5 Tips to Try When Your Toddler Wakes Up Too Early

Frustrated because your toddler wakes up too early all of a sudden? Discover how to help your child wake up later in the morning.

Toddler Waking Up Too EarlyWaking up around 5:30am is my new normal, admittedly not always one of the perks of motherhood. But there was a point when even 5:30am seemed “late,” especially when my toddler would wake up even earlier.

You see, I treasure my time alone, whether it’s the hours between my kids’ bedtime and mine, or those early hours when I wake up before everyone else.

So, to have those precious morning hours disrupted because my son woke up even earlier than me was a big deal.

Perhaps you’re finding yourself in a similar situation. One where your toddler goes to bed fine, but wakes up early only to come into your room for the rest of the morning.

Rest assured, this doesn’t last forever, even if it can sometimes feel like it. Below, I’ll share the tips that worked anytime my kids started waking up earlier than I wanted them to. Give them a try, and I hope they can work for you as well:

1. Make no (or few) exceptions

Dealing with tantrums at four in the morning isn’t exactly any sleep-deprived parent’s ideal way to start the day. No wonder so many of us relent and bring our kids to our bed, start the day early, or otherwise cave in to their demands.

The problem? These “quick fix solutions” reinforce the very habits you’re trying to break. Your toddler now thinks it’s fine to wake up at an early hour when you allow him to.

Think about a few non-negotiable rules you enforce, from sitting in a car seat to not hitting his new baby sister. Just as you would never allow him to sit without a car seat or continue to bonk the baby on the head, so too should you be as firm on early wake-ups.

One way to help you better enforce these new habits is to brace yourself the previous night. Tell yourself you might have an early morning to deal with his wake-up (you might even go to bed earlier than usual).

Then, be firm about his requests to get out of the crib, despite his bedtime tantrums. Supply him with books and toys to keep him occupied, then close the door behind you. Repeat these behaviors morning after morning and he can learn to put himself back to sleep or entertain himself until wake-up time.

Free resource: Struggling with raising a strong-willed child? Grab 5 Tips to Raising a Strong-Willed Child! Discover 5 ways to nurture and work with—not against—his inner spirit and strong personality. You’ll also get my newsletters, which parents say they LOVE:

“Thank you so much for your help and for your contribution to motherhood. I cannot wait to read and apply all your great tips.” -Nathalie R.

5 Tips to Raising a Strong Willed Child

2. Use a toddler alarm clock

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Telling toddlers “It’s not time to wake up yet” isn’t exactly fair when most of them can’t, well… tell time. When is it one hour? What’s seven o’clock supposed to look like? And what cues can they rely on to safely say it’s okay to get out of bed?

The trick? Use a toddler alarm clock.

Rather than relying on the hands of a clock or even the numbers of a digital one, toddler alarm clocks send cues that kids can understand. From changing colors to making sounds, your toddler knows that it’s time to stay in bed until he sees the cues.

Take a look at these popular ones:

3. Have an earlier bedtime

You’d think that having slept fewer hours would mean your toddler would at least sleep in. After three kids, I can tell you that they hardly sleep in, even if they were up plenty of hours the night before.

Instead, try the opposite: put her down for an earlier bedtime.

For many, this isn’t an easy choice. Work and family schedules don’t always make it easy to put kids down at early hours, sometimes as early as 7pm or even 6:30pm. But if you’re willing to try just about anything, starting the bedtime routine earlier might be the trick.

Many parents have found that putting their kids down earlier actually encouraged them to sleep later in the morning. As they say, sleep begets sleep—being well-rested can improve the quality of your toddler’s sleep.

Expert tip

Hang blackout curtains over her windows to block out light that might come in during the early evening. The sun might still be out as late as 8pm—a dark sleep environment can help her fall asleep no matter the time.

4. Don’t check in so often

Part of the problem with early wake-ups is that that kids have learned that every protest is worth your attention.

