Nap Time Revisited: Schedules, Routines, and When It Ends

Image via Katie Hurley

Naptime always brings a sigh of relief for tired parents, as it guarantees at least an hour of quiet time. Naps are essential for growing babies, toddlers, and even preschoolers, and following a naptime routine helps. It's also important to know when naps change, when naps stop, and what to do instead.

By about four months of age, most infants start to develop patterns in their nap schedules. Times might vary a little bit each day, but at about this age, infants often fall into a pattern of three naps per day. These naps are crucial for development. Negative sleep patterns and associations can begin early, and that can have consequences as kids grow. Insufficient sleep can result in frequent illnesses, poor concentration, mood problems, behavior problems, and an increased risk for high blood pressure and/or diabetes down the line.

As babies become toddlers, the nap schedule will shift. General excitement about life can also result in more of a struggle when it comes to getting busy toddlers down for a nap. Toddler nap refusal is perfectly normal and does not mean that your toddler needs to drop his nap.

Most toddlers are down to one nap a day (for about one to three hours) by 18 months, although it can happen as early as 10 months and as late as 24 months. 

Children are rapidly developing physically, psychologically, and socially during these early years, and adequate sleep plays an important role in this development. It's vital to make sleep a priority for each child in the family, even if that means various nap and bedtimes.

Some toddlers even prefer frequent catnaps. As long as they're getting enough sleep overall, this shouldn't be a cause for concern.

Children between the ages of 1 and 3 need 12-14 hours of sleep. On average, most children in this age range are only getting about 10 hours of sleep. It's hard to learn and socialize when you're always throwing a tantrum.

Somewhere between the ages of 3 and 5 (3 ½ is average), your busy little preschooler will probably drop the nap. Some lucky parents will have little ones who nap clear through kindergarten, but most need less sleep as they approach school. They do, however, need quiet time. 

Continue reading for some tips to help you help your child sleep well:


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Nap Time Revisited: Schedules, Routines, and When It Ends

Katie Hurley, LCSW is a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist and writer in Los Angeles, CA. She is the author of "No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls" and "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World". She earned her BA in Psychology and Women's Studies from Boston College and her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. She divides her time between her family, her private practice and her writing. Passionate about he ... More

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  1. Leanna says:

    My eldest daughters were hit and miss nappers from just over a year old (when they learned to walk), quiet time was instituted for my sanity… They’d be sent up to there room for an hour where there would be a comfortable spot to sleep if they did but they could just go play quietly… However there bedtime was 7 and they’d sleep till 7:30… My youngest is 4 months and already doing mostly cat naps but we also have a set routine, at 6 she gets a bottle, I turn off the lights, turn down the TV and she sleeps till 11 at which time we go to bed, feed her and she’ll sleep till 7/8 in the morning… Quiet time is the best thing to do if even with a routine they want to give up naps because if you create a safe place you can have your much needed down time too…

  2. Stanley says:

    Growing up I always slept better with a radio on soft rock. Now that I have a smart phone I play Pandora instead of the radio. No ads and I get the music I like. The music helps me relax and sleep believe it or not. Soft rock I find best for sleeping and safe the fast stuff for when I am awake. But yea, music playing on a low level just loud enough to hear has helped me sleep for years. Can give it a try with your child and see if it helps. They even have some crib rail toys these days that plays CD’s. But they seem to eat batteries like crazy so I would go with keeping a small boom box on a table near the crib or bed. Can’t hurt to give it a try and see if it works for you too. 🙂

  3. Dianah says:

    By the time my daughter was two she was hit or miss if she would nap or not. I tried believe me but she was never a good napper no matter what we did. she kept learning just fine and at 3 1/2 she is already reading so we never worried too much. Just frustrated when we needed a break! lol

  4. kirshanna says:

    My son is very active sometimes he skips naps and stays up all night but wajes up vrry early what should I do ?

    • Megan Klay says:

      Hi Kirshanna – Is your son getting plenty to eat, to full his energy and help wear him out in a healthy way? Is his nap environment peaceful; dark, maybe with a noise machine? Have you tried to create a bedtime routine with a bath, sleepy time tea, reading stories? Best wishes!


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