What are the key takeaways from this research? How does this research inform your parenting around the transition away from napping?
Observe signs in your individual child rather relying upon age to determine when your child is “ready” to give up nap. The age at which a child stops napping varies widely from 2 to 7 years, so it is important that parents know their individual child rather than depending upon age. It is also important that parents not only look at whether the child is refusing the nap (since this is a common behavioral issue). Some questions to ask yourself include:
Are they getting enough sleep at night to make up for missing a nap?
How do they seem when they skip a nap? If they have more difficulty solving problems and regulating their emotions on days they skip a nap, they might not be ready to give it up.
Is the nap interfering with their nighttime sleep? If they have significant difficulty falling and staying asleep on days when they nap, it might be time to give up the nap.
If you aren't sure, continue to provide an opportunity for your child to nap. Napping has many cognitive benefits for children who still “need” it so make sure they have the opportunity. Similarly, if your child is still napping when others are telling you they are “too old,” they likely still need a nap so continue to give them opportunities to nap even if they seem “too old” for it.
Be flexible about naps. Most children drop the nap gradually so don’t see the nap as “all-or-nothing.” Your child may go through phases when they need a nap every other day or even when they just need a nap once per week. Allow them the opportunity to nap some days and not others.
Try a shorter or earlier nap if they seem to still “need”it but it is interfering with nighttime sleep. However, if napping seems to be interfering with nighttime sleep, consider adjusting your child to a shorter nap in the early afternoon
Your own attitudes matter. Research finds that parents who value napping and make napping a priority tend to have children who nap for longer. If you would like your child to keep napping for as long as possible, adjust your own attitudes around napping.
If your child consistently refuses to fall asleep, accept the transition and move on. Unfortunately as parents we cannot make our children fall asleep. We can give them opportunities to nap but whether or not they actually sleep is up to them. If your child consistently refuses to fall asleep and seems to be “fine” without a nap, you may want to accept that this transition even if it seems “too young.” If your child is still struggling with their mood or other aspects of functioning in the afternoon, move up their bedtime to see if that helps.
If your child drops a nap but you feel like they still need “quiet time,” the following tips may be helpful:
Start small. Start with 5 minutes and work up to longer and longer time periods. Praise and reward your child each step along the way.
Make your expectations very clear. Use a visual to help explain your expectations is possible. For example, a visual with choices can help your child if they struggle to choose activities or structure their time (see here for an example). A visual timer such as the Time Timer or the Hatch nightlight can help children to understand how much longer they have left for “quiet time.”
Save special toys for quiet time. These toys should lend themselves well to independent play and be engaging for your child. Audiobook players such as the Tonie Box or Yoto player can be a great option for some children.
Have a consistent routine so children know when quiet time begins and when it end. For example, go through a quicker version of the bedtime routine before “quiet time.”
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Welcome to the Parenting Translator newsletter! I am Dr. Cara Goodwin, a licensed psychologist with a PhD in child psychology and mother to three children (currently an almost-2-year-old, 4-year-old, and 6-year-old). I specialize in taking all of the research that is out there related to parenting and child development and turning it into information that is accurate, relevant, and useful for parents! I recently turned these efforts into a non-profit organization since I believe that all parents deserve access to unbiased and free information. This means that I am only here to help YOU as a parent so please send along any feedback, topic suggestions, or questions that you have! You can also find me on Instagram @parentingtranslator, on TikTok @parentingtranslator, and my website (www.parentingtranslator.com).
DISCLAIMER: The information and advice in this newsletter is for educational purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical, mental health, legal, or other professions. Call your medical, mental health professional, or 911 for all emergencies. Dr. Cara Goodwin is not liable for any advice or information provided in this newsletter.