3 1/2 Year Old Won't Nap

Updated on June 23, 2010
A.A. asks from San Diego, CA
20 answers

Hi there~
My son is 3 1/2 and he goes through phases where he won't take a nap. I tell him every day it's nap time and he gets in bed pretty much at the same time every day. The problem is he won't fall asleep and I don't believe I can make him sleep. I know some kids stop napping at this age but he is not ready to give up his nap. He's cranky and tired by 6:30 if he doesn't take a nap and once he actually does fall asleep he'll sleep up to 3 hours.

I've tried threatening to take away toys or telling him he can't play the computer if he doesn't go to sleep but it doesn't work. Then I thought that I don't want to make nap time a negative experience but it's so frustrating when he doesn't sleep. I've tried just letting him lay in there and have quiet time but he doesn't just lay there, he throws his blanket around or finds things to play with.
I'm tired of yelling at him, that's not how I want to treat my child.......

Any thoughts, advice, tips.......??

Thanks a lot, A.

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So What Happened?

Thanks for all your input. I should have given more details in my original post like that I also have a 10 month old baby who takes 2 naps per day. Some posts suggested taking him in the car to get him tired which I cannot do or taking him for a walk but when his sister is napping I can't leave the house. My son is not ready to give up his nap. He might think he is but he does get very tired after lunch time and does need sleep. I do believe this. I think he's just trying to test me and of course he doesn't want to go to sleep, he wants to play.

Anyhow, today he had a play date and ran around for hours. After his friend left we got a book and while I was nursing his sister we read two stories. I took the advice that many of you gave me to have a wind down time. We talked about how we were going to read a book and then take a nap. He got right in to bed and went immediately to sleep when we were finished. :) YEAH!!! Both of my kids are sleeping right now-what a great day.

Thanks again for all your posts. Here's to hoping this continues to work.

One more thing to add......My husband doesn't get home from work sometimes until after 6. If he goes to bed at 6 or 6:30 then he won't spend any quality time with his daddy during the week. That's not an option. I will find a way to work our schedule so he sees his daddy at night before he goes to bed. That's very important to our family.
Thanks again

Featured Answers


answers from Los Angeles on

Its sad to loose the nap, but once you embrace it you can put him to bed earlier. My girlfriend has forgone the nap to put her kids down by 7:00 and gets her free time in then.



answers from Pittsburgh on

When my son started resisting the nap, I'd let him watch a DVD quietly in his room for 60-90 mins. He NEVER fell asleep, but at least he got a break--and so did I. I used to do an earlier bedtime on the nap-skipping days! It's hard when you KNOW they need a nap, but they refuse.

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answers from San Diego on

Hi there :) I consulted w/a sleep expert and these are the things she told me:
1) At this age, they may start dropping their nap. Yes, you cannot force them to nap but it IS essential that they get ONE HOUR of 'down time.' Reading in their bed is fine - TV is not (not considered down time - it's the opposite, quite stimulating). After one hour, if they do not nap - naptime is over and they can get up.
2) When they drop their nap (or if they don't nap one day), they need to go to bed earlier. My son is a little over 3 and doing this. If he doesn't nap, he goes to bed 6:00/6:30 - he is cranky because he is tired. So, it's essential that he gets a good nights sleep if he doesn't nap. If he still wakes up at 6:30am, you should keep him within a 12 hr clock (meaning he should go to bed within the 6:00pm hour - make sense)?
3) When he does drop his nap, make sure his bedtime is earlier and gradually, over time, he will be able to go to bed later. He'll let you know.
4) When children go to one nap, it should stay within the 1-3pm timeframe - not later. If a child naps later, you will find it harder to get them 'to bed.' They may be up until 9:00 or later - which is too late for a child that age.

I got these all from Davis Erhler - the most AMAZING sleep expert there is! :) My babies have slept 12hrs/night since 12 weeks because of her! Go to www.3daysleepsolution.com for more info.

I am amazed at how many times I have heard (in her sleep workshops) that parents think that toddlers 'don't need as much sleep' at this age. They are going 100 miles/an hour at this age and sleep is still very important. I think you are doing great. Also, consistency is key.
When my son started dropping his nap, I would go into his room and correct his behavior (if he was jumping around playing,I would put him in his bed, and tell him that it's 'quiet time' and that he is allowed to read and that is it) - I had to do this for 2-3 days (consistently) and after that, he would just sit in bed and read or just rest. Consistency is key too!!
Good luck!! :)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

Well, my daughter rarely naps anymore and she is the same age as your son. What I do, if I need and think she needs quiet time, is I put her in her room, allow her to pick a few books and a quiet toy and turn on her clock radio-cd player and set the timer for 1 hour. I tell her if she is awake when the music goes off, then she can get up, but she must stay in bed until the music stops. If she falls asleep, then I let her sleep for two hours.
I would say if I get her to nap 2 times a week, that is good. If it is a no nap day, where I can't even get her to her room for quiet time, I do let her pick one show to watch as quiet time.



answers from Houston on

I think we're all in the same boat with 3+ year olds! When I want my 3yo to take an afternoon nap, I will turn off all computers, music, tv, and lights. So the house is quiet & calm. I close her shades so her room is dark too.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesnt.

