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5 Helpful Strategies for Getting Your Kids to Stay in Bed in the Morning

by Vannessa Rhoades 09 Feb 2023
5 Helpful Strategies for Getting Your Kids to Stay in Bed in the Morning

Many parents of little ones have no need for morning alarms. Why? Because they have a toddler who reliably bounces out of bed at the crack of dawn (or earlier) every morning, ready to spring into action. If your child rises before the sun every day, you’re probably dreaming about how to get your kid to stay in bed – even for just a few blissful minutes longer.

After all, getting plenty of rest and developing healthy sleep habits are essential for both of you. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) cautions that children who fail to regularly get enough sleep have challenges focusing, are irritable, and have an increased risk for headaches, depression, high blood pressure, and obesity. If you’re wondering how to get a kid to stay in bed a little longer in the mornings, you’re not alone. Let’s take a closer look at what you can do to help them sleep a little later and peacefully amuse themselves when they can’t. 

The Tonies Nap Time White Noise Audio Play Figurine plays soothing white noise, providing an ambient environment that helps your child fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.

Strategies for Getting Your Kid to Stay in Bed

Figuring out how to get kids to stay in bed is exhausting. On some mornings, it may truly feel like you just want to throw in the towel on this whole parenting thing. Take a deep breath – and then take a look at these tried and true approaches to getting your little one to sleep a bit longer.

1. Create a quiet-time basket

If your little one is at least one year old, it may help to put together a basket of age-appropriate activities and place it near their bed or crib to keep them quiet and busy when they awake in the morning. It also helps them learn how to self-soothe and calms any separation anxiety they may have about you being in a separate bed. Make sure the activity is peaceful and quiet, like looking at books. Avoid “rewarding” early risers by giving them screen access or other beloved, highly stimulating activities. Otherwise, they grow to associate early rising with the “fun stuff.”

2. Use a kid-friendly alarm clock

Adding a clock to an older kid's room can help them learn when it’s ok to get up in the morning. There are tons of options on the market. Some are made for very young children who can’t yet read and feature pictures of the sun for wake time and the moon for sleep time. Some clocks play white noise until it’s time to rise. For children old enough to recognize numbers, you can simply use a regular digital clock and cover up the minute side of the LED display. Explain to them: “When the clock has a 6 on it, you can get out of bed.”

3. Analyze their sleep space

Sometimes something in the child’s room causes them to wake early. There could simply be a neighbor who’s up making noise early each morning, outside light filtering in, morning birdsong, traffic noises, or electronics beeping and buzzing in their bedroom. Install blackout curtains and use a white noise machine to minimize any light or noise coming into the room. Remove all electronic distractions as well.

4. Stick to a consistent bedtime routine

Research from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine has shown that children who follow a consistent bedtime routine have overall better sleep hygiene. They tend to have earlier bedtimes, wake less often during the night, and sleep for longer stretches of time. Having predictable nighttime rituals every day (including weekends or days off) can offer huge benefits to everyone in the household. Some parents end each evening by giving their little ones a bath, getting them into pajamas, brushing their teeth, spending a few minutes snuggling or reading, and then turning out the lights – every night at the same time. You can personalize your routine to whatever works best for your family, but be consistent.

Once you’ve put your child to bed, don’t stick around. After all, if they’re used to falling asleep with you beside them, they’ll want you there when they wake up. Many children will pop up out of bed and tiptoe to your bed. Gently and calmly walk them back to their own bed. Provide a nightlight, crack the door, comfort them, and reassure them that you’ll continue to check on them every few minutes, but tell them they must stay in their own bed. Be gentle, but firm. Learning how to soothe themselves at night will help them be more independent in the morning as well.

5. Adust their schedule if needed

Some caregivers inadvertently self-sabotage their child’s wake time with a schedule that makes good sleep habits difficult. Babies and toddlers who nap too often or for too long during the day may protest bedtime, wake frequently at night, or rise far too early. A child’s sleep habits may fluctuate with the seasons and time changes as well. Some sleep experts recommend that instead of trying to implement a super strict schedule, caregivers should pay attention to their child’s individual needs each day. Do your best to align their evening routine to their natural body rhythms, as long as bedtime isn’t before 6:00 pm and wake-up time isn’t before 6:00 am. 

The Tonies Nap Time Nature Sounds Audio Play Figurine plays the relaxing sounds of nature, providing rhythmic background noise to help your little one fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.

When to Talk to Your Doctor

Early rising is a very common struggle among caregivers of young children. If you’re having trouble finding a solution or need some reinforcements, it’s worth reaching out to your pediatrician or to a sleep consultant. Feeling a little guilty about doing that? Don’t – it’s in the whole family’s best interest. While parents certainly suffer exhaustion from having an early riser, poor sleep habits can greatly impact your child as well. Indications that your little one’s early morning waking could be tied to a sleep deficit may include difficulty focusing at school, moodiness, hyperactivity, and crankiness. Professional intervention can help better your child’s health and the well-being of your entire household.

The Bottom Line

If you’ve currently got a child who loves to wake up before the sun rises, you may be feeling like this stage will never end (exhaustion will do that to you). Thankfully, most children eventually outgrow this phase, but it’s still important to make better sleep habits a goal. By making small adjustments to your child’s itinerary and implementing a consistent routine, you may be able to get a bit more rest in the morning. Remember, professional help is always available as well.

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