Our toddlers are in this incredible stage of their lives. It’s a time full of discovery, imagination, and excitement. And it could be one of the reasons why your toddler is waking up too early. Often, toddlers wake up so early because they want to capitalize on all the fun and excitement that happens during the day when they are awake.
If your little one isn’t quite a toddler yet, click here to check out this blog post, all about how to ditch early morning wakings with your baby.
In this blog post, I’m going to talk about:
Let’s jump right in!
Why is my toddler waking up too early?
As I mentioned, toddlers are going through SUCH an awesome stage of development. Their personalities are developing and they are starting to figure out what bits and pieces of independence feel like.
Naturally, toddlers are going to start testing limits and pushing boundaries at some point. This can happen in many different areas of their lives, including their sleep. Whether it’s protesting naptime or waking up wayyy too early, know that testing the boundaries around sleep is natural.
They have FOMO (fear of missing out)…this world is so exciting, and they are JUST starting to understand pieces of it. Who can blame ‘em? That said, our toddlers can do better exploring and have SO much more fun when they’re well-rested…and so can we!
How much daytime sleep and nighttime sleep does my toddler need?
At night, we want to give our toddlers the chance to sleep (on average) 10-12 hours. Of course, this is going to be different for every toddler. Some have higher sleep needs than others and some have lower sleep needs than others.
As far as naps go, three years is the age when we want to start thinking about dropping their final nap. This is also going to look different for all toddlers! Some will have dropped the nap earlier than three, and others will still benefit from sleep when naptime is offered.
Because of this, I like to transition the last nap of the day to quiet time. Quiet time means scheduled time in their bedroom when we are quiet (i.e. books, coloring, and/or independent play). This helps keep their schedule consistent…dropping that last nap isn’t such a big deal when they still have to have quiet time.
Think of quiet time as a reset for both your toddler and you. If they protest, you can even do quiet time with them.
What can I do to keep my toddler from waking up too early?
The number one thing you can do when your toddler wakes up too early is to take them back to bed – consistently. Yes, they might protest.
Short term, it’s definitely easier to let them get away with the early wake-ups. That being said, it might become a habit for them. And I’m assuming you’re here because you do NOT want to reinforce early morning wakings!
So, next time your toddler is up too early, just lovingly walk them back to their bedroom and let them know that it’s still nighttime.
Here are three other things you can troubleshoot to help keep your toddler from rising before sunrise:
1. Use an “Ok! To Wake” clock
“Ok! To Wake” clocks can be a great solution because it helps give your toddler a tangible understanding of time. An “Ok! To Wake” is kind of like an alarm clock. BUT, instead of making a loud, obnoxious beeping sound to wake your little one up, a light on the clock turns green when they are allowed to get up. I LOVE “Ok! To Wake” clocks…because toddlers can’t tell time!
When it comes to using your “Ok! To Wake”, you can decide what the rules are. Maybe your toddler has to stay in their bed until the clock turns green…or maybe they can leave their room once the color changes. The point is, we want to make waking up too early to be boring.
2. Optimize their sleep environment
An optimal sleep environment plays a key role in getting great sleep for your toddler. Here are a few things to consider as well as items you may want to include in your toddler’s sleep space:
- Dark environment
Blackout curtains are key! My favorite are the Sleepout Portable Blackout Curtains. They’re easy to set up AND travel-friendly.
- Sound machine
Sound machines can be an INCREDIBLE tool to help your little ones get to sleep and STAY asleep. Just remember to keep in mind The American Academy of Pediatrics’s (AAP) guidelines:
- Locate the sound machine far from your baby (at least 7 feet away)
- Set the sound machine volume as low as possible (no more than 50 dB)
- Limit the duration of use (turn the sound machine off during your baby’s awake time)
I have an entire blog post dedicated to sound machines and white noises. Click here to check it out!
- Cool temperature
68-71 ºF/20-22 ºC is ideal!
- Separate sleep space
This could be their own bedroom or even a sectioned-off space in your room.
Click here to watch more about creating the optimal sleep environment on Instagram.
3. Establish a solid bedtime routine
One reason (besides trying to capitalize on precious awake time) that your toddler might be waking up too early is changes in their normal bedtime routine. When creating and sticking to a bedtime routine, work together with your toddler. They love to be involved!
We know that toddlers thrive on consistency, predictability, autonomy, being engaged, and connection with their caregiver(s). Each of these can be achieved by participating in a bedtime routine with your toddler.
One way you can help your toddler have a successful bedtime routine is to use a visual schedule. This Toddler Bedtime Visual Schedule is 100% customizable to include the components of your toddler’s individual bedtime routine!
Click here to check out and download the Toddler Bedtime Routine Visual Schedule.
Using a visual schedule before bedtime…
- Contributes to bedtime being engaging
- Promotes independents
- Creates healthy positive connection
- Fosters consistency and predictability for your toddler
Read more about toddler bedtime routines here, in another blog post!
Recap of What to Do About Your Toddler Waking Up Too Early
Remember, waking up too early is a normal part of toddlerhood! We just don’t want to let it turn into a habit so they aren’t becoming overtired…and for our own sanity. The good news is that you can implement these strategies and work WITH your toddler to keep them in bed or in their rooms until it is time to get up and start the day.
We can help you with this! I have a team of AMAZING certified pediatric sleep consultants who can be in your corner supporting you through your unique sleep situation. Click here to grab a consultation with one of them!
Whether your little one is a newborn (0-4 Months Content Library), 4-24 months (4-24 Months Content Library), or a toddler (2-5 Years Content Library), we have the resources you need to get your family the sleep you all deserve!