Discovery Point Blog

September 14, 2022

Understanding Toddler Napping: 3 Things to Know

It may seem like your toddler has endless energy, but at some point, their tank runs out of gas. Naps help young children recharge their energy, so they can continue learning and exploring the world around them. 

Unfortunately, the age at which naps can often be so crucial is also the age at which children will start resisting their parents’ efforts to put them down for a nap. Toddlers are often grappling with issues related to autonomy and the inability to make their own decisions about how they spend their time. As a result, you may get a lot of pushback from your toddler when it comes to taking naps, even if you know a good snooze will help them feel their best for the rest of the day.

If naps have become a new battleground with your tot, you’re not alone. Many parents struggle with knowing how much daytime sleep their little ones need and how far they should go in pushing for a nap to remain a mainstay of the day. 

Understanding why your child needs to nap, what you can do to make nap time less stressful, and signs they might be growing out of the need to nap can help make your day a little easier and your child’s siesta more beneficial. 

1. Understand why toddlers nap.

Toddlers need around 11 to 14 hours of sleep each day, and because they can rarely sleep that long during the night, naps make it possible for them to get all the rest they require during a 24-hour period. Of course, every child has unique needs, and there’s no single napping schedule that will work for all tots. 

Younger toddlers tend to split between 2 and 3 hours of daytime sleep over two naps, one before noon and one at some point during the afternoon. As toddlers get older, they often start to transition into skipping their morning nap and enjoying a longer afternoon nap. 

Getting enough sleep during the day can prevent irritability and crankiness, and can even make it easier for children to fall asleep at night. As a result, once you find a napping routine that works, it’s best to stick with it as often as possible. Otherwise, you may have an overactive and cranky toddler on your hands for the rest of the day. 

2. Understand why toddlers resist naps.

There are a number of reasons why your toddler might resist being told to nap while you can dream of nothing better than having a few minutes of shuteye in a cozy bed. For one, your child sees the world as being filled with new and exciting adventures. When they’re told they need to sleep rather than continuing to explore, they may feel like they’re really missing out on new discoveries. 

However, this isn’t the only reason why your child may resist naps. It’s also important to realize that your child’s internal signals are different from yours as an adult. The window of time in which toddlers feel ready to nap is shorter than for adults. Rather than staying sleepy, if this window of opportunity passes, they may actually become extra alert and hyperactive. 

Finally, children will naturally resist naps if they’re already getting a solid amount of sleep at night. Instead of pushing your child to sleep more than they need, transition from nap time to a quiet hour in which they are allowed to draw or do puzzles quietly in their room, which will enable you both to recharge a bit.

3. Understand the elements of a helpful nap time routine.

Consistency is crucial for getting your toddler to nap, and a consistent nap time routine can help them wind down and get ready to drift off. The main thing to keep in mind with nap time routines is that they should be much shorter than bedtime routines. Otherwise, you risk missing the window of time in which your toddler is ready to fall asleep. 

Such a routine could consist of reading a book together, singing a song, or some other abbreviated version of what you normally do at bedtime. If your child seems to have difficulty parting with you at nap time or wants you to fall asleep with them, a security object will be a huge help. Whether it’s a teddy bear or a favorite blanket, encouraging your child to grow attached to this surrogate can help them self-soothe when it’s time for you to leave the room.

You can expect to deal with nap time battles here and there throughout toddlerhood. However, if you feel like your child is waging a full-on war on naps and is still in their toddler years, you may want to bring it up with an expert. Your child’s healthcare provider can point you in the right direction to determine the origins of extreme resistance to naps and help ensure your toddler gets the rest they need.