A mother asks: “My three year old never wants to take a nap. She complains and fusses about it every day. It takes me a half hour to settle her down before she finally falls asleep. Is it time for her to give up napping?”
Children approach life with boundless energy and enthusiasm. They don’t understand the biological benefits of sleep, so they see naps as an interruption to life. If it were up to them they’d never sleep – day or night – until they simply keeled over!
Leaving the decision to nap up to your child, then, is like allowing her to choose between vegetables or ice cream for dinner – just as ice cream would win hands down, your little one is unlikely to choose sleep over awake. Which leaves the decision entirely up to the grown ups in the house.
How to Tell if Your Child Needs a Nap
If you watch carefully, and if you know what to look for, you will be able to tell if your child needs a nap. Here are three lists that will help you know what to watch for.
Signs that your child needs a daily nap:
- Responds in a positive or neutral way to naptime, and falls asleep easily
- Resists or fights the idea of a nap, but eventually falls asleep and sleeps an hour or longer
- Wakes up in the morning in a good mood, but gets whiny and cranky as the day progresses
- Cries more often or more easily in the evening than early in the day
- Demonstrates coordination deterioration over the course of the day – can’t manage a puzzle as well, has trouble pulling up his pants
- Has an afternoon or early evening slump in energy, but gets a second wind later in the day
- Shows tired signs in the afternoon or early evening such as yawning, rubbing eyes, or looking slightly glazed
- Often falls asleep in the car or when watching a movie
- Has a difficult time waking up in the morning, or wakes up grumpy and stays that way for a while
Signs that your child is weaning from daily naps; he needs a nap on some days, but just a rest period on other days:
- Usually has a consistent personality from morning until bedtime
- On very active days tends to become fussy in the evening
- Is generally in good spirits, but can be grumpy or whiny on busy days or when his routine is upset by visitors, playdates or errands
- When put in a dark, quiet room for a nap your child lies in bed a long time before falling asleep
- Seems alright missing one day’s nap, but after a few days of missed naps starts to become whiny or cranky
- Usually goes to bed at a reasonable time and sleeps well all night long
Signs that your child no longer needs a daily nap, but still might benefit from a daily quiet rest break:
- Has a consistent personality from morning until bedtime, even on busy days
- Is generally in good spirits, with normal ups and downs throughout the day
- Learns new things easily and has an appropriate attention span for his age
- Goes to bed at a reasonable time and sleeps well all night long
- When she is put in bed for a nap she rarely falls asleep
- On the days when he naps, takes a long time to fall asleep that night, or goes to bed much later than usual
- Is typically healthy and doesn’t suffer from many colds or other ailments
- Generally wakes up on her own and in a pleasant mood
Handling the Transition from Nap to No Nap
Children aren’t good nappers one day and suddenly non-nappers the next. There will likely be a transition period of several months (even as much as half a year) when your child clearly needs a nap some days, but is fine without one on others. You have a number of options during this transition time which are explained in the next chapter.
Need more tips? The No-Cry Nap Solution is full of guaranteed gentle ways to solve all your naptime problems!
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