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Tired of Waking Up Too Early? 3 Steps to Help Your Preschooler Sleep In

Tips from a mom coach to help a preschooler who's waking up too early by Erin Christopoulos at Mom Life Handbook

| A 7-Min. Read

Let’s be honest, the morning is a crucial part of your day as a busy mom. It’s likely that you’re using that time to either catch up on sleep for yourself or get somethings done before the rest of the house is awake. So when your preschooler is waking up too early, it can be really frustrating. Instead of getting upset with your child, frustrated that your plans were foiled, or–worse yet–give in + live with this reality, today’s post is full of practical tips.

Timing is everything.

Early wakings are often the result of a misaligned bedtime or insufficient sleep.  To ensure your mornings aren’t starting too early, double-check that your child isn’t going to bed too late. 

Experiment with working backwards from your family’s ideal wakeup time to help figure out the best bedtime that will make for easier mornings.  To help gauge the right bedtime by age, follow the sleep recommendations from the CDC:

  • Adults: 7-9 hours
  • Teens: 8-10 hours
  • School Age: 9-12 hours
  • Preschoolers: 10-13 hours (including naps)
  • Toddlers: 11-14 hours (including naps)

Remember, these are just guidelines + represent a wide range rather than an exact science.  That’s because each individual has their own unique set of needs, but ensuring your preschooler is getting the minimum is important for their development + day-to-day function.  Not to mention, a child that is not well rested will rise earlier than one who is.

For example, I’ve found that the minimum 9 hours makes it hard for my 6-year-old to get by on–it leaves him exhausted by bedtime.  So instead, we shoot for 10-11 hours of sleep.  Since 6:30AM is our sweet spot for waking up, so I make sure the kids are in bed no later than 7:30 or 8:00. 

Try to use this formula to figure out the right bedtime:

[Ideal Wake-Up Time] – [Recommended Hours of Sleep] = [Bedtime]

And if you’re looking for more problem-solving tips (especially for bedtime) be sure to check out this post!

Expect Your Preschooler Will Wake Up Too Early

Because sleep isn’t an exact science for everyone, it’s important that you create a backup plan.  Why?  It’s frustrating when your preschooler is up earlier than expected because you likely want to sleep in or be productive until that time. 

It is also unrealistic to expect your child will wake up at the exact same time day after day.  So instead of setting yourself up for frustration, let’s start preparing for an earlier wakeup time. 

Invest in a wake-up clock

My kids know that they can’t be up + about until 6:30 but are welcome to have quiet alone time in their rooms as early as 6:00.  We use a time-to-wake clock with my 4-year-old that turns on a green light when it’s time to get up for the day.  What I love most is that it includes a yellow light that turns on 30-minutes before the green light.  She knows it’s okay to play in her room quietly when the yellow light is on. We have this clock but I know a lot of people love this smart clock from Hatch that is connected to an app on your phone + doubles as a sound machine as well.

Using the Yoto player to help make playtime more fun

Stock the room

We keep the kids’ favorite books + toys in their rooms that they can use during their quiet alone time.  This helps ensure that they have what they need in their rooms until their playtime is done.

And I have to add, one of my kids’ favorite things to use during their quiet time is the Yoto player.  It’s a kid-friendly wifi speaker that can be configured to play their favorite music, audiobooks or podcasts while they play.  It’s super simple for the kids to choose what to listen to.  All they have to do is insert the card of their choice into the player + it starts playing (it’s seriously so simple). 

My kids have been doing a much better job playing independently since they started using the Yoto player in their rooms.  They enjoy choosing what they want to listen to + it helps create a better ambiance for play than if they were in a silent room. 

The Yoto has truly been a game changer from a parenting perspective.  Ever since we started using it, my kids do a far better job playing independently.  So if you’re looking to set up an early-morning quiet time in your home, I would definitely consider adding a Yoto player to the space! You can find more information about the Yoto here + save 10% when you purchase using this link.

Use a sound machine

If you’re up earlier than the kids, it can be helpful to run a sound machine in their room.  It’s a great way to block out ambient noises in the house that might cause your preschooler to be waking up too early.

If you’re already considering the Yoto, I’d be remiss not to mention that it’s the perfect sound machine!  They have an incredibly relaxing sleep radio station that you can turn on + but they also sell white noise cards (Crackling Fire is one of our faves) as well.  I’m always a fan of investing in products that have more than one use + the Yoto is no exception! 

If you prefer a sound machine that doesn’t use a speaker, highly recommend the Dohm.  It has a fan on the inside so you’re getting a much richer sound that acts as a great sound buffer.  There is a high + low setting on the Dohm but you can also adjust the vent to have more control over how much white noise you want in the room.

Consistency is Key When A Preschooler Is Waking Up Too Early.

Remember that new habits take time.  You may find that your preschooler is on board with your new routines initially but starts to test the boundaries after a few days.  And that’s okay, it’s human nature + completed expected!

Stick to your why

When your preschooler tries to get up earlier than is expected, do your best to stick to your why.

It’s important that your child gets adequate sleep.  The more laid back you are about an early wake-up time, the more likely it is they will start waking up earlier + earlier.  Sticking to your plan helps you to reset their circadian rhythm + restore those sleep patterns.

Having your own time in the morning is equally important.  There is very little in the way of time for yourself.  So whether you are using the time to catch up on sleep or have some alone time before the house wakes up for the day, it’s important that you are taking care of your own needs so you have the energy + mindset needed to show up for your family all day long.  Don’t sell yourself short on the importance of this!

Stay Constructive

It’s natural for your preschooler to test out the boundaries so when they don’t follow the plan, remember this is your opportunity to teach + nurture their habits. Here are some examples of things you could say to stay constructive:

  • What color is your light right now?  Oops!  It isn’t time to be up yet!  Do you want to go back to your bed on your own or would you like me to help you?
  • + If it’s still time to sleep, you can say something like: Remember you need to have a quiet body until the yellow light is on.  Eyes + mouth closed, hands are quiet.  Can you show me what that look like?  Wow!! You’re really working hard to stay quiet, I bet that feels very relaxing.
  • If it’s quiet play time, you can say something like: Look!  The yellow light is on, that’s very special.  You get your own quiet playtime right now.  Would you like to play with your toys or read your books?  Remember that I’ll see you as soon as the green light is on!

Your Next Steps to Helping Your Preschooler When They Wake Up Too Early

Keeping your outlook a positive one will help your preschooler to feel confident about the new changes + optimistic that they are changes that are worthwhile.  If you want to implement all of these tips, I created a 1-page checklist to make it as easy as possible. Just pop your contact info into the form below to grab your copy!

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Mom life is complex,
but it doesn't have to be complicated.