For some kids, it happens at as early as age two. For most, three or four is the magic age. A few hang on until five. But sooner or later, all kids do it: they give up their afternoon nap.
Parents of babies and toddlers are terrified of losing their child’s daily snooze—also known as their only chance to check email, shower, read, prep dinner, return phone calls, sleep, or just stare into space without a tiny person yanking at their arm.
But take heart. Leaving naps behind can be a positive step. Without a daily nap to work around, your family’s day opens up, along with new preschool possibilities, more sibling time, and less daily frustration. Your kiddo might sleep better at night, too.
Here are eight reasons to face the no-nap transition with no fear.
Sounder nighttime sleep
By the time kids hit the preschool years, many sleep better at night without a daily snooze. This is particularly true of kids who need less overall sleep than their peers. Without a daily nap, your tot will likely fall asleep faster and earlier at night, and possibly sleep later in the morning, too.
Extra flexibility in your routine
Need to spend an afternoon running errands? Want to linger over a late lunch? Tired of the morning crowds at the local park? Once your kid stops napping, there’s no need to rush home to get him in bed every afternoon—which opens up your schedule for all sorts of possibilities. Anyone up for a matinee?
Keeping noisy brothers and sisters from waking a napping younger sibling can be harrowing (“For the last time, BE QUIET! Your brother is NAPPING!”). When the younger child finally gives up napping, parents can finally surrender their “Quiet Police” badges.
No more doorbell dread
You know those cutesy signs that politely ask visitors not to ring the doorbell, because “Baby’s Napping?” They might as well be invisible. When you’ve got a snoozing baby, your doorbell is a magnet for everyone in the world, from chatty neighbors to gutter salesmen to magazine-selling teens. No nap means you’ll no longer fear the bell’s toll.
Few things are more unnerving than trying—and failing—to get a rambunctious preschooler down for a nap, day after day. Struggling with a child who just won’t sleep is not fun. But once the nap bites the dust, you can kiss that defeating daily routine goodbye.
In this recent article for ParentMap magazine, I extol the benefits of having kids bunk up. And a shared bedroom works much better when one sib isn't monopolizing the room each afternoon with a nap. When naps are history, both roommates are free to use the room all day long.
Saying goodbye to naps opens up a new world of preschool possibilities. Once your child is ready to stay awake all day, afternoon-only preschool is a great way to fill the long afternoon hours (bonus: no early-morning drop off!).
Ciao, car alarm
When you desperately want your tot to take her nap, the sight of her nodding off in her carseat is cause for alarm. A few minutes of carseat sleep kills an afternoon nap faster than you can say “No, sweetie, wait!” But when the nap is history, short carseat siestas are no big deal. In fact, they’re kind of nice. You might even take the long route home, just to savor your latte in peace.
What about you? Were you bummed when your kiddo dropped the afternoon nap? Or did it ultimately make things easier?