to go to sleep (but eventually did fall asleep much later), and bedtime started getting later and later.
So how do you know when your child is ready to drop the nap?
1. He is between the ages of 3-4 years old.
2. He is fighting the nap.
3. Taking longer and longer to fall asleep, which leads to a later naptime.
4. Completely refuses the nap all together – even after leaving him in the crib for a full hour.
5. Bedtime has now become an issue, where he is not ready to sleep and/or falling asleep much later and later (because nap started too late).
How do you remove the nap?
· Don’t go cold turkey: It’s very hard for your child to go from nap to no nap. Going 12 hour days can become exhausting and they will need a nap every so often to catch up.
· Shorten nap: If your child is falling asleep, just doing it later, make sure to cut the nap short. Don’t allow your child to take a 2-hour nap starting at 2:00 as that will definitely push bedtime much later. Wake him up after 45 minutes.
· Catch up naps: Offer a nap every other day so that your child can catch up on sleep. The full days can affect your child’s mood and they will get too tired and cranky. A nap every so often will help him feel rested.
· Quiet time replaces nap: If your child is no longer napping at all, he will still need some downtime. Have your child lay in his crib/bed for some quiet time every day. He can read books or play quietly (with legos, coloring books, or any calm activity), but the idea is that he is alone, in a quiet, non-stimulating space. TV and Ipad’s are not suggested. Quiet time doesn’t need to last a full hour, but even if it’s a few minutes (15-30 a day) it can really help him.
· Move bedtime earlier: When your toddler was napping, bedtime was probably closer to 8:00 p.m. or so. Now that he will no longer be napping, you will find that the afternoons will a little bit of a struggle. Do your best to get the evening routine done a little sooner and have him in bed earlier. By early I mean, anywhere between 6:00 – 7:00 p.m. Once your child is used to being awake the whole day, and is a little older, you can then adjust bedtime to later.
Remember: Removing the nap so he “can sleep longer and better at night” is FALSE. This can actually create the opposite effect. Also, make sure your child is completely refusing and showing signs of dropping his nap for about 1-2 weeks before you remove it completely.