16 answers

Early Waking 3 Year Old

My 3 year old daughter has been waking up WAY too early, around 5am some days, but always up by 6am. With another child at 6 months and working full time, this is NOT working for us. I have tried putting a lock on her door to keep her in, but as soon as she wakes she just bangs on it, usually waking up her brother next door. We also bought her an alarm clock and drew the time on a big paper next to it, so she can see when her alarm comes on that she is allowed to come out of her room. That doesn't seem to be cutting it either. Any advice for this very tired mommy?

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thank you so much for all of your ideas. A lot of them we've already tried, but I especially like the new toy box idea or reading in the morning. So, when she woke at 5a this morning (along with my son's first feeding) it was back to bed for her. I tucked her in, sang her a song, and walked out as she was rubbing her ideas--thinking of course she was out. Nope! After two trips to our bedroom, I told her she could stay in her room until the sun came up and play with her babies or read her books. She didn't come back to our room until 6:40a! I guess you know you're a mom when "sleeping in" is anything past 6a. ;-) Thanks everyone!

Featured Answers

Hi,
I have been reading the other responses and I agree with most of them. KEEP HER UP LATER!! Then in the morning get her settled with a video and a snack. You can then lie back down nearby and just rest. My son is 3 and does the same thing.

This may be a perfect situation for one of my favorite solutions!! A special toy box! Go to Target and get one of the clear bread box size boxes with a lid. . . Let her decorate it and fill it with some toys that she really enjoys, maybe even buy one or two NEW ones. After she has decorated the box and is excited about it put it up and explain to her that these are SPECIAL MORNING TOYS. The rule has to be she can only play with them in the mornings BEFORE breakfast. Trust me you will have her FULL attention =) Then at night when YOU go to bed you have to put the box next to her bed so she will easily find it in the morning (i.e. night stand. . .). This way in the morning when YOU get up the two of you put EVERYTHING back into the MORNING BOX and she gets to tell you all about what fun she had. Don't forget to put the box away for the day. It adds to the excitement for her! Best of luck. Let me know if it works for you!!!

More Answers

My daughter was the same way - at 17 she still doesn't require very much sleep...

After trying a million things what finally worked was keeping her up later at night - 9:30 - 10:00pm and getting her involved in activities during the day that used more energy - dancing, ice skating - running - playing at the park... and absolutely NO naps....

Yes, you will be tired keeping up with her during the day, but you need your rest at night.

I was an early waker as a child too, and so my mother had to be creative and used the following rule: you cannot get out of your bed until it is light outside. No having to mess with an alarm clock, and it works for kids who are young and cannot yet read the clock. It was a good rule, and seemed to work for us. Since she is three, you can also reason with her: strike a deal that if she needs to get up that early, then allow her to leave her room quietly and go plop down and watch TV until everyone else gets up.
Unfortunately, you cannot lock her in her room - there is nothing wrong with sitting down to talk with her and figure out a wake up routine and plan that works for both of you. Consider making a chart with pictures that she can follow when she gets up in the morning.

I may be nominated for the worst mom of the year award for this, but the only way I can get any sleep in the mornings is to turn on the Disney channel & let my kids veg until my alarm goes off! Good luck!

C. : )

Hi - maybe you can teach her that it's okay to wake up at 6 a.m., but to play quietly in her room or show her how get a book to read until the rest of the family is awake.

I have 3 children of my own and they all wake up around 5:30 - 6 every day, but now they have learned to come into the living room and look at books. My daughter (2 years) plays in her room with her babies.

However, we are usually up by 6 am except for the weekends.

how early does she go to bed? does she take naps?

We also had the same problem and got an elegant solution from Karen F.-Brown at Parents Place. Put a timer on a light in her room. Tell your daughter that she can come out when the light goes on. For the first several days set it so it turns on just before she usually wakes up and then slowly set it later and later. Good luck.

Try making her room pitch dark. Buy special curtains or black out shades to keep the light out.
Try getting her to bed later.
Do not let her drink right before bed probably 2 - 2.5 hours before bed time.
tire her out 1-2 hours before bed time. walking, bouncing on a trampoline or therapy ball. Just make sure she does not bounce right after eating...
Give her food w/o meat though and not sweet about 1.5 before bed time so she is not hungryu when she wakes up...
Make sure goes to the bathroom to urinate before bed time at least 1 to2 times...

I have a 10 year old with special needs who wakes up every night between 2:00 and 4:00 am.... these are some of our tricks to have our daughter sleep a bit longer... but she still wakes up...
Good luck....

This may be a perfect situation for one of my favorite solutions!! A special toy box! Go to Target and get one of the clear bread box size boxes with a lid. . . Let her decorate it and fill it with some toys that she really enjoys, maybe even buy one or two NEW ones. After she has decorated the box and is excited about it put it up and explain to her that these are SPECIAL MORNING TOYS. The rule has to be she can only play with them in the mornings BEFORE breakfast. Trust me you will have her FULL attention =) Then at night when YOU go to bed you have to put the box next to her bed so she will easily find it in the morning (i.e. night stand. . .). This way in the morning when YOU get up the two of you put EVERYTHING back into the MORNING BOX and she gets to tell you all about what fun she had. Don't forget to put the box away for the day. It adds to the excitement for her! Best of luck. Let me know if it works for you!!!

