The Perfect Toddler Nap Schedule For 2, 3, and 4-Year-Olds

Author Image By Paula McLaren - Norland Nurse NNEB RSH •  Updated: 03/10/24 •  Sleep / Naps

Sleep is a pillar of your child’s well-being. It supports growth, learning, and overall mood. That’s why understanding your toddler’s sleep needs and creating a suitable toddler nap schedule is CRUCIAL.

Get sleep right and you will enjoy this wonderful stage so much more. There will be fewer meltdowns and tantrums and your toddler will be able to embrace this new stage in their development with enthusiasm and energy.

In today’s article, I will share with you the best toddler nap schedule, no matter their age, ensuring healthy development and a well-rested family!

Toddler Nap Schedule Featured

How Much Sleep Do Toddlers Need?

Generally, toddlers require 12 hours of sleep in 24 hours. This includes nighttime sleep and daytime naps.

Here is a guideline for your toddler’s sleep requirements, including appropriate nap lengths:

Age Of ToddlerTotal Sleep Required In 24 HoursDaytime Sleep (Naps)
1-2 years11-14 hours2-3 hours (split over 1-2 naps)
2-3 years11-14 hours1-3 hours (split over 1-2 naps)
3-4 years10-13 hours0-1 hours (1 nap)

As toddlers grow, it is important to appreciate that their sleep needs will change. 

While younger toddlers may still require two naps during the day, older toddlers often transition to just one midday nap

This is part of their journey towards daytime sleep diminishing entirely as nighttime sleep consolidates.

How Many Naps Does A Toddler Need?

For toddlers aged 1 to 2 years, two naps a day is ideal. Each nap may vary from 1 to 2 hours in length.

By the time they reach 18 months, many toddlers need 2 naps on busy days but will begin transitioning to one nap per day on calmer days.

The transition to one daily nap consistently usually occurs between 3 to 4 years old (but I have known lots of 2 to 3-year-olds who only nap once a day)

It is important for your child’s development that they receive adequate daytime sleep or rest by encouraging quiet time after lunch.

2-Year-Old Sleep Schedule Guidelines

I love the toddler phase. Even with all its challenges of growing independence and what appears to be an endless energy for exploring their zest for life is so refreshing and never fails to bring me joy.

However, I have also learned that getting toddler sleep right will impact your enjoyment and appreciation of this age. 

A well-rested toddler is a delight… but an overtired toddler will be a challenge to manage.

Your toddler’s sleep schedule is therefore vital for their development and well-being and at 2 years old, a balance of nighttime sleep and daytime naps is key to ensure they get enough total rest and can make the most of their waking hours.

An ideal sleep schedule incorporates a consistent bedtime and nap routine and wake time. 

However, no matter how well-structured your sleep schedule is there may be times when you hit a rough patch. This could be due to your child experiencing a big change in their daily life such as the arrival of a new sibling, starting daycare, or a sleep regression

During these phases, it might become challenging to stick to a toddler nap schedule. 

Sleep regression while being a natural part of your little one development can lead to resistance to napping, but it’s important to be patient and consistent with nap times during this phase. 

Stick to the schedule and be prepared to substitute quiet times for nap times or bring bedtime forward to avoid overtiredness.

Here’s a simplified guide to understanding your 2-year-old’s sleep needs:

Sample 2-Year-Old Sleep Schedules

When organizing your 2-year-old’s sleep schedule, consistency is key. 

Aim for a predictable bedtime and morning wake-up. This not only helps establish a routine but also ensures your child gets the recommended amount of sleep. 

Here is an example 2-year-old toddler nap schedule:

Nap Schedule For 2 Year Old

3-Year-Old Sleep Schedule Guidelines

By the time your toddler is three years of age, they may be showing signs of not needing to nap at all. However, consistent sleep schedules are still the cornerstone for healthy growth and development.

Psychologists emphasize the role of reliable sleep patterns in supporting both emotional and cognitive development at this age.

Below is a guideline to help you establish a sleep schedule that fosters good sleep habits for your 3-year-old toddler:

Sample 3-Year-Old Sleep Schedules

As always, when organizing a toddler nap schedule, consistency is key… even when your 3-year-old is in the process of dropping their daytime nap.

