The girls started showing signs that they were ready to abandon naps completely when they were three. But skipping a nap usually meant that they'd fall asleep somewhere or sometime very inconvenient and that almost always screwed up their bedtime and put us into a vicious cycle of grumpy kids, missed naps, unscheduled naps, and ruined bedtime rituals. Then the next morning they were exhausted and the cycle would start all over again.
We fixed this by pushing their nap time out by an hour or two to help ensure they were good and tired when their head finally hit the pillow and we never - ever - let them sleep past their scheduled nap time (even if they just fell asleep 10 minutes earlier). But, as the video below shows, even a perfect plan doesn't always work perfectly. By the way, she fell asleep five minutes after this video so she still got a nice nap in spite of the crazy Jingle Bells that were madly playing in her cute little head!
For anyone who cares, here's the sleep schedule that has worked perfectly for us since Gwen and Maddy turned 3:
Morning Wake Up: 7:15 AM
Nap: 3:00 to 5:00 PM
Bedtime: 8:45 PM
Prior to age 3, we had a similar schedule but nap time started one or two hours earlier.
We can't force them to sleep during these times but we can (and do) insist that they stay in their room and have quiet time during these hours. They're free to play with any toys we put in there but they can't leave the room. And we keep a portable potty chair in there too (so they can't constantly demand to be let out to go potty). For all our tenacity and consistency, we have two little girls who know when it's time for bed and happily march in there and climb in bed and blow us kisses as we close their door. And they stay put. They just don't know any other reality because nothing else has ever been allowed. We never have nighttime drama or visits from little sleepy people who want to snuggle at 3:00 AM. We do all our snuggling at 7:15 each morning when the whole family meets in Mommy and Daddy's bed. Not even the cat dares to break the routine and join us before then.
Since they're older, we do sometimes fudge on their nap start time (if we're traveling, for example) but we always make sure they get a nap. We know we'll need to continue to tweak the schedule a bit here and there because the girls obviously have different sleep requirements as they get older but we know they still need their nap now. Most experts agree that kids under age five absolutely need a nap and most never get the 12 to 14 hours of sleep in every 24 hour period that their body requires. The fact that kids will fall asleep in the middle of their dinner (face down in the mashed potatoes!) is proof!