When your kids are waking too early, it can make them tired, cranky and just not very happy kids. I put our kids to bed early, at 7:00 and I want them to sleep the full 12 hour, so I teach them to naturally sleep in a little later.
Sleep is VERY important, so teaching our kids great sleep/wake patterns will benefit your child greatly. (enough sleep = healthier child… better ability to stay focused, happier children… there are so many benefits to getting enough sleep).
We have four kids and let me tell you, our kids were waking up EARLY! I had to do something when our older kids were waking up at 5:00 and 6:00 in the morning (still dark outside)- waking up their siblings and not getting their 12 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period (our kids are still at the age where the need this much sleep at night because they are not napping anymore, except for our baby). If you are wondering how much sleep your child needs, take a look at this chart:
(image source found here)
To help our kids learn good sleep habits, we came up with this idea and I have shared it with friends and family and they do it, too. It works! We finally figured out a way to keep our kids in bed longer (giving them the chance to get enough sleep for their bodies and minds)
If you find your kids waking up too early – here is how to help your kids learn to stay in bed a little longer, to naturally train their bodies to get the rest that they need. It is not healthy for your children to wake up before getting an adequate number of hours of sleep.
This little trick has naturally set our children’s internal clocks to a time that is more suiting to their schedule (with preschool and grade school). It allows their bodies to sleep until it is time to wake up (when the sun is up and our family is ready to wake up, at 7:00 (they go to bed at 7:00, to get a full 12 hours of sleep)~ this is just the time that works for OUR family.)
As with anything, you need to remember that you have to TEACH your kids this new rule. You can not expect them to sleep until 7:00 tomorrow, just because you started this today. Give it a week or two and you will have them sleeping later.
MOST IMPORTANT: Be consistent! Consistency is the key to anything, but this will not work if you are ‘wishy-washy’ with this rule. You have to remain consistent.
HOW IT WORKS:
First, determine a bedtime. Our kids go to bed between 7:00 pm. and 8:00 pm. (Again, they aren’t napping, so they are VERY ready for bed by this time!)
Now determine a wake-up time. I like our kids to get 12 hours of sleep, so the wake-up time is 7:00 am.
Second: Practice that number with your kids. If you want them to get up at 7:00, show them the number 7. Show it to them on paper. Show it to them on their clock. Show it to them in books. Have them practice writing it.
HOW TO DO THIS:
What you need:
- A digital clock
- A piece of paper (I use index cards. You can use anything!)
- Marker or crayon
WRITE JUST THE HOUR of the time you want the kids to come out of bed on your piece of paper. Write it big (a little bigger than the number on the clock).
6:00? Write 6
7:00? Write 7. (This is our ‘allowed out of bed’ time)
8:00? Write 8.
Now tape that paper over the MINUTES on your digital clock so that all that you are left seeing is the hour and the paper.
Show your kids when the number on the clock (the hour) matches the number on their paper, they can come out of bed.
I do not let our kids get out of bed before 7:00, for safety reasons. I don’t want them in their rooms playing when I do not know about it. I want them in their beds. (I made this rule after I had read this heart-breaking story, last year, about the little girl that died when her dresser fell on top of her while her parents were asleep in their room- it was one of those VERY HEAVY dresser/changing tables that everyone has. Her mom didn’t realize it until she (the mom) woke up for the day. Her story has opened my eyes to the fact that dangers lurk where you don’t expect them, even with furniture that you would NEVER expect to fall over… same with toys…. you just never know which ones have hidden dangers, even if you don’t expect it). For that reason, I don’t want our kids awake without me knowing, so they stay in bed until 7:00…
OK- back to the post:
You might set a rule that they can read, but I don’t do this anymore (I did at one point) because I caught them reading at 6:00 am! This was an hour before wake-up time. Now that they just have to lay in bed, they will just fall back asleep until it is time to get up. This is what I wanted, because I wanted them to have their full 12 hours of sleep per night.
I think that our children have internal alarms because when I check on them if I am up at 6:00 am, if I am up, they will still be asleep. When the clock turns to 7, they come rushing into our room with a “Good morning, Mom!”
Oh- I should remind you that I didn’t start this until our kids were almost three years old and could understand it.
HOW TO TEACH THEM:
This part is important…
When they come out of their room the first few days early (and they will), just take them back to bed and say “You can come out at 7:00, when the number on the clock matches. Are they the same now? No? Ok- go back to bed.” (put them back into bed). Now what you will want to do is make sure that when it DOES turn seven, you go in and say “Ok! Its time to come out now! Its 7:00!! Great job!” Do this for over a week, until they get it.
** We have a video monitor in our younger children’s rooms, so we can monitor them easily from our room.
TIP 1: If you let them come out early one day, expect to let them come out early every day. You have to start on what you wish to go by, so stick to it.
TIP 2: For nap time, I would change their clock so that when it was time to get up (at 3:00), their clock said 7:00. So if I put the kids down at 1:00, I would make their clock say 5:00, and when they woke up at 3:00, it would say 7:00. This is a pain, but it is easier for them to grasp at the beginning that they come out at 7:00 all of the time (morning & nap time). They will understand it much faster than giving them two numbers to learn/understand.
Tip 3: don’t expect miracles. If your child has been getting up at 5, don’t expect him/her to sleep until 7. You have to slowly do this. I would change the clock for this, too, so that at the real 5:30 (first few days) their clock would say 7 (or your goal hour). I would move it every few days over a few weeks until they were really waking up at 7:00. (Just my two cents)
Another completely different idea that a friend on Facebook gave me is to have your lamp set to a timer (like the kind that you get when you are going on vacation) and have it turn on at a certain time (example: 7:00 am). When the light goes on, they can get out of bed.
Here are a few more posts that you might find helpful:
Why our kids are in bed by 7:00.
If your 2 or 3 year old is still waking up at night, try reading my post here:
My 2 year old is still waking up at night – advice from a Pediatrician (or my 3 year old is waking)
W hen your child gets out of bed night after night, this can be helpful to keep them in their bed…
Now for some great “cuddle time” posts:
“Mommy, will you lay with me?”
And a little potty training at night…