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No-Nonsense Napping Guide for Toddlers

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Be Careful of Dropping a Nap Too Soon

"There is not a hard-and-fast rule about outgrowing naps," Mary Michaeleen Cradock, a clinical psychologist with St. Louis Children's Hospital in Missouri, says. "You may start to see signs that the child wakes up earlier from a nap, or they may not show any signs that they need one." 

Nap refusal for an 18-month-old is not a sign that he or she is outgrowing the need to nap as it might be for a three-year-old. "If a child doesn't want to take a nap," Craddock says, "he or she may just be overtired."

"If it's a day or two of protesting, don't subtract the nap too fast. But if nap protesting goes on for a couple of weeks, then it may be time to give it up," Yapalater says.

Don't Sweat Nap Time

Some parents are really uptight about their toddlers napping schedule. "They get carried away and the whole day is centered around the napping schedule," Pelayosays. "If getting your toddler down for a nap is interfering with your life, it's a problem. You have to be flexible. You can always slip in a shorter nap or a later nap."

Shubin agrees: "Nap schedules are more about parents. There aren't rigid guidelines about when and how long a child should nap. Most tables are pure approximations."

Keep Naps Short and Sweet

"If nap is more than one hour and 45 minutes, your kids may wake up cranky," Pelayo says. "Ninety minutes is just right."  

Don't Trade in a Nap for an Earlier Bedtime

This may sound like a good plan, but it doesn't work and may even backfire, Cradock says. "If you keep them up to make them more tired, they will be too restless and unsettled to use the normal self-soothing routines that put them to sleep at night," she says. A better plan is to tweak the nap or nap schedule by shaving off 15 minutes or starting the nap earlier in the day. Later naps are not always the best call because your child needs to get a certain amount of daylight, and napping until its dark may prevent this from occurring, Cradock says.

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