Have you tried setting up a movie for her or sesame street, in her room or in the living room. maybe that will entertain her for an hour or so. you can get an extra hour of sleep. I know some moms are anti TV but this works for my son and then I can sleep till at least 7am. I am a mom of two and work full time and I definitely need all the sleep I can get. My friend also tried a reward system for her 3 yr. old. when she would stay in her room till the time mom came to get her she would get a glow in the dark star on her ceiling above her bed. Eventually she just started entertaining herself until it was time to get up.
A little about me:
one boy 2 1/2 and one girl 17 months. working full time and enjoying my partner and the babies as much as I can.

How do you feel about having her come into bed with you and your hubby and see if she will fall back to sleep? My 3 year old wakes up around the same time a lot and we just have her come to bed with us and 9 out of 10 times she will go back to sleep. Good luck!!!
Not only does my daughter get up early a lot, she doesn't want to go to sleep until around 10pm, even though we put her in bed at 7pm. Then around 3am every day she wakes up crying for me too. I have to go in there, cover her up, and then she goes back to sleep. But I usually can't get back to sleep for another hour. It's terrible so I'm right there with you.....

My middle daughter (I have three) woke up very early when she was about 2.5 (and she shared a room with my oldest at the time). It was rough, as I am not a morning person! Anyway, we stopped her nap and that helped a lot during the night hours (she slept later) but she also was a bit of a nightmare during the afternoon. To handle the afternoon crabbiness, we read to her for about 30 minutes and let her have alone time for another 30 mintues. This seemed to help.

All of our girls sleep with air purifiers that produce a good amount of white noise and shutters that block out the light (for the most part). I recommend white noise and darkness! When our now 2 year old (youngest) daughter gets up at 6am, we give her some milk and rub her back (without talking at all) and she usually goes back to sleep for at least an hour.

If your girl is past this and is just really a morning person, think of the future, she will be very productive in the mornings! :) I agree with what other people have said, putting an early riser in front of the TV is not a bad idea. If it is only for 30 - 45 min, you can't feel guilty. Any longer and you might start to feel a bit of guilt. Maybe you will need to adjust your bedtime schedule so you can get enough sleep until she grows out of this.

As with everything in childhood development, kids go through stages. When they are teens, we will be having the opposite problem! We will be posting about how our kids sleep all day and don't get up until noon! Hang in there!!

Hi S.!
I totally feel your pain. I have a 5 year old son who tends to sleep in and a 3 1/2 year old daughter who has always been an early riser. I've tried lots of stuff including letting her crawl into bed with us until I 'wake up' but she's wide awake. I honestly feel that their little bodies are just programmed and all we can do is suck it up and try to get to bed at a decent hour so that we are able to get up with them. The thing that I'm struggling with is that my daughter has her 'demands' at 6am and it wares me out. So, I will get up before her if ever the opportunity arises, or if she's up before me I just get up out of bed with her. I can settle her with her Dora Video and bowl of cereal ready to go. I put it on the table with a little cup of milk and spoon so when she's ready, she can pour it herself while watching her show. This way, I can have my coffee (tea in my case), read my emails and get lunches ready for school. Not sure if this is an option for you to give her something like this to do while you stretch your arms and have your coffee :)
It's just one of those things that I almost feel that we can't change. I tried letting my daughter stay in her room until about 645am but it created so much havic and noise in our house that I decided to just give it up. I know the neighbors hated it! She's an early riser and we have just decided to deal with it. It's hard to say if it will pass but one thing I feel is that I have to work on teaching my daughter to stop her immediate demands the second she wakes up. Good luck and I admire you for working so hard while holding down a job. I can tell you this though, my son was a really early riser too until he was about 4 years old. Let's pray this could happen to our girls!
Best of luck :)
j o y

Hi,
I have been reading the other responses and I agree with most of them. KEEP HER UP LATER!! Then in the morning get her settled with a video and a snack. You can then lie back down nearby and just rest. My son is 3 and does the same thing.

What time does she go to sleep? If she is waking up too early, put her to bed later. I believe children will sleep as much as they need to.

Well, hopefully it is just a phase, as much as I hate to tell you that. But there are a few tricks you can try out. Really REALLY dark curtains, the hotel black-out kind are expensive, try a midnight blue or a heavy fabric. Kids respond to sunlight and in LA it's pretty bright. Also, try keeping her up later at night. Maybe she only needs X hours of sleep, if she went to bed at say 9 instead of 8, maybe she'd get up at 6 instead of 5. Also, does she still nap? Maybe she's too old for naps. This is a lengthy transition process, but if you kept her up all day she might be more tired at night. This is hard and makes you feel guilty, but you can keep a tired kid awake with other kids or fun toys or food. I must admit, when we were having this problem, I shamelessly fed my daughter small amounts of candy to give her a boost of energy. She is sensitive to sugar because she never gets it otherwise. But it got us through the afternoon way home without her falling asleep. (My problem was sort of the other way around, she went to bed at 10 and got up at 7 and took naps.) But it is the whole sleep cycle you need to modify, not just the morning. Poor mom! Good Luck to you!

Hi S.,

We have the same issue. My 2 1/2 y.o. son comes into our room anytime between 4:30 - 5:30 a.m. We've surrendered to it and just let him get in bed with us. I get up to go to work at 5:30 anyway. I always tell him if he doesn't like the bathroom light on then he should stay in his own room. I am pregnant and due on Valentine's Day and wondering how it's all going to work out with a newborn in bed as well, especially after I go back to work. As you say, "this too shall pass..." I just keep the faith and keep going.

I'm sure you were looking for a quick fix answer, but I'm all out. Consider me a friend with the same need...sleep! Isn't this what we were warned about?

Best of luck,

J. Hibbits
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