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Is My Child Too Old For Napping?

Napping is an important part of your child’s routine. You may wonder, is your child too old to nap? but that is not a simple question. Children need a sufficient amount of sleep in order to grow and learn properly. Lack of sleep can also make your child fussy and hard to get along with. As your baby gets older, her sleep needs will change. Before you know it, you have a child too old to nap.

Signs of a Child Too Old to Nap

  • Resists napping or bedtime
  • Generally maintains a good attitude throughout the day, with few ups or downs
  • Gets up easily in the morning, ready to start the day

When is a Child Too Old to Nap?

There is no one age that means your child is ready to drop naps. As a rule, children start dropping their naps between the age of three and five. Don’t take this as a hard and fast rule, some children happily give up their naps as two-year-olds, while others cling to the nap when they are entering kindergarten.

Napping or not napping is not a definitive thing. While your child transitions to staying up all day, she may nap some days and not nap on others. It is best to take a flexible attitude during this time. Fighting to keep the nap or give it up can make the transition worse than it needs to be.

Sleep Needs By Age

It is important to remember there is no one point for a child too old to nap. Each child is an individual, and the process of dropping the nap is gradual. In general, toddlers need 12 to 14 hours of sleep each night, and will probably take a nap. Preschoolers need between 11 and 12 hours of sleep each night, and some will get some of that sleep in an afternoon nap, while others will not need a nap.

How To Recognize a Child Too Old to Nap

If your child skips the occasional nap that does not necessarily mean she is ready to give up her naps. More important is how she reacts to this missing nap. If she dozes off later in the day or falls asleep as soon as you put her in the car, she doesn’t sound like a child too old to nap. Don’t let these late afternoon cat naps take the place of a regular nap. Doing so can make it more difficult to get her in bed at night.

If your child starts to resist naptime, let her do so and see how she acts. If she can make it to bedtime without being overly grumpy or emotional, your child may be too old to nap. If she resists the nap but falls apart later in the day, your child isn’t too old to nap.

Your Child Doesn’t Know Best

It is common for children to fight to take a nap before they are ready to give it up. This is a very normal part of your child’s development. It doesn’t have anything to do with their physical maturity, rather it has to do with cognitive maturity that makes your child want more control and autonomy. Physical maturity is what separates a child too old to nap from one who thinks she is.

Even though this is a perfectly normal stage in your child’s development, it doesn’t mean you should go along with it. A child too old to nap will be restless in her room during naptime, but a child trying to abandon naptime before she is ready can develop behavioral issues. Allowing her to give up her nap will lead to cranky behavior, hyperactivity, and other problems.

To encourage your child to nap it may help to switch up the nap routine. Try sitting with her and talking softly while you rub her back. Let her know she doesn’t have to sleep, just lay quietly for a while. Even a child too old to nap will enjoy this time, and if your child isn’t too old to nap, laying quietly for a few minutes is usually all it takes for her to fall asleep.

Be Flexible

While your child is moving from napping to staying up all day, the normal routine may have to go by the wayside. Some days she may nap, other days she may not. You may find moving the bedtime up to an earlier hour can benefit you both on days she doesn’t nap. Catching her before she becomes exhausted and has a meltdown is beneficial to you both. Your child probably needs to sleep between 10 and 12 hours to feel her best.

During that difficult transition time, consider letting go of the idea of a nap as long as your child agrees to some quiet time. Putting your child in her room with some quiet toys or books to amuse herself can be a good transition to nap-free days. If your child is ready to give up the naps, you can both get a little break during the day. If she still needs the nap, she will probably drift off during this quiet time.

Try To Maintain a Routine

While it is normal for naptime to come and go during this transition period, it is important to work toward some consistency. If you believe your child is ready to give up naps, move bedtime back a bit so she is getting more sleep at night. If you do not believe your child is too old for naps, continue to insist she spends time laying quietly in bed at naptime.