What to do if your toddler is waking early

If your toddler wakes up early, here’s how to encourage a longer night sleep and teach your child the time he wakes doesn’t signal the start of the day...

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When your child is waking early every morning, it can make the day very long!

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Getting your toddler to sleep longer

If your child is an early riser, try putting up blackout blinds. You could also try pushing your toddler’s mid-morning nap back by 10 minutes each day until it becomes part of the night sleep. Also, give your toddler a snack before bed so he doesn’t wake early from hunger.

What to do once your toddler is awake early

If sleeping longer just isn’t happening, you can encourage your early-waking toddler not to come and wake you. Leave a clock radio in his room and tell him he can’t get up until it switches on. Reward him when he stays put. Leave a few toys out so he can play in his room without coming out and disturbing you. But you need to be realistic about how long he can busy himself…

“Ben gets up really early every morning… we’ve tried leaving toys out for him, in case he’s bored, but it hasn’t worked,” says Sharon, mum to Ben, 4.

“This is tricky toddler behaviour but it’s not unmanageable,” says Chireal Shallow, sleep expert at Naturally Nurturing children’s sleep clinic.

Chireal says that firstly, you need to consider what you’re expecting from your toddler. “If you think he can occupy himself with toys for longer than half an hour, you’re probably being a bit unrealistic,” says Chireal.

It’s best to gradually build up to getting your child to stay in his room longer. “Tell your toddler he can get up after listening to a chapter of his audio book. The next day build it up, so he can get up after two chapters,” says Chireal. This teaches your toddler that the time he wakes up doesn’t necessarily signal the start of the day, and that just because he’s awake doesn’t mean he can disturb you.

“He probably won’t go back to sleep once he’s awake, but over a two-week period of building the time up to 15 minutes, 20 minutes, 25 minutes, and so on, he should manage to stay in his room for an extra hour,” says Chireal

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What to avoid when your toddler’s waking early

When your toddler wakes early, avoid getting up and giving him a bottle. If you do, he’ll just assume he’s going to get one every morning. Avoid putting on the TV and going back to bed. Again, you’ll be rewarding him for getting up.

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