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We have recently transitioned our 2 year old from a cot into a bed. We did this with some reservation but he appeared to be ready as he would constantly ask to go into his bed. Also he started climbing onto the top bar of his cot so we thought it might be best to move him to his bed.

However now he is in we have a problem that when he wakes up early he can get out of his bed and walk around the house. Typically into our room. In the past we could leave him in in his cot and he would either churp away or cry to be picked up at which point we might leave him for as long as possible.

He has always been an early waker even though we never got up early to him. At least from as long as I can remember anyway.

As he is only waking up 45min to 1hour we are finding it hard to tell him to go back to sleep, especially as he has already woken up walking around. He wakes up at 5:30am - 6am instead of 6:30am which we would be happy with.

We are hesitant to completely close his door so he can't get out but apart from that we don't know what to do. Why? Just a personal thing at this stage in that we like to have his door ajar just so we can hear him if necessary.

His room is completely dark so when he wakes he won't be able to see much (so there's no morning light issues). We have tried telling him it's not time to wake up yet however he is already fully awake by that time it seems tough to ask him to go back to sleep (for 45min to 1hr?).

He goes to bed early-ish in the evenings and at times has good sleeps during the day. We don't force either of these and try to work in with his state each day, although we also stick to a routine as much as possible.

UPDATE Sept: I thought I would provide an update to this. Our little guy is much better now although he is still waking up once during the night (at which point I just pick him up and take him back to bed) as well as waking up early. However he is slowly getting better. Now although he complains more often than not it's not a continual cry. Things that we are doing now include:

  • Purchased a Gro clock and have been constantly drumming in that he can only come into mummies and daddies room when the sun comes up. He gets the concept and it's almost... working.

  • Started a sticker chart. Although he doesn't fully understand it is a nice treat for him now and he sort of understands when he isn't allowed on. He is only allowed one when he has stayed in his room.

  • I started off hoping into bed with him for a month in the core of winter but the last 4 weeks I've been filtering that off so now I don't need to and just take him back to his room (although he does still complain and cry/grizzle at times).

So it's been about 4months. Slowly but surely he's getting there.

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4 Answers 4

There are lots of things you could try:

  • a gate (extra tall or "no climb") - though he will probably just call out to you
  • a later bed time for him
  • an earlier bed time for you
  • you could invite him into your bed with you while you wake up - he can arrange your legs under the covers to create a tent. Keep a couple favorite toys handy to play with in the tent. There's nothing quite like little cars running over your toes and up your shins while you come to!
  • you could get up and lie in his bed or on the sofa and doze while he plays nearby

Bottom line, you will have much more success at this age by adjusting to his schedule rather than expecting him to adjust to yours. No stage lasts very long. He'll hit a growth spurt and need more sleep, and this will cease to be an issue.

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ummm, thanks for that. I guess I wasn't clear but he has always been a waker (at least for the last year). Is this not very long as a stage? –  dreza Jun 17 '13 at 9:00
    
That is a sort of long phase. As this appears to be his sleep rhythm, you either have to adjust it or try to adjust to it. The only way to adjust it is to limit his other sleep - later bed time or reduced naps. I tend to lean (as you do in your question) toward honoring his need to sleep when he's tired. Unfortunately, he is too young to honor your need! Perhaps you and your spouse could swap mornings? A 2-year-old is simply too young to keep himself safe while you sleep. Good luck! –  MJ6 Jun 17 '13 at 14:01
    
You can also try increasing his time in sunlight and his activity in the day, as that sometimes increases the need for sleep. Just noticed your avatar - I used to live in Auckland - my husband is a kiwi! One of my kids is down there at uni. –  MJ6 Jun 17 '13 at 14:12
    
Great place NZ :) Thanks for the advice. He is already way more energetic than any toddler we associate with so I think his activity is pretty high. This morning I just got up and tried to doze but he wanted me to play. Will keep trying on that route I think though for now perhaps. –  dreza Jun 18 '13 at 0:21

Ours get up at stupid o'clock too. So, we got a night/day clock called the Good Nite Light. It lights up the moon when they should be in bed, and the sun when it's time to get up. Worked a treat with both of them (the 2-yr-old plays in his room until the sun lights up, the 4-yr-old stays in bed until hers comes on).

You could also put a baby gate at his doorway and leave his door open, so he will be restrained in his room but not locked in.

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I've heard about these lights. I might look into them some more. Combined with a gate might be an option worth exploring –  dreza Jun 18 '13 at 0:22

My daughter is an early-waker--she wakes up in the 6:00 hour bright-eyed and bushy-tailed ready to start the day. This is still an improvement over her 5:00ish wakings. My son has be dragged out of bed practically kicking and screaming every morning. Not an early-riser.

Some kids are just early-risers which sucks if you, as mom and dad, are not, but it's MUCH harder to change their schedule than it is to change your schedule.

First, you can't put him back in a crib/cot. He's all ready demonstrated that he's figuring out how to climb out of it which just makes it equally as dangerous if not more so than letting him wander unattended around the house. Plus, now that he's had a taste of independence, he's likely to balk at going back into the baby bed anyway.

Secondly, you can't reason with him. Telling him it's not time to get up and to go back to bed when it's the same time he's been getting up all along doesn't make any sense to him at all. Of course it's time for him to get up! And, you're right, getting him to go back to sleep for 45 minutes to an hour is more trouble than it's worth. By the time you get him settled back down and asleep, it will be time to wake him up again.

Valkyrie makes a point that you could try using the night light. I've never used one with my kids, but I have heard complaints that sometimes the lights are too bright and actually wake kids up which is obviously counterproductive. Perhaps the one mentioned above is one of the better ones--I don't know. Some kids are just hypersensitive to any light in their bedroom when they sleep. I've also spoken with a lot of parents that have had spotty results with the 2-year-old set. Maybe it depends on if your kid is a younger two or an older two, but some 2-year-olds just have a hard time grasping the concept.

Unless you're willing to get up with him, you've got to find a way to more or less barricade him in his room with a gate of some type. It's really no different than leaving him in his crib/cot, he just has more room to play. If it's dark in his room when he wakes up, then finding him a little light that he can turn on by himself and that he can reach will allow him to play in his room until it's time for to you go in and get him (maybe one that has a little pull-chain to turn the light on? We have one in our living room and it is insanely popular with my kids). You can still leave the door open and hear him if he calls for you.

Maybe when he's a teenager he'll start sleeping longer.

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thanks. His room is dark. At this time of year (winter) it's almost pitch black. Maybe a light might be an idea I could persue. As for sleeping in longer as a teenager. I think my problem at that age will be getting him out of bed :) –  dreza Jun 18 '13 at 0:23

We had a similar problem when our daughter moved to a proper bed. The things that helped us were:

  • Gro Clock. I know you've said this in the update but yes this worked a treat for us too. Worked so well that we started the reading the story to our our 7m old every night to drill it in ready for when he's in a bed :)

  • Without fail putting them back in bed when they get up saying "Don't get up until the sun", pointing at the gro clock. That may take 20 times or so the first morning but persistence pays off. Is a battle of wills at the start but took us only a few days (mornings) for it to sink in

NB: After potty training need to make sure they don't need the toilet before putting them back in bed :)

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