Just like you said goodbye to diapers, and to the crib, at some point, the day will come when you will also have to say goodbye to the glorious nap. Now if you ask me when this final nap transition will happen, I will give you the very annoying answer of “it varies”, because honestly, at 33 years old, I could probably take a daily nap if given the opportunity, and still have a great night of sleep. We will just call me “high sleep needs”.
So how will you know it is time to drop the nap?
Much like all the other nap transitions you have done, this one will show similar signs that will have you asking if it is time.
SOME OF THE SIGNS
- Your toddler is over 2.5 years old.
There is a regression marked by boundary testing that happens around the 2 year mark that many parents often think means it is time to drop the nap. However, you need to ride out that regression at least 1-2 weeks because usually things go back to normal and your toddler very much still needs that nap. If you start having sleep issues after 2.5… then keep reading.
- Your toddler constantly lays awake during nap time in their room playing.
There couldn’t be a clearer sign. If this happens you will need to adjust bedtime and make it earlier as they adapt to the no nap life because they will probably be tired for the first 2-4 weeks after dropping it.
- Nap time is still solid but bedtime is unraveling
This could look like you putting your child to bed at their usual 7:30pm time, and them not falling asleep until closer to 8-9pm. This is actually what happened with our daughter and why we decided to drop her nap around 2.5 years old. She was still taking the nap but then laying awake or calling for us until 9pm. This meant I couldn’t relax and feel “off duty” at all given that I usually go to bed between 9-10pm. It was beyond frustrating and as soon as we cut the nap she was back to falling asleep within 10-15 mins at 7pm.
- Your child is over 2.5, you have capped the nap at 90 mins, you allow for plenty of awake time before bed and now you are getting early morning wakes.
Mom, dad, I am sorry to break it to you, but you have done everything you can, and it is time to set that nap loose. It’s the end of an era and great things await you on the other side. I promise.
When you start to see some of the signs above, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to immediately cut the nap if you don’t want to. Furthermore, many toddlers are in preschool where naps are required until 4 years old, and after playing all morning, they happily take their nap at school, leaving you with a bedtime disaster.
Our daughter occasionally will fall asleep during her school’s nap time and my husband and I groan when we get the notification that she napped for even 40 mins. Why? Because this means she will not go to bed until 9pm. We will put her down around 8:30 and she will likely pop out of her room a few times saying she isn’t tired before finally agreeing to stay in bed.
So all this to say you have two options.
1. Keep the nap and adjust the schedule
This looks like capping nap at 2 hours long, and pushing bedtime back to 8-8:30ish. This may work really well if you work longer hours and want to have time with your kiddo before bedtime. You also don’t have to rush dinner or other evening activities as much.
2.Drop the nap and keep an early bedtime
If you want to be done with your day by 7pm, you will likely need to drop the nap. You can also choose to have the nap during the week and drop it on weekends when you are out and about as long as you adjust the rest of the schedule accordingly.
How to do it
This final schedule transition is pretty simple. You don’t need to follow any special schedule or put too much thought into it. When you have decided to drop the nap, you will move bedtime earlier by 30 minutes while your child adjusts. So a bedtime as early as 6pm is just fine and way better than having crazy meltdowns. You can choose to still have a quiet time and I definitely recommend some down time as they adjust.
For the first couple of months, your kiddo may be super prone to falling asleep in the car and sometimes needing to nap. That is ok. On the days they do end up sleeping a little, just be sure to adjust their bedtime hour accordingly.
A note on quiet time:
If you decide to implement quiet time, know that it is an adjustment. You will need to do quiet time in small time increments, increasing it little by little every week until you make it to a 1 hour quiet time/ rest period. Independent play is a skill your child will need help learning, ironically.
Finally- ENJOY! I know it can be daunting to no longer get a break in your days when you say goodbye to the nap, but it is actually so nice to be able to go out and about without having to rush home for a nap. Your outings can be more complex and you can plan for so much more fun!
We are still homebound with Nico’s nap, but I am very much looking forward to the day that we can leave the house in the morning for an all day adventure, and not come back until bedtime. Especially during the sweet summer months! Until that time comes, you will find us at home every day between 12-2. Ha!
As always if you need any guidance with this transition, don’t hesitate to reach out.