When is it time to drop a nap
When a baby or toddler is ready to reduce the number of naps they have each day, or even drop naps altogether, this can be an equally challenging transition for parents!
Daytime naps naturally lessen in length and frequency as a child gets older because they can tolerate more awake time, from both a physiological and neurological perspective as they grow. Circadian rhythms – your 24-hour body clock that helps control your daily schedule for sleep and wakefulness – also mature as sleep begins to consolidate, particularly at night.
Especially for new parents, you may be wondering what some of the signs are that your child is ready to drop a nap. Dropping a nap is a transition that happens over time. Babies need to decrease their number of naps incrementally, but that won’t happen on its own, babies and toddlers still need your guidance to help ease these changes. And our educators are here to help.
Since our educators spend a few days a week with your little one, they have the knowledge of what to look for in signs of tiredness, or readiness to stay awake just a little longer! It’s important to remember that each child is different. What works for one, won’t work for another exactly the same age or way, and this is not a process to rush, small people need their rest!
Here are some signs that may show your little one is ready to drop a nap:
- Taking a long time to settle at the normal nap time
- Settling well but waking early from the nap
- Settling well at one nap but not tired and not sleeping well at the next nap
- Settling/sleeping well at naps but taking a long time to go to sleep at bedtime in the evening
- Waking overnight multiple times or waking and staying awake for long periods
- Waking in the early morning (before 6 AM) and not resettling back to sleep.
“For some children, cutting down their bottles or altering their times they have bottles (obviously age-appropriate) may help with stretching wake windows,” says Hayley, an educator with our Deception Bay campus.
“We aim to wake the child through gentle means, such as hustle and bustle around them to help them wake more naturally, which can help too.”
Hayley says looking at wake windows as a guide for your child can help and you can find free resources and blogs by sleep experts online. But she says keep in mind small children going through leaps and teething may have more difficulty with their sleep, but these adjustments are usually temporary.
Keeara, an educator in the nursery at our Yatala campus says they’ve had some parents request help in stretching their child’s nap to one sleep to transition in the toddler room.
They find play in an outdoor environment during the morning keeps little ones occupied enough to stay awake – but says if their children did fall asleep, it was obviously needed, and educators will try for a short afternoon nap to make up for it.
Fresh air and active fun like sensory activities are a great way to stretch that wake time out a little longer for little ones. Maybe for your child, it’s making music or playing with different textures that will keep him or her engaged and interested just a little longer.
Like Hayley, Keeara and her fellow educators have also found works is having lunch around 11:30 and putting bottles on the warmer at the same time so they’re ready to go when lunch is finished.
“We’ve found most of the children would have their bottle then self-settle in their cots as they were so exhausted at this point,” Keeara says. “Surprisingly, it worked really well and made the transition smoother, they even slept for a longer period of time having just the one sleep.”
Dropping naps entirely
Then comes the (often dreaded by parents) time when children are ready to drop naps completely.
“We have a fair few two-three-year-olds in our room who have dropped sleep,” says Skye, an educator at our Yatala campus. “The most common sign for them was becoming upset at rest time, moving around a lot and getting up for drinks, toilet and to just tell us something.”
She says even if educators suspect a child is ready to drop naps, they start off with still giving the child a bed, but giving them a quiet activity like books, puzzles, or drawing supplies.
“That way they still have the option to fall asleep if they want to, if they haven’t slept the whole week, we then move them to an activity mat that we keep clear of beds, again for quiet activities while their peers sleep,” Skye says.
Independent play is also important for your child’s development, and it’s central to effective quiet time, so it’s worthwhile implementing it into your older toddler’s daily routine. Quiet time is a time during the day where your child has an opportunity to rest their busy little bodies and minds. The length of quiet time can range anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours, depending upon the child, but consistency in this new quiet time will work wonders for the whole family.
Skye says dropping naps is something they talk to parents about, and from those discussions, they work together on a plan to help the child adjust.