Need to wake your toddler from long naps? Waking them up can make them cranky. Learn how to wake a sleeping toddler peacefully from a nap.
If your child is like my twins, you have a “good” sleep problem: they nap a lot. While my eldest napped for 45 minutes—tops—my twins take a two-hour nap. Many times they sleep even longer than that. This is great for when I need a break. But not so great when long naps botches the rest of their naps or bedtime. Even an extra 30 minutes could mean they don’t sleep right away come bedtime. Or that the next nap was pushed further back.
Not cool then.
Because of that, my husband and I wake them up according to schedule. As difficult as it is to wake a sleeping toddler, we avoid having them oversleep.
The problem is the waking up part. When you’re in deep sleep, you know what it’s like to get woken up. It’s not pretty. And when done wrong, my kids have responded by screaming, crying—you name it.
And boy did we do it wrong. Before, our previous method began by opening the door to their room. If that didn’t work, we’d open the curtains and blinds. And if they were still asleep by that point, we’d turn the fan off. Sometimes even that didn’t work. But no matter what stage they’d wake up using this method, one thing was for sure: they woke up cranky.
I can see why. Waking up to their sleep environment altered is confusing when you’re still sleepy.
But over time, I’ve found tips to wake my sleeping kids peacefully.
How to wake a sleeping toddler
First, keep the room the same while you transition your child from deep sleep to light sleep.
Then, create a slight disturbance of her sleep to wake her up. Not with the sudden opening of the blinds or turning off of the fan. But almost like a tiny reminder that it’s time to wake up. For instance, rub your hand over her back or through her hair.
For younger babies and newborns, you can also dress her down. This gentle motion of removing clothes coupled with exposing her skin to air can be enough to wake her up. As HealthyChildren.org explains:
Whether it’s the physical stimulation or the increased exposure to cool air that does it, many newborns absolutely hate to be undressed. Your newborn may find it well worth the time and effort it takes to awaken and voice his opinion.
Once she stirs, smile and say something brief like, “Good morning,” or “Hello there.” But keep it brief—she’s far from the mood of talking just yet.
Then, if you have the physical space, carry her and lie down with her in the same room. I do this by carrying my child and lying down with him on my five-year-old’s twin bed (they all share a room). You can do this on a recliner or on a comfortable pillow on the floor.
You’re extended her nice, “just woke up” feeling by snuggling with her. If you have no room, sit by her bed and try to snuggle as best you can by hugging her or laying your head down next to her body.
At this point, you can offer her a few comfort items like milk or reading books or a favorite stuffed animal.
Finally, only when she’s awake, transition the room. This is when you can turn off the white noise and bring light into the room once again.
My twins don’t always need this transition time. Sometimes they’ll hear me open the door (their gentle disruption). And they’ll sit up and begin waking themselves up.
But there have been many times when not even the loudest noises wake them up. This is when we focus on transitioning them from deep sleep to light sleep and finally to awake time.
Because it’s one thing if your child wakes up all on her own—cranky or happy. But other times, knowing how to wake a sleeping toddler during the day can make all the difference.
Want to determine whether your child is ready to drop a nap? Download my FREE printable, Transitioning to Fewer Naps! Use it to record when your child is likely ready to take one less nap (hint: 5 days in a row is a good indicator!). Download it below:
Get more tips about sleep:
- What to Do when Your Child Plays Instead of Sleeps
- How to Stay Calm when Your Baby Won’t Nap
- Your Child Won’t Nap? Read This.
- 13 Ways to Cope with Newborn Sleep Deprivation
- How to End Bedtime Battles and Get Your Child to Finally Sleep
Your turn: Have you had to wake your child from a nap? What are other tips on how to wake a sleeping toddler from a nap? Let me know in the comments!
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