Comprehensive Guide to Managing Toddler Naptime Struggles: Tips for Dealing with 2 Year Old Nap Refusal

by | Mar 9, 2024 | Toddler, Top tips

Navigating toddler naptime struggles with a 2-year-old can be a daunting task for parents. 2 year old nap refusal is a common thing I see everyday.

As a toddler sleep specialist, I understand the challenges you may face and the importance of establishing healthy sleep habits early on. Some of my families have resorted to sofa naps, car naps or pram naps just to get SOME day sleep! When managing toddler naptime struggles, some sleep is certainly better than none!

In this blog, I’ll share practical strategies to help you manage those dreaded naptime struggles!

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links and I receive a commission if you visit a link and buy something on my recommendation. Purchasing via an affiliate link doesn’t cost you any extra, and I only recommend products and services I trust and it doesn’t influence what I promote. All opinions are my own.

Understanding Toddler Nap Needs:

Before addressing naptime struggles, it’s crucial to understand your 2-year-old’s sleep requirements. Toddlers at this age typically need around 12 to 14 hours of sleep per day, including nighttime sleep and daytime naps. However, individual sleep needs may vary, so it’s essential to observe your child’s sleep patterns and adjust accordingly.

Common Reasons for 2 Year Old Nap Refusal:

Several factors can contribute to naptime struggles in 2-year-olds. By identifying the underlying reasons behind your child’s resistance to napping, you can tailor your approach to address their specific needs. Some common reasons for nap refusal include:

  1. Developmental Milestones: As toddlers reach new milestones, such as increased mobility or language development, they may become more interested in exploring their environment, making it challenging to settle down for naps. They’d rather be practising these new skills!
  2. Transitioning to One Nap: Around the age of 15-18 months of age, many toddlers begin to transition from two naps per day to a single nap. This transition can disrupt nap schedules and lead to resistance to naptime. Children may transition out of naps between 2.5-3.5 years of age. Only on some occasions is a 2 year old ready to transition to no naps. It’s usually resistance rather than their body being physically ready.
  3. Overstimulation: Toddlers are naturally curious and active, and excessive stimulation during the day can make it difficult for them to relax and nap. Activities such as outings or screen time close to naptime can interfere with sleep. Make sure you allow for adequate wind down time to separate the daytime excitement from sleep time. This also helps to avoid bouts of FOMO!
  4. Overtiredness: Missing naps or having erratic sleep schedules can lead to overtiredness, making it harder for toddlers to settle down for naps and subsequently increasing resistance.
  5. Separation Anxiety: Some toddlers experience separation anxiety, especially during naptime when they’re away from their parents or caregivers. This anxiety can manifest as resistance to napping or difficulty falling asleep.

Strategies for Managing Toddler Naptime Struggles:

Now, let’s explore practical strategies to help you manage naptime struggles with your 2-year-old:

Establish a Consistent Nap Routine:

Now, this doesn’t have to be complicated. However, a short naptime routine will go far! Try to include some elements of the bedtime routine so your baby benefits from similar sleep cues and will start understanding what’s coming next.

If you can, consider their sleep environment. It’s worth trying to step away from the hustle and bustle of the day with all the distractions going on.

We find it hard to unwind after a busy day, and the same applies to kiddies. Try to factor in a 10-15 minute wind down before a nap at home.

You can use my flashcards at both nap time and bedtime!

bedtime flashcards for nap resistance

Create a Relaxing Sleep Environment:

Ensure that your child’s nap environment is conducive to sleep by keeping the room dark, quiet, and comfortably cool. Consider using white noise or blackout curtains to block out distractions.

Why do songs or lullabies help your baby get to sleep? Well, there’s certainly a reason why nursery rhymes stick around! They’ve been tried and tested over many generations and have stood the test of time for a reason!

Typically they have quite rhythmic and predictable melodies that promote a sense of calm. Researchers at Harvard Music Lab found that lullabies helped calm and improve babies sleep. They found it can even lower heart rates and dilated pupils! Also, the music lab found this could even be in any unfamiliar language or melody!

