What Parents Can Do When a Toddler Refuses to Nap

Since your baby was born, just when it seems like you have your child’s nap schedule down, it changes. Once your baby hits toddlerhood, naps usually begin to consolidate. Most toddlers take at least one nap a day.

“About 18% of children have started taking only a single nap by their first birthday, and this percentage increases to 56% by the age of 15 months. By 21 months, most children are down to just a single nap.”

—Marc Weissbluth, MD (in "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child")

For most toddlers, this means a (hopefully lengthy) daily afternoon nap that parents can count on. Considering how fast sleep routines changed when your child was an infant, the toddler "one nap" period might seem like it will go on forever—but this is usually not the case.

According to Dr. Weissbluth, most children begin dropping their naps by the age of 6 years. The process can begin as early as 3 years old, though it’s more likely to take a longer time. Your child might continue to sleep four or five days a week, but not need a nap every day.

That said, once your older toddler begins to revolt against naps, what should you do? What if your child is ready to give naps up—but you’re not? Here are a few strategies for parents to try.

1

Does Your Toddler Need a Nap?

Toddler girl yawning
Glow Images, Inc / Glow / Getty Images

Most children don't begin dropping their final nap until the age of 3. There are a few signs that your older toddler might be in the midst of letting go of nap time.

First and foremost, if you find that you're constantly pushing back bedtime or your toddler is having a hard time getting to sleep or staying asleep at night, their mid-day nap could be the problem.

Try experimenting before you give up your child's nap ​altogether. Scheduling a nap a little earlier in the day will give your toddler more time to wear themselves out before bedtime.

Another sign that nap time is on the way out is that your toddler doesn't act tired midday. By late afternoon, they are still happy and content—not fussy, cranky, or otherwise showing signs that they really needed that missed nap. 

2

Try "Quiet Time" Instead

Older toddlers are becoming more aware of their independence and want to assert themselves whenever possible. Making a stand about nap time could just be your little one's way of showing their autonomy—whether or not they are truly ready to give up the nap. 

Try to meet your toddler halfway. Instead of demanding nap time, try calling it "quiet time" or designating it as a special time when your toddler can relax on their own in the room.

While quiet time might not be all that enticing to a busy toddler, not calling it "nap time" might help you sidestep tantrums.

Invest in a few fun and safe toys that can be put in a special basket and only brought out for quiet time. Make sure they are safe for your ​toddler's bed or crib.

If your child is truly tired, they might play for a while before falling asleep. Either way, you'll get some "quiet time." 

3

Have Active Mornings

Keeping your toddler busy and active in the mornings can help ensure that they need a nap in the afternoon. If you're finding your toddler doesn't want to sleep midday, the key might be making sure they get their energy out earlier in the day.

Try signing them up for an activity, like toddler tumbling or soccer. The extra physical movement might encourage them to keep napping for a few more months (or years if you're lucky).

A Word From Verywell

Of course, if none of the above seems to make a difference for your little one and you have concerns that your child is not sleeping enough, consult their pediatrician. Remember that every child is different. What's most important is that you know your toddler. Try to be patient and don't forget that your little one's sleep needs are constantly transitioning.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Nakagawa M, Ohta H, Nagaoki Y, et al. Daytime nap controls toddlers' nighttime sleep. Sci Rep. 2016;6:27246. doi:10.1038/srep27246