7 Tips for Transitioning Toddlers to 'No Nap'

Every toddler, sooner or later, stops taking naps ... and this transition, while necessary and normal, can be a tough one for kids (and moms!) to muddle through. Late afternoon meltdowns ensue; frazzled parents wonder whether their overtired kid will make it until bedtime ... or drift off at 5 p.m., which means they'll be up all night. Yet in spite of the horror stories you've heard, there are ways to make a smooth adjustment to no-napdom. Try these expert-approved tips below to avoid a nightmare scenario.


How to transition kids off naps

1. Don't transition to "no nap" too soon. "Many parents will eliminate the last nap because their child has been resisting it for a few days," says Jenn Kelner, a certified child sleep consultant at BabyZzz. But that doesn't necessarily mean they're ready to skip them completely: Sometimes children will skip a nap for a few days at a time, but then nap well on the other days. So keep these general guidelines in mind: 90 percent of children are still napping at age 3. By age 4, about 50 percent still nap at least 5 days a week.

2. Keep an eye out for signs your toddler is ready. "Watch for key signs that the child is ready to transition," says Kelner. "If any of these things are occurring consistently for at least a week or two, then the child is probably ready":

  • Your child is consistently having trouble falling asleep or doesn’t sleep at nap time.
  • Your child is consistently showing no signs of tiredness when he misses a nap.
  • Your child is consistently having trouble falling asleep at bedtime when they have had a nap that day.

3. Make sure your toddler has "quiet time" even if she doesn't sleep. "Toddlers who don't nap still need to recharge their bodies during the day," points out Lori Strong, a certified child sleep consultant at Strong Little Sleepers. So even if the nap isn't happening, instate "quiet time" instead in their room. If your child resists, talk to them about how important it is for them to rest even if they aren't going to sleep so that they will have energy to do the fun things that they like to do, and brainstorm ideas of fun activities that they can do, like looking at books or playing with puzzles. "It can also be helpful to keep these quiet activities in a separate container that only comes out at rest time," says Strong. "A tot clock can be a good visual cue at this age for setting a time for how long rest time is and signaling when it ends."

4. "Quiet time" does not mean screen time. "Television, iPads, and other electronic screens are not good replacements for a nap," says Strong. "While they appear to calm children on the outside, they actually stimulate the brain and can make it difficult to wind down and rest. Try to use media time sparingly and offer other quiet activities for your child instead."

5. Avoid car trips late in the day if possible. This is a toughie, but when children are transitioning from one nap to no nap, they're usually tired around 4 or 5 p.m. ... and a car ride can easily lull them to sleep. "Having a nap at this time of day, even a quick cat nap, can make it harder for your child to fall asleep at bedtime," says Strong. "Try to keep your child awake in the car if you have to do a car ride in the latter part of the day so that bedtime can occur at a reasonable time and not be a battle."

More from The Stir: 10 Stages Moms Go Through When Their Toddler Refuses to Nap (PHOTOS)

6. Move bedtime earlier. Yes, there is an upside to no nap: Toddlers will konk out earlier at night! But oddly, having no nap doesn't mean your child will drift off to dreamland earlier on his own. On the contrary, "not having a nap during the day can make it harder for your child to fall asleep at night," says Strong. As a result, during the transition, parents should give the child a slightly earlier bedtime -- like a half hour to an hour -- on days when they don’t nap. "An earlier bedtime will make it easier for your child to fall asleep and get deeper sleep at night," says Strong. "This will also help prevent waking in the middle of the night."

7. Re-instate naps when necessary. Even if your child hasn't taken a nap in months, that doesn't mean they should never nap. "Children will go through regressions with their naps for a variety of reasons, most commonly during a developmental leap like an increasing vocabulary or new physical milestones being met," says Strong, adding that she often sees these regressions happen around birthdays and the half-birthday mark. And these "nap regressions" are a good thing -- it means your child needs that extra sleep! -- so don't fight it. "If you continue to consistently offer quiet time, the nap often comes back," Strong explains. "Quite simply though, if parents don't offer it, toddlers can't take one, and this is when children are often very overtired at the end of the day -- they have meltdowns and it's just really hard on everyone." That's why keeping a regular quiet time is important; also, be sure to urge your child to nap if it looks like he needs it. Added bonus: You've got some free time! Who'd complain about that?

Was the transition to "no nap" tough on you and your toddler?

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