Ok parents this big nap transition can seem daunting! Dropping the 3rd nap tends to happen more naturally. However, this transition can take a bit more time and it means more awake time with your busy toddler. Let’s talk about when you should expect this 2 to 1 nap transition to pop up. We’ll go over the signs to cue you that your toddler is ready and a plan to transition to the one nap as smoothly as possible.
Is it time to transition to one nap?
Typically, you will start to see signs that your little one is ready for this 2 to 1 nap transition around 12 -18 months. Some children are ready for one nap right around their first birthday, while others aren’t quite ready until closer to 18 months of age. Each child is unique and for this transition it is important to meet your toddler where he is at and watch for signs he is ready.
Signs to watch for are:
- Your child is struggling to take his second nap or is refusing it entirely
- Both the morning nap and afternoon nap are shortening in length
- Your toddler is starting to wake earlier in the morning than normal
The reason for these cues is children need less sleep as they get older and have the stamina for more awake time. We accommodate this for them by decreasing their day sleep as it is important to continue to encourage 10-12 hours of nighttime sleep throughout the toddler, and even into the preschool and school age years. A newborn requires about 14-17 hours of sleep, but a toddler requires more like 11-14 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period.
Make a 2 to 1 Nap Transition Plan
Once you decide it is time to transition your toddler to one nap, start by pushing their morning nap a bit later each day. Initially once the one nap pattern is established, it will likely begin around noontime and ideally last 2-3 hours. As your child nears 2 years of age, you will see their awake stamina increase even more, and the nap start will likely adjust closer to 1/1:30pm and still last about 2-3 hours.
Slowly Move Nap Time Later
Assuming your toddler wakes around 7am and bedtime is around 7pm, their first nap was probably starting around 10am. To successfully get your toddler to this later start time for the one nap, try to push through until 11am. During the morning wake window, you want to keep your child busy and engaged. You should plan to offer lunch or even a large snack before the 11am nap time. Put him down for nap at 11am using the same routine as you always have and see how long he naps. If the nap is less than 1.5-2 hours, he may need a temporarily earlier bedtime of 30-60 minutes during this transition. The most important thing is to read your child and try to protect him from falling into an overtired state. He may even need to take a 15 minute cat nap while running errands in the afternoon.
Getting Into A New Routine
Each day or two, try pushing the start time of nap by about 15 minutes until you are successfully starting the one nap around 12/12:30pm. Continue to be flexible with the option for a late afternoon cat nap or early bedtime until your toddler has adjusted to taking a 2-3 hour nap once a day. Once this happens, the need for a regular cat nap or early bedtime will fade and you’ll be back to the routine of 7am wake up, 7pm bedtime, but now with only one nap each day.
If you are interested in learning more about play opportunities as your toddler’s awake time increases with this nap transition, try our online class Encouraging Curiosity & Learning Through Play.
About The Author
Courtney Poirier is a veteran Newborn Care Expert with Boston Baby Nurse & Nanny. She has many years of experience with sleep conditioning and coaching in daycare & home settings. Prior to working with babies, she was an elementary school teacher. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and their two sons. One is seven years old and the other is nine years old.