Good luck!



answers from Los Angeles on

My son is almost three now and we have dealt with the same situation for almost 10 months. We tried many things like quiet time, take away toys etc, but, nothing works. Eventually, we found out the positive reward system working very well with my son. We told him many times that if he could take a nap, then, we will have lots of time to play because he will not be tired and will have energy to play, if he just wasted time to lie on the bed but not sleeping it's wasting time. And, daddy and mommy are very tired too as we want to take nap too (i told him that i will take nap in my room) , then, we all have time and energy to play after nap. I will tell him what games we will play after nap. It worked very well with him. He has incentive to try to take a nap. Also, my son loves his blankie, i asked him to use this to cover his eyes so, he will be less distracted by the toys in his room and ask him to get one toy only and played under his blankie. It worked great. He usually only took like 5-15 mins for him to settle down and fall asleep.

I agreed with other mama's advice that it can be forced. but, may try the positive encouragement.

Hope it helps.



answers from Los Angeles on

My daughter just turned 3. I no longer stress the nap. If it happens, it happens. Sometimes she'll tell me she wants to take a little rest and she'll do it on her own. Other times it never happens. Other times she falls alsleep in the car and I carry her up to her bed. Lately she sleeps from like 4:30 to 7 pm which is a really bad time since it's dinner and bath and back to bed as soon as she wakes up. But my motto is, if she needed that extra sleep, well she needed it. If I sense her getting too cranky, I'll time a quick errand in the late afternoon or get her all cozy with a video and those tricks work for me... or I just deal with the cranky kid and put her to bed early. I say give up... if he really still needs it, he'll take it.



answers from New York on

He may not need one anymore! You may be better to have a set "quiet time" each afternoon with no t.v., no music or other distractions. I would allow him to play quietly with books and puzzles and other quiet, learning-based activities.



answers from Honolulu on

I'd just put him to bed earlier. I'd try moving his bed time up by 30 minutes every day until he seems happy and well rested. If he's tired by 6:30 at night, then try putting him to bed around 6. It sounds crazy, but honestly if you want what's best for your son, you should give it a try.



answers from Las Vegas on

well, my 2 oldest stopped napping at 2 years. I had the same issues. Screaming and crying at nap time, getting angry (me), climbing out of the crib etc. What I did notice, was that if I let them sleep a couple of hours, they simply were not tired at bed time. So I stopped fighting. Yes, for a while they were cranky in the afternoons. We ended up having quiet time with a movie or something in the afternoon. Eventually they adjusted and were fine with no nap. I know you probably REALLY don't want to hear that he might be ready to give up his nap, in fact I am sooo envious that he still naps at all! Whatever road you choose, I hope it works out well for you!



answers from San Diego on

you're lucky--my 2.5 yr old is doing this! We have nap/quiet time every day and arguing out of it is not an option. If she doesn't want to sleep, I can't make her, but she does have to stay in her room (preferably the bed) and be quiet. She will read books in bed and sometimes fall asleep. There is no requirement at quiet time to be laying down but she MUST be quiet. If she doesn't sleep, then oh well, bed time can move up 30-60min if needed.

As for consequences, she must cooperate in order to earn a TV show for the day. If she is being "difficult" about quiet/nap time (or brushing teeth, or insert-difficult-activity-here...) then I remind her that she has to cooperate to get a show. you can use whatever reward works for your family, but it has to be exclusive to the behavior system and you have to be willing to follow through if he doesn't earn it (it took 4-5 days for my daughter to figure out the system and realize that I meant what I said)



answers from San Diego on

Hi A., I know you don't think he is ready to give up the nap yet but it sounds more like you are not ready to give it up. My 3 at that age did not nap anymore unless we were out all day and they had a very busy day. Maybe you can put in a movie for during his regular nap time, change is going to happen during his years of growing up. J.



answers from San Diego on

A lot of children this age do not nap. My daughter stopped napping at age 3(she is almost 4). She does go to bed at 6:30 and sleeps 12 hours-which is fine amount of time for her.

Do not force him to sleep. Have quiet time where he can be in his room, quietly playing or looking at a book. You need to follow his lead and not yell, threaten, etc for him to nap. It WILL be a losing battle.

Take a look at the book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Weissbluth. It is an AWESOME book that will let you know how kids sleep patterns change at different stages of their life.

Good Luck!



answers from Atlanta on

Don't punish him! This is completely natural! Just because he gets cranky in the evening when he doesn't take a nap doesn't mean he isn't ready to give it up. His body and psyche are just going through the changes and stages leading to giving it up. My 4 year old still passes out sometime in the middle of the day or late afternoon -particularly if he's been really busy. He gets plenty of sleep at night, but once in awhile we all feel like a nap and sometimes doze off no matter what! You can try to implement "quiet time" where he needs to watch a DVD or look at books and be restful, but he's definitely on the road to giving it up.

