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When do kids stop napping?

Sleep is crucial for everyone, but toddlers eventually stop napping.
Photo of baby boy sleeping together with teddy bear.
Between ages 1 and 2, most children make the transition from two naps to one nap.dragana991 / Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

Maybe you're looking forward to your child ditching the daily nap or maybe you're nervous about losing a window of time to yourself each day.

No matter where you fall as a parent, you may wonder: When do kids stop napping? What should I know about my child's nap schedule?

Dr. Krupa Playforth, a board-certified pediatrician, tells that sleep is critical for everyone, but particularly for growing bodies.

"Increasing research confirms that high-quality, consistent sleep of appropriate duration helps the body function," Playforth says, adding that sleep is essential for growth, brain development, mood regulation, repair and immune function. "We even have studies that show us that daytime naps can help preschool-aged children learn and retain information."

Playforth, who is also the founder of The Pediatrician Mom, says nap schedules vary by age.

"Between ages 1 and 2, most children make the transition from two naps to one nap, although the specific age that that happens can vary," she says.

Playforth says that most children between 18 and 24 months are taking one longer nap in the middle of the day and need a total of "about 11 to 14 hours of sleep" within a 24-hour period, including naps.

"It is also normal to see a change in the sleep patterns around ages 2 and 3, but the majority of children under age 3 continue to need an afternoon nap," she says.

Does A 3-Year-Old Need A Nap?

Every child is different. Playforth says that although many children start "flirting with dropping a nap between ages 3 and 4," many continue to need a period of afternoon rest in order to help them get through the rest of the day.

"If your 3-year-old is still napping and continues to sleep well at night, there is no need to drop the afternoon nap," she says. "Remember, children aged 3 to 5 usually need about 10 to 13 hours of sleep per day in total."

When Do Kids Stop Napping?

Playforth tells the majority of children ages 3 and under need naps every day.

“About 60% of 4-year-olds continue to nap, and only a minority of children continue to nap at age 5,” she says.

While most children between ages 4 and 5 will no longer nap, Playforth says that there are exceptions.

"Any child who is 4-years-old and still napping and sleeping well at night does not need to drop their nap," she says.

If a parent finds, however, that their child is taking a long time to fall asleep or has disrupted sleep overnight, they may need to consider shortening their child's nap or switching to quiet time. 

"For those children who aren’t napping, starting a 'quiet time' routine can be very helpful," Playforth says. "It supports their body’s need for a period of rest in the middle of the day, and it can be a really nice opportunity for them to learn how to entertain themselves quietly with lower-key activities, which is a good skill to practice."

Playforth says that for parents who are transitioning their child to “quiet time," it is best to think of it as a regular part of their routine and to be consistent.

"The rest break should occur in the same place, at the same time, and for approximately the same duration each day," she says. "Consistency about this can prevent arguments and pushback; we know that most preschoolers really thrive on routine." 

Tips For Parents Transitioning Nap Schedules

Some key patterns to look for that suggest your child may be ready to drop a nap include:

  • Difficulty falling asleep at night
  • Generally disrupted sleep overnight or frequent early morning wakings
  • They do not seem tired on the days when they miss a nap
  • They stay awake throughout the entire day and don’t seem to be affected or overly tired by bedtime

"If your child is still napping in the afternoon and you start to notice some of these signs, consider shortening the nap first rather than completely discontinuing it," Playforth says. "Very often, these transitions occur in stages."

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