What Parents Can Do When a Toddler Refuses to Nap

Since your baby was born, every time it seems like you have your child’s nap schedule down, it changes. But once your baby hits toddlerhood, naps are beginning to consolidate. Most toddlers are taking at least one nap a day.

In fact, according to the book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth, M.D., “About 18 percent of children have started taking only a single nap by their first birthday, and this percentage increases to 56 percent by the age of fifteen months. By 21 months, most children are down to just a single nap.”

For most toddlers, this means a (hopefully lengthy) afternoon nap that parents can count on daily. And, considering how fast the nap changes happened when your child was an infant, the toddler period of one nap can seem like it will go on forever. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

According to Dr. Weissbluth, by the age of six, most children begin dropping their naps. This process can begin as early as three – though it’s likely this process will take a long time. Your child may continue to sleep four or five days a week, but not need a nap every day.

But when your older toddler begins to revolt against naps—what should you do? What if he or she is ready to give them up but you’re not? Here are a few strategies to try.


Consider Whether or Not Your Toddler Needs the Nap

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

Keep in mind that most children do not begin dropping their final nap until the age of 3. But, there are a few signs that your older toddler may be in the midst of dropping his nap.

First and foremost, if you find you're constantly pushing back bedtime or your toddler is having a hard time sleeping at night, her mid-day nap may be the problem. You can try experimenting before you give up ​altogether—try scheduling the nap a little earlier in the day to give your toddler more time before bedtime to wear herself out. 

Another sign that your toddler's nap may be on the way out is that your toddler doesn't act tired mid-day and by late afternoon, they are still happy and content, not fussy, cranky, or otherwise showing signs that they really needed that missed nap. 


Experiment With "Quiet Time" Instead of Nap Time

Older toddlers are becoming very 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 his or her autonomy—whether or not she is truly ready to give up the nap. 

Try to meet your toddler halfway on this one. Instead of demanding nap time, try calling it "quiet time," or time that your toddler spends relaxing by himself in his room. While quiet time may not be all that enticing, not calling it "nap time" might help you sidestep some tantrums.

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

If your child is truly tired, he may play for a while, but he will eventually fall asleep. Either way, you'll get some "quiet time." 


Be Active in the 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 mid-day, the key may be making sure they are getting all of their energy out earlier in the day.

Sign them up for an activity, like toddler tumbling or soccer, and see if the extra physical movement encourages them to keep napping for a few more months (or years if you're lucky). 

Remember that every child is different, and what's most important is that you know your toddler. Be patient, and don't forget that your little one's sleep needs are constantly transitioning.

Ask your doctor if you have concerns that your child is not sleeping enough. 

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  1. Nakagawa M, Ohta H, Nagaoki Y, et al. Daytime nap controls toddlers' nighttime sleep. Sci Rep. 2016;6:27246. doi:10.1038/srep27246