Here are 2 examples of a toddler nap schedule for a 3-year-old who is transitioning from 1 to no daytime naps.

One Daytime Nap Scheule

1 Nap Schedule For 3 Year Old

No Daytime Nap Schedule

No Nap Schedule For 3 Year Old

4-Year-Old Sleep Schedule Guideline

At four years old, your child’s sleep needs are unique to their development. 

Interestingly, The Sleep Foundation states that ‘Sixty percent of four-year-olds still nap. However, by five years of age, most children no longer need naps, with less than 30% of children that age still taking them.

Here’s a guide to understanding your 4-year-old’s sleep needs:

Sample 4-Year-Old Sleep Schedules

All young children thrive with a regular and stable routine. When creating a sleep schedule for your 4-year-old, it can look like the following:

Morning Routine:

Daytime Rest:

Evening Routine:

Looking to get your little one to sleep quickly and effortlessly? Check out my Bedtime and Nap Cheat Sheet and master the art of making daytime naps and bedtimes as seamless as possible.

Top Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Nap Schedule

Throughout all my years of experience, I have found many tips and tricks that have been very helpful in managing toddler nap times. The first of which I will never stop teaching parents…

The Importance Of Quiet Time In A Toddler Nap Schedule

I am a great fan of quiet time and in my experience, having quiet time after lunch every day is a great habit to establish that encourages your toddler to rest and without the pressure to sleep.

I have looked after toddlers who dropped daytime sleep before their second birthday and others who still needed a 2-hour nap well into their third year… 

Quiet time is your savior as it ensures that your toddler slows down for a period each day that allows them to recharge their batteries and not become overtired

It also encourages independent play and is proven to improve cognitive and creative development.

Frequently Asked Questions About Creating A Toddler Nap Schedule

Navigating your toddler’s nap schedule can be quite a puzzle. This section aims to address your concerns with straightforward answers.

Q: When do toddlers stop napping?

A: Typically, toddlers transition away from napping altogether between ages 3 to 5. This change depends on your child’s own development and activity levels. Signs that they are ready to stop may include difficulty falling asleep at naptime or bedtime.

Q: Why do toddlers need to nap?

A: Naps are crucial for your toddler’s growth, daily functioning, and mood. They help with learning, memory, and processing new skills. During the toddler stage, sufficient daytime sleep is just as important as a good night’s rest.

Q: Should you keep a toddler on a nap schedule?

A: Keeping a predictable nap schedule helps your toddler’s body get the rest it needs consistently. Regular naps can reduce fussiness and maintain a stable mood. You need to observe your child’s sleep cues to best structure their naps.

Q: Why do toddlers refuse to nap?

A: Refusal to nap can stem from various reasons such as increasing independence, overstimulation, or changes in routine. Ensure the sleep environment is calming and consistent. An overtired toddler may also resist napping, so timing is key to avoiding this struggle.

Q: How many hours of afternoon nap is ideal for a 2-year-old?

A: An ideal afternoon nap for a 2-year-old ranges from 1 to 2 hours. This supports their total daily sleep need of 11 to 14 hours. Observe your child’s behavior to determine what duration helps them wake up refreshed and happy.

Q: At what time of day should a 3-year-old be put down for a nap?

A: A 3-year-old typically benefits from a nap starting early afternoon, around 1 to 2 PM. This time allows for optimal sleep following lunch and avoids interfering with evening sleep. The specific time may vary based on your child’s wake-up time and individual needs.

Q: How do you adjust a 4-year-old’s sleep schedule as they phase out napping?

A: To adjust a 4-year-old’s sleep schedule, you can gradually push nap times later or shorten them. Begin to introduce quiet time during regular nap times to transition smoothly. Pay close attention to their evening sleep quality and overall mood, making changes as necessary.

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Author Image Bio
Paula McLaren is the founder of Teething to Tantrums and a highly qualified childcare expert with over 40 years of experience as a Norland Nanny. She holds a BA (Hons) in Early Years Development & Learning (0-6 Years) and the prestigious Norland Diploma. Paula has worked as a night nanny, run a successful daycare center in London, and helped raise countless children using her tried and tested developmental and guidance methods.

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