If you’ve come here looking for expert advice on creating an ideal 3 year old sleep schedule, or even just a 3 year old nap schedule, you’ve come to the right place.
Between both of us here at The Moms At Odds, we’re raising five little ones and have advised countless others on various parenting and sleeping techniques.
Believe me, we’ve tried it all so you don’t have to.
Ready to design a sleep schedule for your toddler that works best for your family? Let’s dive in.
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Real-Life 3 Year Old Sleep Schedule Examples
The easiest way to create your own 3 year old sleep schedule is by starting with some actual routines.
We polled a few of our VIP moms to get their secret schedules for success. We wanted to just include the sleeping basics (wake up, naps, bedtime) as well as eating routines (meals and snacks). This way it’s nice and flexible so you can customize it with your own activities and outings.
Here are a few examples of a 3 year old nap schedule with bedtimes:
Standard 3 Year Old Nap Schedule
This is a nice, basic schedule for your 3 year old toddler. It includes a 2 hour midday nap, 11 hours of night sleeping, for a total of 13 hours total resting time.
A 3 Year Old Sleep Schedule With a Shorter Nap
Some kids aren’t long nappers. This one is for the toddlers who tend to only sleep for 1 hour in the middle of the day. You’ll notice that this means closer to 12 hours of sleep overnight.
A 3 Year Old Sleep Schedule for Night Owls and Late Risers
There are plenty of cultures who prefer to dine late and enjoy family time in the evenings. Or sometimes due to a parent’s work schedules things have to be pushed back.
Whatever your reason is, here’s an example of a later wake up and bedtime.
A 3 Year Old Sleep Schedule with No Nap
Whether they’re going through a 3 year old sleep regression or phasing out their nap, here’s a schedule that swaps a “quiet time” in the middle of the day instead.
Quiet time is generally time your toddler spends doing a quiet activity by themselves. Ideas for quiet time can be coloring, “reading” (ie. looking through books at the pictures), or listening to audio stories or music.
We recommend using an OK to Wake! Alarm Clock so your toddler can easily see when their assigned quiet time is up. A gentle light will start to glow signaling the hour is up. This prevents them from calling for you every ten minutes to see if they’re done yet!
Does My 3 Year Old Still Need a Nap?
When designing your personalized 3 year old nap schedule, you’ll have to figure out how long (if at all!) your child will nap for.
While toddlers can vary widely, according to the National Sleep Foundation, most 3 year olds still take a nap during the day.
As they get older, the percentage of nappers decreases and by 5 most kids no longer nap.
Whether or not your child naps can depend on a lot of different factors, from how much sleep they get at night and activity levels to parent and childcare schedules.
What to Do When 3 Year Old Won’t Nap?
Though most 3 year olds nap, not all of them do, so if you and your child are struggling consider that it might be time to drop the nap. While transitioning your child might stop napping cold turkey, or may go slowly by skipping a nap here and there more and more frequently.
As mentioned above, many parents find it helpful to initiate a “quiet time” when their child is starting to drop the midday nap.
Keep the lights low and the environment relaxed, providing them with the opportunity to sleep if they are tired. You’ll also want to give them ideas for how to spend their quiet time if they choose to stay awake. Think activities like puzzles, coloring, books, music, audio books, etc.
If not, you’ll end up with a huge laundry mess like my lovely 3 year old made in the photo above!
Also if nap time isn’t working for your 3 year old, you may want to move up bedtime to make up for the lost sleep.
READ How to Get a Toddler to Eat Vegetables in 8 Easy Steps
How to Get a 3 Year Old to Nap
Naps at 3 can be tricky.
Start by finding the right time. It can take a little trial and error to find the perfect nap time sweet spot for your kid. Too early and they aren’t tired, too late and you destroy bedtime. You really have to find the Goldilocks nap time that is just right.
Experimentation is key when designing and implementing a 3 year old nap schedule.
If your child is still not sleeping during nap time, make sure they and their surroundings are calm and quiet. Consider having a wind down time like you would before bedtime where you read books or sing songs to make sure they feel relaxed. Get room darkening curtains and crank on the white noise machine to make sure they aren’t distracted.
Finally, make sure they have a full tummy and an empty bladder before being put down for a nap.
READ 10 Secrets to Grocery Shopping With a Toddler
Do 3 Year Olds Have a Sleep Regression?
Unfortunately, sleep regressions can and do happen at any age, not just during infancy. Therefore toddlerhood is no exception.
When kids, their bodies, and their brains are developing – it’s natural for sleep disturbances to occur.
This is important to mention because it means your 3 year old sleep schedule has to be flexible.
