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Time to Drop the Nap?

You think your child still needs his daily nap. (And you're completely sure you like the downtime.) Too bad he doesn't agree.

"It's not unusual for a two- or three-year-old to start resisting naps," says Vera Frumin, M.D., chairwoman of pediatrics at Holy Redeemer Hospital and Medical Center in Meadowbrook, PA. "Toddlers want to explore, and sleeping's not much fun." But most kids this age still need more sleep than they can get overnight --about 12 to 14 hours each day --making that afternoon slumber a necessity.

If possible, stick with the nap until age 4, says Dr. Frumin. You'll know your child's ready to drop his daytime snooze if:

* a day he hasn't napped, he's not cranky by late afternoon or already nodding off.

* It's taking him longer to fall asleep at night. But to be sure, try shortening his nap to an hour or moving it earlier in the day. That may be enough to make sure he's tired come nighttime.

Some children do need naps but have trouble falling asleep. Try to keep a consistent ritual: Read a story or sing a lullaby first, then put your toddler down in a dark, quiet room. The routine may make him drowsy enough to doze off. If not, it's still a good idea to provide some downtime, so set him up in bed with some quiet activities like a book and a puzzle (not the TV or computer).

Try to be flexible. Even if your kid successfully goes a few days without a nap, he may crash the next. Watch his mood and sleep ability for a while --and enjoy your afternoon respite while it lasts.

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