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Mama Drama: Toddler Naptime Dilemma – To Nap or Not to Nap?

Dear Mama Drama:

When do kids stop napping? My two and a half year old son has been resisting falling asleep for about a week now but if he does fall asleep, he’s out for 1-2 hours. How do I know if he needs it still? He’s a nightmare around 5 if he doesn’t nap. Suggestions??

~Stumped Mama

(photo credit)

Dear Stumped:

Napping is a tricky topic as each child has his or her own rhythms and needs. Some kids don’t need naps as early as two and others need them until they are six. Here are some things to consider in handling this dilemma.

A good rule of thumb is that young children need 10-12 hours of sleep a day. So if your son isn’t napping, he’ll need to have an earlier bedtime.

The fact that he’s falling apart around 5:00 without a nap suggests that he probably still needs one. Continue putting him down for a “rest” or “quiet time” and see if the change of language helps.

Young children still need down time to help manage all of the activity and stimulation of the day. If they aren’t napping, make sure to have at least an hour of quiet time. This can mean laying in bed or resting on the floor of their room; listening to quiet music, an audio story, or meditation cd; reading books; or playing with quiet toys are good options. Make sure this a “screen free” time.

Look at the timing of his nap. Does it need to be a bit later in the afternoon as he isn’t tired yet at the earlier time? If this causes any difficulty with going to sleep at night, you may want to adjust his bedtime as well.

Naptime is also important for busy moms. Having that quiet time to yourself to rest, relax, or get things done helps you to recharge to make it through the afternoon and evening.

Share your nap stories!

Motherhood is an amazing journey that can have its share of Mama Drama. The Mama Drama column runs on Fridays with everyday mothering questions from readers and answers providing strategies to tackle these daily challenges. Send your questions and challenges to [email protected], and your Mama Drama could be in next week’s column! Lisa is also available for private consultations. All emails and identifying information will remain confidential. Read more of Lisa’s parenting perspective at her Laughing Yoga Mama blog.

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  1. Both of my kids were good, solid nappers and I had them on the same schedule (from 2-4:30 p.m.) So, when my 3-year-old daughter started refusing to take them, I fought it for a while and insisted she at least have “quiet time” in her room. It was mostly for my sanity!

    I have neighbors who literally forced their kids to take naps until they went to kindergarten.

  2. We determined naps were done when the nap caused the kids to stay up much, much later. Both kids napped pretty well up until about 3 years old, which is also the time they both stopped nursing.

    From there they would take the occasional nap, most often in the car. My oldest was 3 1/2 when his sister came along so that created built in quite time for him while she napped. My second learned how to sleep really well through the noise of having an older brother.

  3. My oldest son napped until he was four. My twin boys stopped napping before they turned two. Sometimes life isn’t fair. 🙂

  4. My 3 year old just quit. We do “rest time” though when baby sister takes her afternoon nap (also for my sanity ha!) It has made bed time SO much easier!

  5. Both of ours stopped regular napping as soon as they turned two. Then rare naps were because of long car rides or being sick.

  6. Thanks for all your stories, ladies.
    My oldest napped so well, I had to ween him off of them so he could go to first grade full day! My youngest was a good napper, but, like Heather, had to stop when he could get to sleep at night.
    We definitely kept quiet time going, though, and even now at 9 &12, I will often institute it during the summer for a little mom sanity. 🙂

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