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Do 3-year-olds still need naps?

Oh, that special age. Three years old. We are past the “terrible twos,” and now we have a “threenager.” They are adorable and can be sassy, learning to come into their own with their own personalities. But as they are growing, some things begin to fall by the wayside — they may stop walking around with a special blanket or choose different toys to play with. The same goes for milestones, as well. Do they still need to take naps? Do we let them stay up all day long now? These are all great questions, and we are going to learn whether or not 3-year-olds still need naps.

Recommended hours of sleep

According to the National Sleep Foundation, children who are ages 3 to 5 should be getting approximately 10.5 to 12.5 hours of sleep during the nighttime. Additionally, children who may be going through a growth spurt may need a little more sleep and may sleep a bit more. They may even eat more if they are going through a growth spurt to compensate for the energy that your child’s body needs while it is growing. During the day, they may need a nap that can be anywhere from 1 to 1.5 hours long. A leading expert on the subject says that our children need tremendous amounts of energy for their growing bodies, so encouraging longer naps amongst toddlers is actually a good thing.

a photo of a little boy in a crib
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Let them play out naturally

Many experts say that you should not force your child to stay up when they would normally take a nap. It is better for them to sort out naps for themselves. This means that the days your 3-year-old wants to take a nap, by all means let them do so. Then there are days where they are not going to want to take a nap, and that is totally fine, too. It is better for them to stop them on their own, rather than having us trying to keep them awake, especially if they are cranky without a nap.

Know when it is time to nap

Pay attention to your child’s signs. Are they starting to get a little bit grumpy? Other children tend to just sit down and stare at nothing when they are tired, while others will show visible signs like them rubbing in their eyes and even starting to cry. That is when you know that it is time for a nap for your little one. Just be mindful of how they are acting during the day, and you will see when they may need a nap one day and possibly may not need one the next. It’s all about what their body is telling them, and if it is telling them to sleep at the moment, then it is best to put them down for a nap for an hour or two.

a picture of a little girl laying down
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Do’s and don’ts

If your 3-year-old is still napping on and off, you need to pay attention to a few things. One of them is where they take their naps. It is important to be consistent in where they are napping. This gives them consistency and stability, knowing that there is dedicated space for them to nap. For example, don’t let them nap in their stroller one day, the couch the next day, or their crib/toddler bed the next day. Make a dedicated space for their napping, and stick to it. Some days they may not take a nap. If that is the case, they may be weaning off them, or at least starting to do so. But when they do need a nap, take them to their napping/sleeping space before they go to sleep.

Do make sure that naps are at the most 90 minutes. Otherwise, your child may wake up cranky, even crankier than before they went down for a nap. So, 1 to 1.5 hours is the magic number to aim for when your child is going down for a nap. Do make sure that naps are taken at the same time every day, whenever possible. Our bodies and our little one’s bodies internal clocks like regularity, so when we go around putting them down for a nap different times every day, it can mess up their Circadian rhythm. When you put them down for a nap, just make sure that it is at the same time each and every day.

So, the question still remains, do 3-year-olds still need naps? The answer is yes and no. Each and every child is different and grows out of naps at different times. Just follow your heart and what is best for your child.

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Jennifer Passmore
Former Digital Trends Contributor
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