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How do I know when it’s time to drop the nap? My
3-year-old only naps half the time and, when she does, her bedtime is much
later. Should she stop napping completely?
Nap or Not
Dear Nap or Not,
It’s a puzzle! Let’s figure it out, because there isn’t a
set age when kids should stop napping. To nap or not to nap depends on your child's schedule and individual sleep needs (some kids need slightly more or less sleep, just like adults).
First, kids 3 to 5 years old need 11 to 13 hours total sleep in 24
hours. Three-year-olds are on the young side of that spectrum, so let’s say the
average kid this age needs 12 to 13 hours. Your 3-year-old could nap for two hours and sleep
10 to 11 hours at night. Or, she could stop napping and sleep 12 hours at night
consistently. Often when kids stop napping, they get the same total sleep, but
consolidated into the nighttime.
Signs your little one is ready to make that
1. She’s at least 3 (closer to 3.5).
2. She lays calm but awake in her crib or bed for 1 to 2 weeks
straight. This doesn’t mean she’s jumping out of bed (which is more of a
protest than a genuine not-tiredness). Rather, you'll notice she’s laying there or quietly
playing, but she’s awake.
3. When she does nap, she can’t fall asleep until 9 p.m.
4. If she sleeps 12 hours at night but doesn’t nap, she holds
it together pretty well and seems alert and happy in the afternoon and evening.
The key is that if you do decide to drop the nap, your
preschooler needs a super early and
consistent bedtime—7 p.m. or even a little earlier. If you can’t accommodate that, it’s better to
keep the nap in place, so she can make up for lost nighttime sleep during the
day. The biggest mistake would be to drop the nap but have her get to bed at
8 p.m.—unless she’s one of those rare kids who can sleep in till 8 a.m.