As your baby grows into a toddler, sleep is still a huge priority. For most toddlers and preschoolers, this includes an afternoon nap. Let me show you some sample toddler sleep schedules and answer common questions parents ask about naps for toddlers, preschoolers, and young children.
Most toddlers will stop napping between 3 and 4 years old. Current research shows that “less than 2.5% of toddlers will cease napping prior to age 2, while 94% cease napping by age 5.” I find most toddlers do best with maintaining that nap until they’re about 4 years old.
If you’re finding that keeping a nap is negatively affecting night sleep for your little one, it may be time to drop your toddler’s nap from their sleep schedule. Ask yourself:
Does your toddler or preschooler take more than 30 minutes to fall asleep at bedtime?
Are they taking more than 30 minutes to fall asleep at nap or refusing to nap?
Is your toddler having early morning wakings?
Is your little one waking in the night and struggling to fall back to sleep?
Is your toddler content during the time they should be sleeping (e.g. calmly talking or singing to themselves in their crib or bed)?
Has your toddler been doing this for at least 5 days in a row?
If the answer is “yes” to these questions, it may be time to consider dropping your toddler or preschooler’s nap. BUT before you take this step, consider:
Is your toddler or preschooler going through any developmental progressions that could be affecting their nap and/or night sleep?
Is your toddler or preschooler overtired?
If your toddler is showing signs of overtiredness, we want to try to keep the nap. When you’re trying to determine if your toddler is overtired, here are some signs to look for:
Increased silliness or clumsiness
Disinterest in food
Increased difficulty focusing
Clinginess or whining
Most toddlers, preschoolers, and young children do best with a bedtime between 7:00 and 8:00 pm. Studies show that a bedtime before 9:00 pm leads to better sleep, and they also found that little ones have better behavioral outcomes with age-appropriate sleep schedules.
When you set a bedtime for your toddler, it will typically need to be 4.5-5.5 hours from the end of their afternoon nap, so keep this in mind both for timing naps and aiming for bed. Most 2 year olds can only tolerate about 4.5 hours. However, as they get older, that wake window before bed can stretch to about 5 or 5.5 hours.
Yes. If your toddler has a nap that’s too long, they may not be tired enough to fall asleep at bedtime. Toddlers and preschoolers typically need between 10-14 hours of total sleep – including naps – in a 24-hour period. Ideally, 10-12 of those hours are restorative night sleep, while the rest is your toddler’s nap.
When your toddler is ready to drop a nap, we can transition them to quiet time. Quiet time is a helpful tool when you let go of naps. It maintains a restorative break in your child’s day by giving them the choice to rest or play independently. Your toddler or preschooler may even surprise you by taking an occasional nap during quiet time when their little body needs extra rest.
An added benefit of quiet time is that independent play helps develop creativity and problem-solving skills. Quiet time also gives parents a break and time to recharge. (Sometimes, we need quiet time just as much as our little ones!)
When you decide to transition to quiet time, I find it’s best to offer it at about the same time each day since toddlers and preschoolers thrive on predictability and routine.
I have two sample schedules to share with you! Just remember, these are just examples and are not meant to be followed exactly.
|7:30 pm||Optional Bedtime Snack|
A 2 year old needs around 11-14 hours of total sleep – including naps – in a 24-hour period. I find most 2 year olds thrive with the higher end of that range, think: 13-14 hours.
A 2 year old needs between 1.5-3 hours of nap time. We’re still aiming for 10-12 hours of night sleep, so keep this in mind when trying to determine how long to let your 2 year old nap.
Reminder: most need around 13-14 hours of total sleep in 24 hours.
If you start to see struggles with falling asleep at bedtime, waking during the night, or early morning wakings, you may want to evaluate how much sleep your toddler or preschooler is getting in a 24-hour period.
Yes! It’s perfectly normal to see some changes with sleep around 2 years old since your baby is now officially a toddler! I talk all about these sleep changes and how to manage them in my blog 24 Month Sleep Regression.
I have two sample 3 year old schedules for you. Remember to reference these as examples rather than schedules to follow to the minute.
|7:30 pm||Optional Bedtime Snack|
Yes! Most 3 year olds still need an afternoon nap. If your 3 year old is still taking a nap and not experiencing any nighttime sleep issues, there is no need to change their sleep schedule.
If your toddler or preschooler is experiencing disruptions to their night sleep – like trouble falling asleep at bedtime, middle of the night wakings, or early morning wakings – you’ll want to consider their total daytime sleep. It’s possible your toddler is getting too much sleep during the day, and they may be ready to shorten their nap.
Most 3 year olds need 10-13 hours of total sleep – including naps – in a 24-hour period. I find that most 3 year olds do best with the longer end of that range, aiming for 12-13 hours.
There are so many developmental and life changes happening at this age that may contribute to a 3 year old sleep regression. Some changes your 3 year old may experience are:
Increased language, memory, creativity
Adding a new sibling to the family
Like all of these regressions resulting from developmental progressions, this is not necessarily a sign that a change needs to be made. Sleep disruptions are often temporary if you stay consistent with your toddler or preschooler’s bedtime schedule. If your toddler is pushing the boundaries during these changes, know that it’s normal and continue to prioritize sleep.
First, let’s think about reasons a toddler might refuse a nap they actually need. Ask yourself:
Are my toddler’s wake windows too short? (Aim for about 6 hours before the nap)
Does my preschooler need more time to wind down before nap time?
Does my toddler need more time between screen time or food and their nap?
Is my toddler’s environment ideal and appropriate for sleeping?
Does my preschooler need to have stimulating toys removed from their room during naptime?
If none of these questions apply, your toddler refusing to nap may be a sign it’s time to transition from a nap to quiet time.
We really want to be flexible with bedtime on days that naps are refused. We can move bedtime as early at 6:oo pm on those no-nap days to avoid overtiredness.
|1:00-2:00 pm||Quiet Time|
Some do! If your 4 year old is still taking a nap and is not experiencing any sleep issues, there is no need to make a change. When thinking about sleep for young children, we want to consider their total daytime sleep and whether they’re experiencing any disruptions to night sleep – like trouble falling asleep, middle of the night wakings, or early morning wakings.
Most 4 year olds need 10-13 hours of total sleep – including naps – in a 24-hour period.
I have more resources to help you on my blog. As you navigate through your toddler’s sleep schedule changes, remember to give you and your kiddo some grace. You’ve got this!