Realize there are days they’ll wake up early from their nap and other days they’ll sleep almost 3 hours. It’s normal and perfectly OK.
Look at the other schedule examples for how to adjust and compensate for the change in routine.
For more info, Have Twins First has a great article that’s all about the 3 year old sleep regression.
READ Why I Let My Toddlers Climb Up the Slide
What Time Should a 3 Year Old Go to Bed?
When figuring out a bedtime, we recommend working backwards.
Most 3 year olds need between 11-13 hours of sleep per day. So start by considering long they normally nap.
Then you want to subtract how long they normally nap from the sleep demand for a 3 year told, 13 hours.
For example, if they nap for 2 hours a day then you want to calculate 13 – 2. This leaves you with 11 remaining hours they should sleep at night.
Figure out what time your toddler should wake up in the morning. Remember this will be their wake up time every day. Even though it would be nice to sleep in until 8 am on weekends, that might not work on weekdays when you have to go to work.
Then all you have to do is figure out what time your child will have to go to bed to give them enough time to get their required zzz’s in.
Take the example from earlier. If you they can sleep up to 11 hours at night and you want them up by 7am, they’ll have to have a bedtime of 8pm.
Of course, you’ll have to adjust slightly depending on your schedule and how much time your 3 year old sleeps.
Should a 3 Year Old Have a Bedtime?
Yes! Routines and sleep schedules are very important.
As previously mentioned, there’s no magic hour that works for all toddler’s bedtime.
However, every 3 year old should have a reliable sleep routine of when they nap and go to bed each day.
The Ultimate 3 Year Old Bedtime Routine Chart
Check out this awesome 3 year old bedtime routine chart we made. It breaks down all the steps you need to make sure that beautiful sleep schedule goes off without a tantrum.
- Step 1: Wrap up your day
- Help your child mentally “pack up” their day by tidying. Putting toys away signals that play time is over.
- Other chores can be to clear the table, unpack their backpack, and put dirty laundry in the basket.
- Bonus: More tidying means less cleaning for you later!
- Step 2: Get nice and clean
- Next comes bath time, which both cleanses and also makes them feel warm and relaxed. If you don’t do daily baths (we don’t!), they should at minimum wash their hands and face.
- Other tasks include brushing/flossing teeth, brushing hair, and putting on clean pajamas.
- Step 3: Relax and calm down
- While they’re all comfy and clean, it’s time for a nice relaxing story or song.
- You can read a book aloud, tell a story, sing a lullaby, or even just talk about their day.
- Keep a calm tone and keep the lights slightly dim to encourage relaxation.
- Step 4: Spread the love
- Always show your kids affection before they go to sleep for the night. While every family may express it differently, the sentiment is the same.
- Some loving ideas include giving your child cuddles, hugs, kisses, compliments, smiles, back rubs, or even just simply saying “I love you”.
How To Handle 3 Year Old Bedtime Battles
No one is ever as thirsty as a child at bedtime. Getting your 3 year old to stay in bed and go to sleep amid multiple requests for water or going potty for the 10th time or tears over the blankies being messed up again, can be a huge pain.
Dealing with the nightly bedtime battles can really wear on parents who would love to have a moment of quiet in the evening to actually get something done or even just chill.
Here are some tips for parents for handling your 3 year olds bedtime battles:
- Have a solid bedtime routine. Set yourself up for success with a calming bedtime routine. Helping your little one wind down and being consistent with your routine lays a great foundation for good sleep. It doesn’t have to be complex, in fact often it is best to keep things simple like bath, brush teeth, pajamas, books, songs, and snuggle.
- Be calm and consistent. Though you are probably tired as well, have a long to-do list for the evening, and are exhausted by this daily difficulty, keep your cool and stick to your rules. For instance, if they are supposed to stay in bed, don’t yell when they get up again or give in. It’s so easy to lose your temper or crack under their relentless demands, but neither will help the situation.
- Communicate and problem solve. Try to get to the bottom of their bedtime antics. Listen to what they say in both their words and actions. Are they scared? Just not tired? Are they struggling to relax? Then try to brainstorm solutions together. Perhaps a nightlight would help, letting them look at books in their bed, or playing lullabies?
- Positive reinforcement. Some kids respond really well to reward systems. Praising them when they have a good bedtime is great. If that’s not enough, a sticker chart for staying in bed could be just the motivation your child needs.
Wrapping Up Sleepy 3 Year Old Nap Schedule
Did we miss anything? We’d love to hear from you!
What new strategy are you going to implement after reading this? Or did we miss an important point that’s essential for creating a 3 year old sleep schedule?
Either way, let us know by leaving a comment below right now.
As always, thanks so much for stopping by today.