My toddler wakes up too early.

Monday, February 1, 2016

posted by Romy (@daddontlie)

My toddler wakes up too early.

And then I found a way to fix it.

Having a toddler wake up at 5:00 AM on a Saturday morning sucks.

After having a lot of difficulties with sleep as an infant, my two year old son was finally sleeping through the night. He was doing great other than a few odd night time wakings, until we hit the time change in the fall. He never really got used to the change in time, waking up long before the crack of dawn. Sometimes at 5:00 AM, sometimes 5:30 AM. He would continue to yell to us "WAKE UP!" in the other room to let us know that he was up - and wouldn't give up.

"WAKE UP, MOMMY! WAKE UP, DADDY!"

Those mornings were tough.


This is when we needed a quick fix and the bad habit started.  We wanted a few more minutes of shut eye.  I don't know how many parents do it, but we let him in our bed to watch TV, while we closed our eyes for a few more minutes of much needed sleep.

Problem solved.

Not so much. It became apparent pretty quickly that we had gotten ourselves into a nasty little cycle where he would begin calling for us earlier and earlier each morning. I mean, getting up early for the chance to watch Thomas & Friends or Bubble Guppies in bed? This was a toddler's dream. The earlier you got up, the more cartoons to be watched. And we gave in, desperate to get a bit more sleep.

We needed a long term solution. First up, no more cartoons in Mommy & Daddy's bed.

Secondly, we needed something to train him to sleep in until a reasonable time. The fact of the matter is, he has little concept of time. He can't read a clock and he has no idea when he "should" be getting up in the morning. We were teaching him that the morning starts whenever he called for us and we let him hop into bed and enjoy his morning fix of Bubble Guppies. 

A co-worker of mine introduced me to the concept of a Gro-Clock. This was a clock that you could purchase and was tailored for this exact reason. It trains toddlers when they should be getting up in the morning by showing images of a moon and stars when its time to sleep or a sun when its time to get up. It was worth a try...until I saw how much they were. The price ranged from $60-70 and I was too cheap to purchase something that I wasn't sure was going to work.

So I went to Google. There had to be a cheaper version or DIY version of the Gro-Clock to help my toddler sleep in until I got up for work. In my Google conquest I found that there was a DIY version on Pinterest. This was an inexpensive way to try something that would help us out as new parents.

I quickly ventured out to the nearest store and got two things:

  • An outlet timer - I grabbed one at the local grocery store - 2 for $11
  • A nightlight from the Dollar Store - this one was a multi-coloured Snowman (It was the holiday season)
From here, follow these steps:

  1. We set up the outlet timer to the current time.
  2. Then we set the timer to turn on at our desired wake up time for our son (we had to be realistic - so we started with 6:00 AM and gradually moved up to 6:30AM)
  3. Plug in the Snowman nightlight to the outlet timer.
  4. Tell your child that they should stay in bed until the Snowman (or whichever nightlight you had purchased) comes on.
  5. Hope for the best.
We tried it for a few nights and it caught on immediately. We no longer had a toddler waking up at a completely unreasonable hour, requesting to watch Thomas and Friends. Now, every morning at 6:36 AM, our toddler wakes up yelling "SNOWMAN'S ON!" and I no longer need to set my own morning alarm for work. My son likes to go visit the snowman every morning when he wakes up. 

If you're cheap like me and have a toddler who wakes up in the wee hours of the morning - I'd give this a try.

Romy is a dad, husband and blogger based out of Halifax.  He also writes about hoops too at HipHoopJunkies.com.  For dirty diaper stories,  follow him on Twitter @DadDontLie and for hoops talk, follow @RomyAquino