Kids waking up too early – Teaching your children to sleep later and adjust their natural “alarm clocks”

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 Are your kids waking up too early?
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).

Kids waking up too early

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 10-12 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):  Find out how many hours your child needs here, at WebMD.

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~ 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!)
  • Tape
  • 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.

Here is what it looks like (sorry that my time was 4:00 when I took it )
kids getting up too early

Show your kids when the number on the clock (the hour) matches the number on their paper, they can come out of bed.

Here is a close-up: Kids getting up too early

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 saddening story, last year, about the little girl that died when her dresser fell on top of her- 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)…

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)

 

Kids getting up too early?  Try this!!  Teaching your kids to stay in bed until it is time to wake up -

 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.

Good luck!

 

 

 

 

 

I hope that was helpful!!
~Becky Mansfield

 

Ps- 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)
my 2 year old is waking up at night

Also- you want to make sure that you are keeping your kids active and engaged in the day.
Here are a few ideas to keep your kids busy (takes a minute to set up & an hour of busy-time for your kiddos)
fun activity that takes a minute to set up & keeps kids busy for an hour

Now for some great “cuddle time” posts: 
“Mommy, will you lay with me?”
a story about how giving your child time now will impact how they give you time in the future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Embracing the night-shift (when your baby is waking to eat at night)
baby-waking-up-at-night

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. says

    Seven is our “out of bed” time as well. I will have to use this method because my (just turned) 3 year old likes to come up around 6 o’clock as well. :)

  2. says

    Great tip! I think it makes them feel more grown up when they have a clock. It really empowers them and they feel like they are part of the system. I love it. Thanks for sharing. Hope to see you at True Aim!

  3. says

    Brilliant! We bought one of those expensive clocks that turns green when it’s time for them to wake up. We like it and it works, but had i seen this tip months ago… :) Thanks!

  4. nisha says

    Ha! My parents should have used that on me! I always woke up at 5 and ran around the house yelling at everyone to wake up… my poor family!

  5. A says

    Our problem is that our kids share rooms, and they keep each other awake. Whomever wakes up first wakes the other and they keep each other awake until time to come out of their rooms. No going back to sleep. And it’s never the same kid. They take turns.

  6. heidi says

    I literally just pi posted on my Facebook about what to do with kids getting up too early…my 3 year old has been getting up at 5:30!! 7 has been my goal and I’ve tried similar approaches but I will have to try your advice. Can’t wait to see if it works! Thanks!

  7. Stephanie says

    12 hours in bed is fantastic! As a PPD and sleep consultant, I will tell you that a likely reason for waking at 5 am is that they are going to bed too late. Put them to bed earlier and they will often sleep later. It’s counter intuitive but works every time!

  8. Exhausted says

    Our 4 year old is getting up at 3:00am, 3:30am, 4:00am etc. and wants to come into our room. Breaking her of this habit is proving to be a torturous endeavor.

  9. kaylee says

    I have a 2 1/2 year old and a 15 month old… so the older one is ready for this but since they share a room how do I keep the 15 month old staying in the room and not waking up the older sibling? or how do I explain to the older one why the younger sister gets to get out of bed earlier? they like to wake up anywhere between 6 and 7:30.
    I love your advice and am totally going to do this :)

  10. says

    Oh my goodness I love this! Thankfully our 3yo is usually pretty good about not getting up before the time we’d like but I may have to start implementing it anyways. I babysit and on the days that the other kids come my son gets up anywhere from 1-2 hours early and it makes for a rough/long day with him.

  11. Cassie says

    How do you make this work with regards to toileting? I want to try this, but am worried that my 3 yr old would wet his bed if he wasnt allowed out (he already does some times)

    • says

      They just go & then go back to bed. I don’t care if they are awake, I just want them in their beds until 7:00. There are six of us here, so if one wakes up, everyone wakes up and I just feel like that’s not fair to the other 5 people. So- if they have to get up, they just get up & go back to their bed afterwards. :)

  12. Ann says

    A friend told me she sets a lamp timer so the lamp turn on at 7:00am. When the lamp turns on, they can get up. Brilliant!

