It’s not uncommon for toddlers to suddenly and for no obvious reason start boycotting their nap one day. Nap boycotts can show up in many forms; your toddler may launch a full-on battle and go kicking and screaming into their crib, they may treat nap time like play time and spend the entire nap chatting away to themselves, or they may land somewhere in the middle.
This behavior may send you into a panic and leave you wondering if it’s time to say goodbye to nap time forever. Unless your child Is between 3-4 years old, they probably still need that midday nap, so I don’t want you to stop offering it! But I do want to help you get to the bottom of why these nap rejections may be happening.
Here are 5 reasons why you might see your toddler boycotting their nap.
1. It’s at the wrong time
When your child first moved to one nap, it was probably a biiiig struggle to get them to 12pm – a standard midday nap time. But as children grow and their stamina improves, they may need that nap moved later to allow more sleep pressure to build.
If your toddler is fighting their nap and they are over 18-20 months, consider moving nap time to 12:30pm or even 1pm.
With any schedule change, you need to give it time. Don’t consider it a failure if your child continues to boycott nap after one day of it being at 12:30. Give it a good 2-3 weeks before you decide if you need to adjust the schedule again or look elsewhere for answers.
If you’re looking for more schedule help for your toddler, you’re going to want to check out the Nap Guide which has daytime sleep schedules and nap tips for ages 0-4.
2. They’re getting a second wind after lunch
Especially if you move nap later, you need to be mindful that there isn’t too much time between when lunch ends and nap begins.
After eating, your child’s body will naturally feel tired so try to capitalize on that and move straight from lunch into nap.
If you wait too long, your child may wind up getting a burst of energy from the food they ate an hour ago and be all amped up while you’re trying to wind them down.
3. They need time to wind down
We talk a lot about the importance of pre-sleep routines with babies, but toddlers need their own, bigger-kid version of a pre-sleep routine too!
If you’ve gotten into the habit of going into your child’s room, putting on their sleep sack, and popping them into their crib, I’d encourage you to set aside 5-10 minutes for a more intentional wind-down routine to help your child transition from fun playtime to restful nap time.
A few key elements of a toddler’s nap time routine include:
- Going potty and/or fresh diaper
- Changing into comfy clothes/PJs (this one is often neglected but can be so helpful!)
- 3-5 minutes of quiet play together
- A book
- A song (special for nap or the same one you do at bedtime)
- A toddler clock (you can use it for nap just like you do at bedtime)
4. They are going through a developmental leap
Toddlerhood is a busy time. So much is changing with your child physically, cognitively, and emotionally. Not to mention all the additional life-changes that many toddlers are facing including starting preschool programs, potty training, and getting a sibling.
Anything new like this can be overwhelming for your child’s brain + body. It is very normal for a toddler’s sleep to become disrupted when they are exploring their autonomy and independence, going through a language burst, or adjusting to a new school.
The most important thing you can do to support your toddler through this is continuing to consistently offer the nap.
Especially if your child is going through a ton of changes in other parts of their world, it is comforting to have the predictability and consistency of 2-3 hours in the crib at nap time.
If you suspect this is just a phase that your child is going through that you’re going to have to ride out, it can be helpful to adjust your mindset around nap time. Instead of being a time they must sleep a full 2-3 hours, consider it a 2-3 hour “rest” opportunity where your child may sleep all, some, or none of.
5. They truly are ready to drop the nap
If your child is between 3-4 you may truly be running into the end of nap times. If you have a generally great sleeper who is suddenly doing gymnastics, singing the entire soundtrack to Moana, or otherwise not sleeping at nap time and when you get them up they are happy until bedtime, then they may truly not need a nap anymore.
If you suspect that your child no longer needs their midday nap, here’s a blog on how to transition to quiet time instead.
In summary, your toddler may be boycotting their nap if:
- It’s at the wrong time
- They’re getting a second wind after lunch
- They need more of a wind down
- They are going through a developmental leap
- They truly are ready to drop the nap
And if you’re looking for more schedule help for your toddler, check out the Nap Guide which has daytime sleep schedules for ages 0-4 along with tips for knowing when and how to drop naps with ease.