Many families struggle to rouse sleepy children in the morning, but what if you have the opposite problem? If your preschooler is wide awake and chirpy with the dawn, you need rest and solutions to keep your early riser from waking the household. Adjusting your child’s bedtime is an obvious first step, but if that is not an option, or does not have the desired results, there is still hope.
With creativity and a little preparation, you can sleep in and keep your little lark quietly entertained. Use the following suggestions to keep your early bird safely occupied in the wee hours of the morning.
Start by discussing the need to play quietly and be respectful of other people’s desire to sleep. Then, provide your child with the tools to be successful.
Set a basket beside your child’s bed, or designate a special shelf or drawer for books and quiet toys. Emphasize that these are special items, only to be used in the morning when others are sleeping. You know how your child plays with his or her toys. If small cars can only be rolled around the bed with loud sound effects, they may not be the best choice. Rotate the stock of toys periodically to retain your child’s interest.
Provide mess-free drawing tools. An unsupervised preschooler may graffiti the walls, floor, furniture and himself. Two options are the Magna Doodle and the combination of Crayola Color Wonder markers and paper. The Magna Doodle is a self-contained drawing board that uses a magnetic stylus. The stylus is attached to the board by a sturdy cord. Kids can draw, write and erase over and over again, as well as using other magnets to make shapes on the board. Crayola Color Wonder markers work only on the special Color Wonder paper, so there is no risk of damage to your home.
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Teach the basics of time. Once children have a basic grasp of time they are less likely to creep into your room to ask, in their best stage whisper, whether or not they may get up. If your child has access to a digital clock, explain which numbers represent the hour and minutes. Then make a chart or poster showing an acceptable rising time and post this beside the clock.
If there is an analog clock in your child’s room, draw a picture of a clock with the hands in the position for the correct time for getting up, then shade the time before it. For example if 6 a.m. is acceptable to you, shade the right half of the clock. Point out the difference between the short and long hands and explain that if the short hand is in the shaded area, it is too early to be up.
Brainstorm areas of your home where your child can play without disturbing anyone. If your early riser shares a room with a sibling who is a light sleeper, any amount of quiet playing may be too disruptive. On dark mornings there is sure to be wailing if the first one up turns on the lights. Does your child have a walk-in closet? Keep quiet-time toys there. It can become a special hideaway where your child can curl up with a blanket, close the door and turn on the light without waking a sibling. A hallway or a cozy chair in another room are other possibilities.
If you’ve been grousing at your child for getting up too early, the switch to this new routine can take some getting used to. Be sure your child understands that you are still available. Some children may fear they will lose the privilege if they get up to use the restroom or wake you when they are sick or scared. Be sure they know you will still be there for them when they need you.
Before you know it your little larks will be teenagers and you will need floodlights and a crane to roust them from bed in the morning. For now, best of luck getting a few more minutes of shut-eye in the morning.
Heather Lee Leap is a freelance writer and mother to an early riser.