  13. Danielle Riley says

    Do you have suggestions on how to get your child to go to sleep earlier? DS is almost 4 & we put him in bed at 8pm, but it’s very rare he falls asleep before 9. He still takes a nap at daycare but not on the weekends, so I feel like that really screws him up & he doesn’t need a nap, but the daycare won’t keep him awake. They don’t force the kids to sleep, but they have to give them the chance to nap. Any suggestions?

    • says

      Oh- my only advice is to cut out the nap, which is hard to do with daycare. We have had to stop all of our kids naps by 3 to get them to sleep at night earlier than 9 or 9:30. If any of them nap, they are up so late! (in their beds, but talking, playing, etc…) Sorry- I wish I could help you with that one. :(

  14. chloe may says

    What a great idea! I will be trying this tonight. My 4 year old has always been up at 5am, which I can handle. Lately it’s getting earlier and he is so miserable and tired by the afternoon and starts playing up and not listening. Wish I found this idea sooner. Thanks x

  15. says

    I love this! We have been using an alarm clock for my girls for 6 months now and it has made a world of difference! They were getting up before 6am each and every day and after some adjustment, they don’t get out until 7am. It has really helped out family. We didn’t use everything suggested here, but made it fit our family. But the idea of adjusting the clock to slowly help them sleep later really worked wonderful! Thanks for the suggestions, this is an awesome post!

  16. Clare says

    THANKYOU so much. This is such an excellent idea. AND IT WORKS! I have a 5yr old, 3yr old and a 10month old. For the last 5yrs I have been getting up at 5.30am and have felt so exhausted, 7am starts were just a far off dream which I never thought could happen. And now within one month of trying this all 3 of my little ones are sleeping til 7am!!!! HOORAY. I had to adjust the time on their clock, so the first week they were allowed out of bed at 6am, even though their clock said seven. Then week 2, it was 6.15am even though again their clock said 7am, then wk 3, 6.30am, wk 4, 7am. And they have stuck to it. Not once coming out their room, they even say to me now at bed time, Mummyb don’t forget to turn our clock on. I don’t do it with the baby, but it was always my eldest 2 that were waking up the baby at 5.30am, now their staying in bed til 7am and sleeping the baby is aswell. I get up at 6.30 and get showered and ready so when the kids get up theirs no rushing and everyone feeling irritable, tierd and grotty. You are a legend THANKYOU So So So So MUCH! Can’t express enough how this has changed our lives! :-)

  17. says

    I have 3 kids. One very early riser. I eventually got denim and made curtains. This kept the light out and his internal clock with the bright mornings didn’t wake him up. Now he is 21 and doesn’t get up past noon. Maybe we turned his clock completely backwards? lol. Dark curtains…my trick. Hope it works for someone else.

  18. kitty says

    lol i wish that would work for my house. my husband’s family are all those weird people that don’t need much sleep. i’m the only 8-10 hour sleeper in my house. my husband only needs 4 hours a night to be rested and ready for the day. when he sleeps longer than 4 hours he gets horrible migraines. the girls seem to be taking after him they only sleep 5-6 hours a night nap or no nap. they will stay in their room and play until they hear their daddy up and moving around. *rolls eyes* he sends them to wake me up so we can get started on the day. thats on a good day. other days i stay up with him. he goes to bed right be for the kids are going to be up for the day…. so no sleep for me that day.

  19. Beverly says

    I did this over 30 years ago with my first child. She was about 3 and knew her numbers already. I bought her a digital clock and told her she couldn’t get up till the first number was a 7. Worked like a charm!

  20. Becky says

    We have a gro-clock for my daughter. She’s three now, but this has been helpful for her since she was just 2. When I set it at night a blue star shows. At the pre-determined time a yellow sun appears. It has two settings, one intended for naps, but I use one for work days when we have to be up earlier and one for weekends when I want a bit longer in bed. I really like the clock idea too, but the sun allows two different times without having to learn different numbers or change the clock.

  21. says

    We used the lamp trick since there’s a hallway lamp just outside our son’s door. When I turn on the light, it’s time to get up. He is often awake before that (almost 12 yrs) but if he isn’t, it’s his cue to get up.

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