This is when we need to discern when their calls for us are genuine, and when they’ve become a game or a habit. Yes, calming their fears or dealing with a soiled diaper will need attention—needing another cup of water does not.

Another alternative is to check in at set times—say, every 15 minutes.

Let’s say your toddler is waking up at 4am. After you’ve checked in on her, close the door and set your timer for 15 minutes, only going in at that point. And when you do, keep it brief, if only to remind her that it’s still sleep time. With consistency, she learns that it’s not time to get up the second she wakes.

And yet another way to check in on her without going into her room is to use a baby monitor. She may be past the baby stage, but you can still use the monitor to check in without opening the door.

Toddler Waking Up at 4am

5. Adjust your toddler’s nap

Do you have an amazing napper? As great as a long nap may be, it could be contributing to her early wake-ups.

Kids’ sleep is based on the total hours they slept within a 24-hour period, not just during the night. If she’s taking a four-hour nap during the day, she may not need as many hours of sleep at night. And if she goes to sleep at a decent hour, she’s bound to wake up early the next day.

Another factor is when she takes a nap. An early nap time might feel necessary because she woke up early in the morning. If she’s napping at 10:30am or 11am, try keeping her awake until around 12pm.

Experiment with naps, whether their length or timing, to see if that can encourage her to wake up at a later hour in the morning.

Get tips on how to wake your toddler up from a nap.

Toddler Won't Wake Up from Nap

Conclusion

Having kids usually means we can’t sleep in most mornings, but early wake ups can make it even more brutal.

Thankfully, you can do plenty to turn things around. Start by making little to no exceptions with when your toddler wake ups. This includes not going to his room for every cry, especially for simple reasons.

Adjust his sleep, from having an earlier bedtime to experimenting with the length and timing of his naps. And finally, get a toddler alarm that can cue him on when it is okay to get out of bed.

These tips can hopefully get him to wake up at a decent hour again—or at least later than 5:30am.

Get more tips:

Don’t forget: Join my newsletter and grab 5 Tips to Raising a Strong-Willed Child:

5 Tips to Raising a Strong Willed Child

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

2 Comments

  1. My youngest daughter just turned two. She’s a very high spirited child with a strong temper. She just started sharing a room with her 7 and 5 year old sisters (she slept with us until recently). She wakes up so early at 5:50am like a clock everyday. We put her to bed at 7:30 every night and she only takes one nap. She gets louder and louder if no one comes to get her out plus she wakes her sisters up and they can no longer go back to sleep. I feel for them as they used to sleep until 7:30 when it was just them. I take her out, change her diaper, give her milk ,and put her back in the crib, but she doesn’t go back to sleep. I refuse to start the day that early. Even if I go to bed at a reasonable time the night before it messes up with my mood. It also disrupts my older daughters’ sleep which is the second issue that bothers me. We try to keep her active during the day with games and puzzles and go outside, yet she still wakes up so early. What would help to keep her in bed with my circumstances?

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Hi Maya,

      It’s definitely a challenge when the toddler in question shares a room with siblings! One temporary arrangement you might try is to have your older daughters stay in a different room (like your room or the living room) so that your 2 year old is in the room by herself. Then, when she wakes up at 5:30am, you can go in there and let her know that it’s not yet time to wake up, and that she should go back to sleep. Close the door and check in on her again in 15 minutes if she’s still crying (if she’s quiet, then just let her be). Repeat this process of checking in on her every 15 minutes until 7:30am. That way, she’ll learn that she can’t get up until 7:30am. The check-ins are to let her know that you’re still here and that she’s not alone, but that you won’t get her up until it’s time to. Once she can sleep until 7:30am (or at least wait quietly), then your older daughters can move back in.

      That said, some kids do only need 10-11 hours of sleep, so if she’s asleep by 7:30pm, it’s possible that she’s getting all the sleep she needs when she wakes up at 5:30am (especially if she doesn’t seem tired when she wakes up). You might want to experiment with a later bedtime as well.

      I hope that helps!