While preschoolers need proper night-time sleep for their growth and development, most of them also need naps.
Healthy sleep habits (and naps in particular) boost children’s immune systems, help with the development of their cognitive skills, and help with memory consolidation. But it goes beyond that; a proper nap also means an improved mood throughout the day.
So, how long should a 4-year-old nap? Parents are often confused about this, but we’re going to change that.
Does a 4 Year Old Need a Nap?
Normally a 4-year-old needs 11.5 hours of sleep, but the amount of sleep a child needs depends on many factors.
Generally speaking, if preschool children don’t get enough sleep, they will be sleep-deprived. This may lead to temper tantrums or your child may feel groggy throughout the day. In that case, a nap is a must for your little one. How and when that happens is not uniform.
You can adjust how long your child naps as per their convenience. In a nutshell, a nap of 1-1.5 hours will be sufficient in most cases, but if you notice that it’s leading to a later bedtime, then you can shorten it to 45 minutes.
Difference Between Quiet Time & Toddler’s Nap
Quiet time refers to a structured time frame in which you allow your child to do a peaceful or beneficial activity. It may include playing with their favorite toys, looking at books, or even watching a calming and relaxing children’s video.
Note that in order for this time to qualify as “quiet time,” the kids shouldn’t be engaged in action-packed and fast-paced cartoons, for instance. Although they’ll “be quiet,” the main aim of this concept is to provide your children with rest.
In preschools, there’s usually a time allocated specifically for quiet time when toddlers are encouraged to lie down on a cot simply to relax. On the other hand, a nap is a short period of sleep that energizes your child for the rest of the day. While your child might doze off during quiet time as well, proper, scheduled napping is also important. Let’s see why.
Why Are Naps Important?
Proper sleep is important for all of us, but for a 4-year-old, it’s crucial. Preschool children are in their growing phase, and naps ensure that they will develop properly and maintain good health.
Naps have the following key benefits:
- They provide downtime for kids, which they need for their proper mental and physical development during early childhood.
- They improve their mood and prevent them from being exhausted during the day.
- They make your child more active and alert when they should be.
- They improve kids’ learning capability by aiding memory consolidation and improved focus.
- Napping also helps regulate emotions.
Not to mention that nap time gives you a chance to take a breather and complete your important household chores while your child is resting.
5 Tips for Peaceful Toddler Naps
Keep It Natural
Nap patterns are adopted during infancy, and the feeding schedule you’ve established for your child plays a major role in them. It’s expected that one child’s sleep needs and nap routine will be different from another’s.
That means that there aren’t any precise sleep habit rules you need to follow, and there’s no need for your child to adhere to a strict sleep routine – that is, predetermined by external sources. When it comes to naps, the main rule is this: keep it as natural as possible – for them.
However, that doesn’t mean that they should catch Z’s on the fly irregularly as that may impair their regular sleep schedule. What we’re trying to say is that your child might want to nap in the afternoon while others prefer right before noon. When it comes to a nap schedule, anything goes as long as it’s consistent, but more on that later.
Be Mindful of Their Diet
One other thing you need to keep in mind is that a child’s diet will have an impact on their sleep/nap pattern since hunger affects sleep a great deal. Make sure you feed your kid healthy and well-balanced meals and avoid giving them snacks right before nap time.
Good Napping Environment
The second most important factor for toddler naps is the sleep environment. Ideally, you should use the same place for every nap your little one takes. If you provide a consistently comfy sleep environment for your child, it will be easy for them to create a (positive) association with sleeping.
For example, it’s not a good idea to let your child sleep on the bed one day and in the crib the next. If your child has a habit of napping in the stroller, for instance, either stick to it or wean them off of it. Yet again, consistency is key.
Keep Naps Healthy & Short
There are two very connected reasons why short naps are best:
- They won’t disturb their sleeping pattern;
- They’ll energize your child as they’ll wake up right after the first REM/non-REM cycle, which tends to get longer the longer we sleep. Longer naps essentially substitute proper sleep, and that’s not something you want your little napper to do.
Hence, a 90-minute snooze is more than enough for a toddler nap.
Same Nighttime Sleep & Napping Routine
If your child has a particular bedtime routine, it’s good practice to repeat that for a daytime nap. It could be anything like reading a book before bed, telling them a story, or just cuddling. This will also help alleviate most sleep problems young children might have – 3-year-olds, 4-year-olds, and 5-year-olds alike.
When Should a 4 Year Old Not Nap?
To answer this question you need to be attentive in noticing changes in your child’s behavior. As children grow up, they naturally stop taking naps. But, is your child getting too old for napping?
Here are some signs that indicate your kid doesn’t necessarily need a daytime nap anymore.
- They have difficulty falling asleep at night.
- They wake up earlier than usual when napping.
- They’re active and energetic throughout the whole day even if they haven’t napped.
- They don’t feel sleepy or don’t get fussy at their scheduled nap time and continue playing.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, your child is probably not ready to let go of the afternoon nap if they’re irritable or tired in the evenings.
Transitioning Kids Away From Napping
Transitioning from napping during the day to no napping at all may take time. Never quit naps entirely; instead, ease your kids out of the practice slowly, allowing them time to adjust.
You can replace nap time with quiet time, the preschooler practice we talked about earlier. However, similar to napping, quiet time should also be structured and consistent.
Napping during the day helps your little one get the energy to get through the rest of the day. Some four-year-olds refuse to take naps and it’s completely fine if they are getting sufficient sleep at night. The ones that do need their daily naps, though, usually nap for 1 to 1.5 hours during the day.