However, as a sleep specialist, I’m a huge fan of white noise. It has consistency – which is pretty much my favourite thing ever! It acts as a constant in the room and can also help drown out other noises such as those in the household (doors slamming, noisy siblings) and those in the environment too (cars outside, birds tweeting, thunder storms).

It helps set the scene where your baby falls asleep in the same environment as that they will wake up in at night as it is exactly the same sound all night long. So, my preference would be having white noise during the night and for a nap. Parents singing lullabies will only ever be present at bedtime, not all night long.

Adjust Nap Schedule as Needed:

Pay attention to your child’s sleep cues and adjust their nap schedule accordingly. If they’re showing signs of readiness to transition to one nap, gradually shift their naptime to midday and extend the duration of the nap.

nap time resistance

Encourage Wind-Down Activities:

So the focus here is on wind down. You can take elements from your nighttime sleep routine so you’re offering up sleep cues. That may be closing the curtains, saying night night to the toys in the room, changing their nappy and getting them into their sleeping bags before popping them down.

Soft music and dim lights can help make a gradual transition. Usually less distractions the better. If you’re looking for recommended baby sleep aids then you can find them here.

Both nap time and bedtime routines are great for helping your baby sleep. When you reach toddler stages, they become vital for your child’s sleep to help them manage the transition between night and day, and all the expectations that come with it!

2 year old nap refusal

Offer Comfort and Reassurance:

If your child experiences separation anxiety during naptime, provide comfort and reassurance by staying with them until they fall asleep or offering a comforting object, such as a favourite stuffed animal.

Often fears and anxieties about the dark start from 2 and a half years upwards. This often coincides with a big change in your child’s development and they are gaining increasingly active imaginations!

You may have noticed their play also starts to develop to become more imaginative around this time. They may start using some objects to pretend they are others for example.

You can check out my more comprehensive guide on fears and anxieties at bedtime (and nap time!) here.

Be Patient and Persistent:

It’s normal for toddlers to resist naptime occasionally, but consistency and patience are key. Stay calm and persistent in your efforts to establish a nap routine, and be prepared to adapt your approach as needed.

Managing 2 year old nap refusal requires patience, consistency, and understanding.

By identifying the underlying reasons for nap refusal and implementing practical strategies, you can create a positive naptime routine that supports your child’s overall well-being and development.

toddler naptime struggles

Q: Can a toddler clock be used to manage 2 Year Old Nap Refusal?

Yes absolutely. It helps parents set some boundaries and helps to explain what we expect in a simply set way. Visual cues are great for kids. It helps maintain a consistent flow. Displaying my flashcards in their room is also perfect for helping to reduce bedtime battles during the bedtime routine. Also be mindful of just whether your little one is ready for that big bed or not!

bedtime flashcards for bedtime battles

If you need help at bedtime then you can check out my 2 hour Bedtime Battles Course. Priced at just £47 ($59), the 2 hour course guides you through everything needed to restore bedtimes.

Q. Should my 2 year old still be napping?

Most 2 years olds still need to have a daily nap. Toddler naptime struggles can be hard to manage. However, 2 year old nap refusal is more commonly linked to a bout of FOMO and a short period of resistance. With patience and consistency they can go back to enjoying those naps again!

Q. When do children grow out of naps?

Typically around the age of 3 most children will start to drop their nap. Like other nap transitions, there is likely to be some days with a nap and others without. Try replacing nap time with quiet time to allow them an opportunity to rest. Again, you may want to consider an early bedtime when those afternoon naps disappear.

Need help at bedtime too?

You can also check out my Bedtime Battles Course! Priced at just £47 ($59), the 2 hour course guides you through everything needed to restore bedtimes.

Still need some help?

I can help establish good sleep bedtime habits and provide tips on how to cope with inevitable nighttime disruptions. I offer tried-and-tested sleep training solutions that are well worth the investment for your whole family.

Have a look at my sleep consultant packages or directly get in touch.

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Hi, I’m Gemma, your sleep consultant

I am a certified baby and child sleep specialist who works with families all over the world.

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