How to help your toddler drop their nap (and not lose your mind in the process!)

How to help your toddler drop their nap (and not lose your mind in the process!)

I feel a change coming. As with all stages of parenting, nothing stays the same for very long. I can sense a shift and, if I’m honest, it’s a change to our routine I am totally not ready for. Alex seems to be dropping his nap – noo! It is getting harder and harder to encourage him to have a sleep in the day and while there are still the odd occasion where he will snooze for a couple hours in his bed or drop off in the car, they are becoming very few and far between. I knew the demise of the nap was imminent, Leo dropped his regular nap when he was two and a half and Alex is now two and three months. I knew my time of having some peace and quiet in the day was running out. The transition from nap to no nap can be tough on everyone: us parents lose out on time in the day to get things done without a child hanging off our legs and our toddlers tend to lose their shit around 5pm because they are so exhausted and ready for bed. If your toddler is showing signs of wanting to drop their nap too, I have put together this post full of tips and advice from other parents to help you navigate through this often tricky process without too much drama. Remember, the end of naptime doesn’t mean the end of the world, you just need to give your daytime routine a bit of a rejig – you’re going to be fine.

How to help your toddler drop their nap (and not lose your mind in the process!)

When should my toddler stop napping in the day?

All children are different and one child may be ready to stop nappi9ng before their first birthday and others may still be napping right up until they start school. As with lots of things, I think it is best to let your child take the lead when it comes to deciding when to stop naptime. To show you how different children are, here are some parents sharing when their toddlers stopped napping..

My daughter stopped napping at 9 months!  – Alex

I’ve got three girls and the first two dropped their daytime nap between 18 – 20 months and the youngest is in the process of dropping hers now at 19 months. – Hayley

My son was still napping the day he started school and continued to nap at weekends until he was 4 and a half!  – Josie

My son dropped his nap at about 2years and 4 months. – Hayley Jones

My son is 2 years and 8 months and he’s started dropping the odd nap here and there-mainly on the weekend. – Nicola

My first had just turned 2 when he dropped his nap. – Sarah

My middle child was 2 when he stopped his nap. – Rebecca

My son naturally stopped napping when he was about three years old. – Emma

All three of my sons dropped their naps at different stages and did so quite naturally. I would put them down but they wouldn’t sleep! My eldest was around 19 months, my middle son was around 12 months and my youngest was 3 years old. – Jo

My eldest stopped napping at just over two years (not long after her sister was born so I was a bit distraught). – Vicky

The youngest is 23 months and at that stage now  – Natalie

My daughter dropped her nap at 18 months old, my son is 11 months and is still napping twice a day – Stacey

My daughter dropped down to one nap a day at around 10 months old and dropped all naps completely around 18 months old! – Jess

See, everyone is different and while it is important to let your child lead the way, you also need to look out for signs that your child is ready to drop their nap. They may be ready to stop sleeping in the day before they can simply say – ‘Mummy, I don’t need a nap!’

Signs that your toddler is ready to drop their nap 

There are lots of things your toddler may be doing that are signs they don’t need to sleep in the day anymore. With Alex, he has started being really difficult to settle at bedtime if he has had a nap in the day. He is also refusing to go to sleep if I put him in his bed after lunch. He used to have a bottle and drop straight off but now he just gets up and starts playing and/or shouting in his room. He also doesn’t always fall asleep in the car now and he very rarely will doze off in the pram. For me, I would much prefer he settled easily at bedtime than napped in the day. Here are some experiences from the other mums about how they knew it was time for their toddler to stop napping.

