If you have a toddler who is not napping – they’re rejecting their naps or they’re treating it like play time in their crib – I have 4 reasons that this might be happening and today I’m going to tell you all about it and give you the strategies on how to improve naps starting TODAY!
You know that feeling when you’re trying to figure out your child’s nap schedule?!
I get it. You may be trying to figure out ALL the things, like Why is my toddler not napping? They napped yesterday, what did I do wrong today? I need to know why my toddler is rejecting naps!!
It’s not YOU!!
There are 4 possible reasons why your toddler is rejecting naps!!
Let me start with a little storytime… For the first 5 years of Little Z’s I worked 1-on-1 with families and I will never forget there was a toddler named Hayden, she was 19 months old, and she gave me a run for my money! The girl rejected naps for an ENTIRE 20 DAYS!!!
My toddler package – and now my toddler plan – is 21 days.
She did NOT NAP until Day 21!!!
Nights were beautiful, but daytime, I cannot even imagine what mom was going through because Hayden just stood there in the crib and just SCREAMED the entire time. And it was like everything was right… like we were doing all the right things. And finally on Day 21, she just laid down and went to sleep, and it was amazing and beautiful!
Sometimes you can have all the right things in place but remember that your toddler is a living, breathing human being. It’s not just going to be 1 day or even 5 days and BOOM now they’re napping. It really could take 21 days.
So as I go through all these strategies, don’t give up!!! (Especially if they’re younger than 2.5… they need their naps!) There’s a reason why your toddler is rejecting naps!
You might have had your baby, when they first dropped down to 1 nap at say, 14 months old, have a nap time right at 12:00pm. But now you have a 22-month old and they might be able to have a longer awake time.
It might be time to nudge the nap 15-20 minutes later so that they have more of an awake time.
We need to be awake long enough so we can sleep it off enough. That’s like you and I can’t just take a nap 4 hours into our day (maybe you can haha!) but most of us have to be awake for an amount of time to build up what’s called our “sleep debt” so we can then work it off.
Same with your toddler.
So if you’ve had the same nap time for months and months, it may be time to tweak their schedule. And same with what I mentioned earlier, don’t just give it 1 day, or even 5 days! Give it a good 7-9 days to see if it’ll actually work. If it doesn’t, go back to the drawing board, but give it some time first.
If you’re not even sure where to begin here when it comes to your toddler’s schedule, you’re going to want to check out our Complete Schedule Guide. Every single month and during the toddler years we give you insight into what you might be struggling with sleep-wise and when to handle naps & nights!
If you’re getting lunch at 11:30 but nap time is at 12:30, your child might be getting a BOOST from that food they ate an hour ago and by the time you’re ready to put them down for a nap, they’re ready to head outside!
So my suggestion is that you sandwich it as one right after the next. You go from lunch to immediately going down for a nap. Really have no space in between!
And when you do this, you will likely start to see some changes in a few days. It’s not instantaneous but after about 7-9 days you might start to see that they’re laying down, they’re calmer, and they don’t have that second wind.
We all have to have cues that it’s time for sleep! We can’t just be play, play, play, eat your lunch, throw you in your crib.
So, for toddlers, there’s 2 cues that you can offer them. One is a naptime routine. A few steps of getting them cleaned up and ready to go. And the second is a clock!
Now, I love any type of toddler clock. They can’t read numbers, so it’s colors!
Your toddler can pick up on the colors on these toddler clocks and I teach all about the 4-step color system for a toddler clock and that’s exactly what you need for night time. But you can actually do this for nap time too!
For example: Red is time for bed and when nap is over it turns blue and the birdies chirp.
Using a cue for the toddler clock, especially if you’re doing that at night, will cue them that it’s sleepy time.
Sometime between 2.5-3 years old and especially 3.5 and up, you need to think about if your child really needs a nap!
Most children between 2.5-3.5 years old are ditching their naps and they need 11-12 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period. If your child is no longer napping, they’re just not falling asleep, they’re singing or doing gymnastics, and you get them out and they’re happy and fine… they may not need to nap anymore.
I do have a blog about if it’s time to ditch the naps, but that is a VERY common reason when we talk to parents and their 3 year olds are napping, sometimes the answer is they may not need to nap anymore!
Don’t kill the messenger!
But there’s no need to fight it if they don’t need to nap anymore and instead they’re going to sleep 11-12 hours at night time!!
It’s possible your toddler is rejecting naps if…
All of this is going to be GREAT if you know your child’s schedule and you feel confident about what times and what their awake windows are. But if you’re wondering what these are, then grab our Complete Schedule Guide. This guide will give you all the details to know what the schedules are for ages 0-3, how to understand the signs that it’s time to ditch the naps, and then how we’re going to be tweaking the awake windows as your toddler grows!
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