One of the questions in our playgroups was always, when do babies drop to one nap? Naptime is an important time for kids, but let’s be honest, it is also an awesome break for parents.
It gives our kid’s bodies the recharge that it needs to make it through the rest of the day. Once kids leave the baby stage of sleeping a majority of the day, they typically nap twice a day. The hardest part is when it comes time to transition from two naps to one.
How to Know When it’s Time to Drop to One Nap
Knowing when to transition from two naps down to one can be difficult. There is no set age as to when is a “good” time to do it. Some kids are ready before they are one and others aren’t ready until they are 5. However, there are a few cues to watch for so you know it may be time to transition.
While fighting sleep happens quite frequently with kids, there comes a time when it is a sign that they no longer need that extra nap.
If when it comes time for nap time or bed time, your child seems wide awake and fights going down they may be ready to only have one nap a day.
Some kids still go down for two naps with very little fight but, don’t sleep near as long as they used to. At times, only one nap gets shorter and at others, both naps are shorter than normal. If this becomes a new normal than it may be time to think about moving to just one nap a day.
Once in awhile, kids will take both naps like a champ continually. They will lay down without a fight and sleep for hours. The trick can come at bedtime. If they fight going to sleep at night or just lay awake for hours after you have put them to bed, that is a sign that a second nap is no longer needed during the day.
What to Expect When Transitioning
This one is tough. I struggle with it personally. I can tell that my child is used to a nap and their body is winding down and ready to sleep even though they don’t really need it anymore. This can lead to a crabby child until their body adjusts to the new schedule.
Odd Nap Times
Until your little one adjusts, it is very likely that they will fall asleep at odd times. Which also means that their typical daily schedule may be off for a bit but, it should get back on track after a week or two.
How to Transition to One Nap
When you suspect it might be time to transition here are a few steps that I suggest:
Take Away the First Nap
It is easiest to do this in steps. I always start by suggesting that it is easiest to move the earlier nap. Start going by putting your child down later. Push naptime back by 20-30 minutes. After this part becomes normal push it back again. Keep doing this until naptime ends up at your desired naptime.
For a while, they will probably still want to go down for their afternoon nap. Continue to let them go down for that nap until you have pushed naptime back to your desired time. The trick here however, is to wake them up earlier and earlier from this second nap. Ideally, if they are still taking it you will get them down to a 30 minute power nap.
If that is the case, I suggest to push the first nap back by 30 minutes again to hopefully eliminate the need for that last nap.
Eventually, their body will do it own their own. It may just take some adjustment for everyone.
Tips for Making the Transition Easier
The best way to distract your child when you are trying to keep them awake is to engage them. This can mean anything from playing outside to painting the bathtub walls with finger paint. You don’t want a challenging activity but, something that is just enough to distract them for a little bit.
Be prepared for a crabby child around dinner time. That is about the time that most kids hit their wall after switching to one nap. Once again the key here is to engage them. Try to get them to help make dinner, that is usually my “go-to” at this point.
It also helps if you can put them to bed about 10-20 minutes earlier than they are used to. That helps balance out the nap they missed in the afternoon. After a bit they will probably go back to their normal bedtime. Their body just needs a bit of time to adjust.
The change from two naps to one can be a difficult one for some kids and yet, other kids handle it like a champ. The best thing you can do is to remain calm and understanding as it is a big change for them (and you).
Further parenting hacks:
5 Tips to Transition from Formula to Milk
Keep Your Toddler from Climbing Out of Their Crib
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robin rue says
If I remember correctly, mine were each into their 2nd year when they went from 2 to 1. Both of my boys were always good sleepers…I was so lucky!
I imagine that reducing nap time is difficult for parents and kids. Most of my parent friends use nap time to get all the stuff done they can’t when their kids are awake. Great advice for helping your child transition to a new schedule.
Joanna @ Everyday Made Fresh says
My oldest daughter gave up all naps by the time she was 3, and it was awful. We always had cranky afternoons, and horrendous bedtimes. My youngest has always been a good sleeper. She took two naps until she was 2, and then one a day until she was almost 5.
Kimberly Lewis says
I think it depends on the child. Each child has their own needs and personality.
Angela Tolsma says
I have never thought of this transition before. My nephew and niece have always hated sleeping, so it was a very quick thing to get thing to one nap a day and sleeping at night. Makes me realized not all kids are like that.
Krystal Butherus says
Extremely helpful insight as to when to transition from more than one nap to just one. As a parent, I struggled to get them to bed at night.
I so wish I had this information when my little ones were weaning off their naps. My SIL just had a baby so I’m sending this to her ASAP.
Kayla Uimari says
Great post for new moms who aren’t sure about how to regulate their new child’s sleeping and napping schedules! Awesome!
Great advice for the transition. I have a few friends that will love this information.
AnnMarie John says
Kids live for routine so it’s good to know when to transition. Watching out for these signs is a good indication, without a doubt. Thanks for sharing this tip, a lot of first time parents can benefit from reading this post.
Cas | Get Your Holiday On says
All three of my kids had different patterns but my youngest slept soooo good for me. I wasn’t expecting it and it was such a treat. We are getting ready to foster/adopt so this is a nice refresher! Thanks 🙂
Both of my kids were inconsistent nappers, but when they dropped the nap all together man it was rough. Just when you think you got life down pat, the kids knock you down a peg!
Jessica Joachim says
I dread dropping naps lol I wish my 4 year old would still nap, and my 1 year old is a very short napper most days. I just keep thinking I wish I had someone telling me it was okay to nap in the middle of the day lol
I wish this post was around when my babies were little. It’s always a hard transition but these are excellent tips to look out for!
I have two daughters that are six years apart and their sleep habits are totally different. The oldest wanted nothing to do with naps but my youngest loves her space in her own bed. It just really depends on the child.
Cindy Ingalls says
These are such helpful tips for transitioning your kids to one nap. I think it’s important not to force it but to let your kids guide you. Some kids like to nap more than others so going slow with the transition is always helpful.
My kiddos generally went to one nap around 15-16 mo and then no naps by age 3. Sometimes a nap around 2 but it would depend, Mine seem to hate sleep!
Yasmin Ali says
I remember doing some of these when I had to get my brothers to bed growing up! But I do miss napping in the middle of the day with them!
Cecilia C. Cannon says
I remember these days! the one long nap was a life changer as a stay at home mom. in fact my little girl still takes a long afternoon nap every couple of days.
I cannot imagine a 5 year old on two naps… unless they woke at 3 a.m. and went to bed at 10 p.m.!!
We kept two naps until my daughter was 22 months which according to other moms was a very long time! I work from home so I needed the work time and frankly I still miss it!
One of my friends, her son did keep his afternoon nap until kindergarten. She told me she had to wean him off the nap! I hope mine keeps the afternoon nap that long! If not, we will switch to a “quiet time” in the afternoon.
Cathy M says
I’ve heard that the average age for kids going to one nap per day is around 24 months. I suppose all kids are different, but trouble going to sleep at night is a good indicator to go to one nap per day.