The signs were just them being more awake at the times they would usually nap, and not going to sleep when I put them down. My youngest is now only napping 2 or 3 times a week so I think it’s only a matter of time before she stops. – Hayley

My son was still napping the day he started school and continued to nap at weekends until he was 4 and a half! He would have happily carried on but he started to struggle to settle at night so we decided it was time to stop. – Josie

My son  started fighting it more and more, until it was taking longer to get him down than he actually slept. He’d also be fairly hideous when he woke up; grumpy and confused for ages. It was ruining our afternoons! We had a new baby just after his second birthday and as such didn’t have as much time in the day to spend trying to settle him. – Hayley Jones

I knew it was time as he was starting to not go to sleep at night until at least 9pm – Rebecca

My son isn’t much of a sleeper in any case, but he started staying awake longer and longer in the evening on the days when he did nap and it was getting harder to actually get him to sleep in the day. He had always needed to be pushed in a pram with the hood down and music on with a dummy to nod off but he started to resist going in the pram and staying awake no matter how long I pushed him for. It was hard as I was pregnant with my second at the time and really needed the rest but it was the right decision for him. – Sarah

All three of my sons dropped their naps at different stages and did so quite naturally. I would put them down but they wouldn’t sleep – Jo

I knew my daughter didn’t need it anymore as instead of lying down to sleep as she normally did she just sang to herself in bed and kicked the sides of the cot. She refused to nap at nursery too. – Vicky

My youngest daughter started really messing around at bedtime and not settling until 9-10pm when she napped in the day, but when she didn’t nap she went straight to sleep so the inevitable was staring us in the face. – Natalie

We went through a phase of putting our daughter to bed still for some quiet time in the hopes that she’d drop off but she’d just sing to herself or chat away until we gave up and went and got her! – Stacey

My daughter was just so inquisitive and interested in everything going on around her it was like she didn’t want to sleep in case she missed something. I started noticing her naps were getting shorter and shorter and then started noticing she would fight sleep. If I put her down with a bottle she would drink her whole bottle before falling asleep and still be wide awake. It didn’t matter how long you cuddled her, led with her or sang nursery rhymes and read books she just wouldn’t fall asleep. I also noticed that on the rare occasion she would nap such as a long car journey bedtime would be havoc! She would still be wide awake at 9/10pm and it would totally throw off bedtimes for days! – Jess

I think it is clear, when bedtimes start becoming an issue it may be time to try and stop the naps in the day. It isn’t easy though, especially if your child ends up overtired and grumpy by tea time!

nap baby

The potential difficulties of your toddler dropping their nap

When your toddler stops napping in the day it can cause a few problems and disruptions to your routine. For example, if Alex doesn’t nap in the early afternoon we are at serious risk of a danger nap if we go out in the car after the school run. Also, if he is over tired Alex can be grumpy and clingy and it makes it hard to get anything done later on in the day. Getting Alex to eat his tea wen he is tired can be a challenge, he will often just sit and cry in his chair rather than actually eat anything. Here are some problems other parents faced when their toddler stopped sleeping in the day.

The real struggle was with her nursery who were completely set on her napping at exactly 1:30pm like all the others her age – she would get so worked up and upset and it took a lot of hard work and communication to get them to adjust to her needs.- Alex

I had to make sure I didn’t drive anywhere with him later in the afternoon whilst we were getting used to the new routine as he would then fall asleep in the car!  – Sarah

Sometimes my daughter gets drowsy at tea time but I keep her going and I  don’t let her nod off so bedtime is *usually* straight forward. – Natalie

Top tips for helping your toddler stop sleeping in the day 

As you can see, toddlers are all different and just as there are many ways to help your child to sleep through the night, each child copes with dropping their nap in different ways and does so at their own pace. My top tips for getting through the *farewell naptime* stage are to be guided by your toddler, prepare for a rocky few weeks as you all get used to the new routine and if one approach doesn’t work then reassess the situation – maybe your baby does still need a nap or maybe you just need to try a different technique. Here are some top tips from other parents.

