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Our son is 2 years old as of September, and he's been trying to skip his mid-day nap lately.

What usually happens is at around 1-2 PM, he'll start to get sleepy. At this time, if we put on soothing music and reduce the light level in the entire house, and hold him in our arms, about 60% of the time he'll fall asleep. Even if he doesn't, we tend to put him in his room at this time anyway.

If if he doesn't nap, he'll stay up until 5-6 PM and fairly reliably go to sleep. If he does, he'll be up until around 10 PM, but usually sleep through the entire night. If he goes to sleep at 5-6 PM, he'll usually wake up once between 11 PM and 2 AM either for a diaper change or just to run around in his (toddler-safe) room, then sleep for the rest of the night.

Some days he seems to have plenty of energy to make it to 5-6 PM, other days it's clear he could really use a nap, but he just doesn't want to do so.

Should we encourage him to nap mid-day as much as possible, or should we encourage him to wait until 5-6 PM to sleep?

He's slightly delayed in his speech development, so he isn't yet able to vocalize his preference - though he will usually protest napping attempts if he's vehemently against the idea.

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    I just want to add my experience that our toddler sometimes just takes some down-time instead of a nap. This can be some time in the stroller taking a walk, or just me reading him some books he knows in and out. After about an hour of this he has recharged and will continue the day almost as if he had a nap.
    – Falco
    Nov 2, 2023 at 10:36
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    I don't think there's a right or wrong way to sleep/nap. My fiance is in her 30s and she still tries to squeeze in naps daily. I haven't napped regularly since I was a child. I have a brother whose kids are total night owls, while my sister's kids are more of early birds. Different people need different amounts of sleep at different times, and this varies by age.
    – Beefster
    Nov 2, 2023 at 17:14
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    Also it is possible, if the days of your toddler become more exciting/interesting/stressy it will need more sleep again. When mine started to visit kindergarden, he started to have naps again. Because there were so much impressions, there was need for a break to process them :) Nov 2, 2023 at 19:57
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    I'm still recovering from when my youngest stopped taking naps 20 years ago. Sigh.
    – Jon Custer
    Nov 3, 2023 at 18:43

3 Answers 3

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My take on this question is to continue to follow his lead. If he seems overly tired around your usual nap time, then by all means try to put him down. If he goes he goes, if he doesn't he doesn't. I don't believe failing to nap is going to pose any type of health risk. If he doesn't sleep in the afternoon, he'll sleep more at night.

It sounds like he's in the process of losing his nap, I wouldn't lose sleep over it. With our preschooler he continued to nap at daycare, but on weekends he absolutely won't go down for us.

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I agree with the accepted answer, I just want to point out another aspect. (I was in a similar situation with my daughter, she is 4 now, but hasn't been taking naps since she was 2). Also think of your own sanity. For us, we could make her sleep by going to long walks with a stroller, but this was not always feasible (weather, work, etc..). It has gotten to the point that without a stroller we would spend around 30-40 minutes trying to get her to sleep, and the nap time would be comparable. It just wasn't sustainable. And, like with you, she would be up to around 10 PM. This seriously hurt our me/us-time with the wife.

In the long run, everyone was happier without the naps.

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With naps, we followed the lead of the child. But we also took into consideration the quality of our own sleep. After all, you want to sleep well too, in order to best attend to the needs of your child!

At some point, the child will stop napping on their own. Our children stopped napping much later than at 2. They stopped when they were 3-4, and mostly because it was too noisy to nap in preschool.

When they stopped napping, they were long into the habit of sleeping through the entire night without waking us up. They learned to self-soothe when they were under 6 months. See also the reference below.

At this time, if we put on soothing music and reduce the light level in the entire house, and hold him in our arms.

  • We put on white or brown noise instead of music, this worked well for us.
  • Why do you need to reduce light in the entire house? Reducing light just in the child's room should be enough.
  • Do not hold the child in your arms to put them to sleep. They should learn to self-soothe, and holding them to induce sleep is counterproductive. See Richard Ferber (2006) Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems. Fireside, New York.

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