How do you know when your child is ready for NO naps? Sleep expert shares six tips for a painless transition

04/16/2017 04:14 pm ET

Just because your child is fighting a nap, does not mean he is ready to give up naps. In fact, most preschool-age children, ages 3 and 4 , still need to rest midday not only to recharge, but to help them consolidate and remember what they learn. If you are wondering whether your child is really ready for no naps, use these cues to guide you.

Signs that your child may be ready to drop the nap:

  1. Consistently playing through nap time (over the period of a few weeks) and not acting tired with late afternoon meltdowns without naps.
  2. Taking too long to fall asleep at bedtime. If it takes your child over an hour to fall asleep at bedtime, it may mean the time has come to shorten or drop the nap.
  3. Not acting tired without naps. If your little one seems perfectly happy all afternoon until bedtime, then she may be ready to eliminate naps. However if she becomes cranky or cross as the day wears on, she may need an extra dose of sleep, even a 30-minute cat nap can help.

Six tips for a painless transition:

  1. Put together a quiet time basket of activities which you only bring out during rest time. Fill it with things your child can do independently such as puzzles, books, coloring books and crayons. Then put it away after quiet time is over.
  2. When you first show him your rest time basket, tell him that he has a choice to sleep or not to sleep. But in either case make it clear that he has to stay in his room and play on his own with her quiet time activities or he can choose to sleep.
  3. Set a tot clock or other timer for the amount of time you expect her to do quiet time activities: 45-60 minutes is reasonable. And show her how the tot clock works--when it changes colors or sounds an alarm, she can come out.
  4. If he comes out before, remind him it's quiet time and take him back to her room quietly to resume playing or resting independently.
  5. Be consistent every day about the time you set aside and your response so she understands those limits, and learns to expect quiet time. 12:30-1:30 pm is the time in sync with her internal sleep clock and the best time for rest time during the day.
  6. During the transition to no naps, aIm for an earlier bedtime. Bedtime should be about 12 hours after wake up time which can mean as early as 6:00-6:30 p.m. If you miss the window and he gets overtired, it can become harder for him both to fall asleep and stay asleep, leading to night or early wakings. As he gets used to less daytime sleep, you can shift the bedtime later, but ensure bedtime is early enough for your preschooler to get from 11-12 hours of consolidated sleep each night.

If you are wondering how best to transition from two naps to one nap, read my tips here.

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