My top tip would be to carry on putting them down for a nap each day to give them the opportunity until they don’t nap continuously for a while, probably at least two weeks or so. I found that keeping mine up too soon just led to really grumpy toddlers late afternoon/early evening – Hayley

For a couple of months we played it by ear, we’d try a nap but if my son didn’t sleep then we’d just have quiet time and now, at 2years 8 months we do quiet time instead. It’s usually time on my bed or the sofa, with a blanket and a book or the tv on and snuggling together for a bit. My advice is if naps are becoming an issue, try switching things around for a few days and see how it goes. The end of naps doesn’t HAVE to be a bad thing, our days are far nicer now!! – Hayley Jones

Top tip is to make the most of this extra time with your child by getting out further afield or trying new activities. Maybe spend a couple of hours in the afternoon baking or painting, or get them to help with the cleaning if that’s what you usually did while the toddler napped. Toddlers love being helpful and it’s a great opportunity for them to learn and develop gross motor skills! – Nicola

I found that swapping his nap for some quiet time reading books or playing a simple game that wasn’t too sensory worked well for us. – Rebecca

My oldest was almost 3 when she dropped day time napping though (my youngest 23 months) so my top tip is to be led by your child as every child is different! – Natalie

I have to agree with Hayley, losing the nap isn’t the end of the world and you can do so much more with your day when you are not worrying about making sure you have time for your toddler to nap. Swapping sleep time for quiet time is also a good tip, just because your toddler doesn’t nap anymore doesn’t mean they don’t need time to relax and recharge during the day. Me and Alex have been having sofa cuddles watching Mr Tumble after lunch, this is when Alex would usually nap. I may not be able to get as much done in the day now Alex rarely naps but I can’t say I am upset about snuggles on the sofa with my little man!

How old was your little one when they stopped napping? Do you have a top tip for parents going through this phase at the moment.

I just want to say a quick thank you to the following bloggers for sharing their experiences and tips with me for this post – Arthur Wears // Better Together Home // Miss Many Pennies // Me, them and the others // Devon Mama // Mummy to Dex // Imperfect Mummy // All She Loves // Cup of Toast // The Mummy Bubble // Crummy Mummy // Mom of Two // Tantrums to Smiles

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tips for helping your child drop their nap

For lots more posts full of parenting tips from baby to primary school, advice and honest stories of parenthood, please visit the parenting section of my blog.

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9 Comments

  1. February 10, 2019 / 5:20 am

    Hello Wendy,

    Before reading your post I was worried and tense about the nap schedule of my little one.
    Now I understand how to help my toddler to drop their nap.
    Waiting for more post like that one.
    Farhad Rakib recently posted…Best Toddler Beds Review 2019 !!My Profile

  2. February 18, 2019 / 9:28 am

    Oh nap time now I miss you! Ha. Fortunately for me my daughter dropped both her morning nap and afternoon nap before she was one. It’s strange when they decide to give it up.

  3. February 18, 2019 / 10:17 am

    We’ve done well then as Poppy is three this week and only just dropping her nap! Some days she still asks for a sleep so we play it by ear!

  4. February 18, 2019 / 12:42 pm

    My 3 all dropped their daytime naps quite early on. They just didn’t seem to need them anymore. I kind of wanted them to nap sometimes. They tended to nap in the pushchair.
    Sarah Stockley recently posted…Gemstone Water Bottles from BewaterMy Profile

  5. February 19, 2019 / 8:30 am

    I can’t even remember when my boys dropped their naps. I think with the first it was the nursery that started cutting them back, though he started school in Germany and was at nursery until age 6. With my second it just happened by itself.
    Jenni recently posted…Museum Explorers #1My Profile

  6. February 19, 2019 / 8:46 pm

    My first dropped her nap quite early on but we did quite well with our second. She dropped it at around 3 years old.
    Kerry norris recently posted…Introducing Elvi ClothingMy Profile

  7. February 20, 2019 / 12:12 pm

    Gosh this brings back memories! I remember being completely thrown out of routine when my children dropped their nap times, i think i missed have 10 minutes to drink a hot drink and just chill!

  8. February 20, 2019 / 12:24 pm

    For new to be parents this will be a god send. the article really is useful and provides tips without making the parent feel pressured xx