Does my toddler need to nap?

I often get asked “Should my toddler still be napping?”.  As a rule of thumb most children need to nap until they are 3 years old, give or take 6 months either side. That is not to say it will be plain sailing, there will of course be regressions and resistance.

How do you know your toddler still needs a nap? 

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The younger the age of the child, the more sleep they tend to need. Using your child’s age as a gauge is one way of knowing if your toddler still needs naps.

However, there will always be a minority of children who need to drop their nap earlier or later than the average age. 

For example, if your child is not napping but sleeps a solid block of 11+ hours a night then napping may not be appropriate. Especially if you find that over a significant amount of time that their night time sleep is consistently disturbed if they nap. Although it is best not to make this decision around the time of a sleep regression.

But if you have a child that is within this age bracket who isn’t napping, but is having meltdowns at bedtime, waking multiple times a night, and waking too early, this would suggest that they need to continue napping.

How much does my toddler need to nap?

AgeAwake Window (Recommended time awake)Number of Naps
12-16 months3.5-4.5 hours2 naps
16-24 months4-6 hours1 nap
2-3 years5-7 hours1 nap

 

Here are four tips on how to help your toddler to nap: 

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1)    Be consistent

The timing of naps is absolutely key for overall good quality sleep for your toddler. Your toddler will more than likely resist a nap if they are either not tired enough or overtired. It is a balancing act.

Where possible try to make the timing of naps the same time everyday, as well as keeping some consistency in the nap so that your child knows it is nap time. For example, having a comforter or teddy that is only used during sleep times.

2)    Nap time routine

Having a nap time routine for cot or bed naps gives your child the chance to wind down and also signals that nap time is coming.

This can be a mini version of a bedtime routine. You can include putting a sleeping bag on for younger toddlers, shutting curtains or blinds, reading stories, listening to calming music or meditations and breathing exercises.

3)    Keep moving

In order for your toddler to nap, they need to be physically tired enough to sleep. It seems a simple point, but you could be looking after other siblings or doing household chores, resulting in your toddler taking part in inactive activities.

Try to provide plenty of opportunity for physical exercise during daily awake times. You can create a toddler obstacle course inside or out, run, jump or climb in the garden, organise active play dates, or even older toddlers can help with household chores.

4)    Variety

There seems to be a pressure on parents to put their toddler to nap in a cot or bed. I’d say it is important for them to be able to nap in 2 or 3 different sleep spaces such as cot/bed, buggy, toddler sling or car.

If your toddler does nap in a cot/bed mainly, helping them to sleep in another place will give you flexibility to go out during your days.

If your child only naps on the go and has no issues with night time sleep then this is absolutely fine. Whereas, if your toddler won’t nap in a cot/bed during the day and they are waking frequently during the night, I’d say it is time to reach out to a sleep expert.

Next steps

There are my 4 tips on how to help your toddler to nap and also whether to know if your child is ready to drop their nap. If you are exhausted and feel like you have tried everything to help your toddler’s sleep, then come join us as a member of The No Sleep Club. Here you find unlimited sleep support and advice for just £29 per month.

See my tips on how much babies should be napping.

Kathryn Stimpson