Something to think of too -I completely quit napping when I was 3. I feel AWFUL if I ever take a nap, and I always have! My 4 year old is the same way. When he does pass out these days, he is miserable when he wakes up. It makes me feel physically ill to nap -even when I'm really tired and feel like going to sleep. I've talked to others who feel this way, so if your son is one of us, he may have good reason for not wanting to nap any longer!



answers from Los Angeles on

He's probably ready to drop the nap. Our daughter did at 2.5 years. If he's tired by 6:30, put him to bed at 7 p.m. Seriously. Our daughter just turned 5 and she goes to bed at 7:30. She gets up at 6:30 a.m., so she's still getting her required sleep for her age, 11 hours. Bonus: more time at night with my husband, alone.



answers from Los Angeles on

If someone isn't tired you can't force them to sleep. You can, however, create conditions that are conducive to napping. Do quieter activities indoors, put on some classical music, go for a walk with him in the stroller, have him sip some chamomile tea, read books.

My daughter gave up her nap at age 2. I didn't think *I* would be able to manage without her nap, but we all adjusted well after a couple of weeks of this change in routine. Now she tends to gravitate toward "quiet time" for herself in the mid-afternoon, as her natural rhythms guide her to do so.



answers from Los Angeles on

This may be out of context, but what about a tiring activity before naptime. I just discovered Jumping Genius in West Hills. They are located on the corner of Roscoe and Fallbrook. You can bring your own food and they have some nice snacks and drinks in the vending machines. This is a big awesome place with all sorts of indoor playground equipment, clean, safe and very kid friendly. By the time child finishes playing here they are tired and ready for a nap. They have a monthly pass that you purchase or frequent visit card, which makes it even cheaper. Worth trying.



answers from Dallas on

Please don't punish for not taking a nap! He is at an age where he is ready to give it up. Yes, he'll be tired and cranky initially until his body adjusts. And you can still have him take a rest. My daughter stopped napping before she was 3!



answers from Los Angeles on

I know it's frustrating for you but you can't force your son to sleep. And it's not fair to threaten him if he can't. My son gave up naps at about 2 1/2. He was really tired and cranky some days but we just had to deal with it until he was able to adjust to being awake all those hours without being tired. Instead of a nap, you can do quiet time. You can sit and read with him or put on a something like a Disney movie that will hold his attention for a couple of hours. He won't be sleeping but he'll be relaxing.

Hope this helps!



answers from Honolulu on

I have a 3.5 year old son, like you.
He has taken a nap, everyday, since he was born.
I have had the same pre-nap & nap routine, everyday, since he was born.
The only thing that has changed, is his nap time and frequency.

Now at his age, like your son, if he does not take a nap, he gets WAY too tired/sleepy/fussy, by evening as well. But he still does nap, every single day.

My suggestions are:
1) have a consistent everyday, pre-nap routine.
2) allow him to wind-down first. For my son, it can take even half an hour to wind-down, before nap.
I verbally "cue" him, telling him 'nap time soon... finish what you are doing, then we get ready..."
3) his nap, now at his age, is in the afternoon. Knowing him and observing him, I KNOW that by 2:00, he is tired/sleepy. So, naps for him are now in the afternoon. Not mornings, like when he was younger.
4) My son, after falling asleep, will nap for 2-3 hours.
5) I stay in the room with him, until he falls asleep. Or I nap too.
6) he will often putter around/play in bed, (like your son), before falling asleep. But I 'cue' him, telling him "5 more minutes.. then lie down... nap.."
7) then he will fall asleep.

I do not threaten him with punishments.... if he does not simmer down quickly. I know "his" routine and pattern of falling asleep. So I give him some time, and then he does fall asleep. After doing his routine.

EVERY afternoon, is nap time. For him.
For my daughter who is 7 years old, she will nap too, if she is tired. But for her age, I leave that option open to her. I don't force it. But she will admit to tiredness/sleepiness, and will nap if she is tired.

EVERY day, the afternoon is nap time or quiet time. But my son will nap.
After nap, then it is play time.
My kids know that.
They do not battle about it.
I have had the same routine for naps, everyday, for both kids, since birth. And I know them, and like your son, my kids DO get tired/sleepy in the afternoon after a full day.

Next, what time does your son wake up in the morning?
My son wakes at 6:30am.
He naps, in the afternoon. BY 2:00, he is ready for nap and tired.
Sometimes, he will nap earlier. But 2:00 or so, is the default nap time.
I know his cues.

For you, I would change his nap time.. .maybe later, not in the morning, if that is what you are doing now. And allow him to wind-down first. Kids... NEED to wind-down first, before nap. And my son will not nap, if he has to poop. So after his lunch, I know he will poop. Then once he does, he will nap.
Before nap, make everything quiet, and turn things off. Make the room dark if you have to. Tell him YOU have to rest/nap too... not play.
Also, in the morning, make sure he gets a lot of play time and runaround time. Boys are very physical/active and they need to run around.

Anyway, just what I do with my son. And as I said, he does nap, everyday. Without battle.
He also goes to bed just fine at night, even with naps, by 8:30pm.

all the best,

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