We have two girls:

  • Elise, who is 2 and is decidedly an evening person: running and bouncing and laughing and playing until 7 or 8 PM if she can get away with it (which she can't, we want her in bed by 7-7:30 which causes moderate amounts of crying on a daily basis), and she'll gladly sleep until a quarter past 7 AM unless she's awakened by her sister
  • Inara, who is 5½ and just as decidedly a morning person: no matter how exhausting the day, or how late to bed, she's up again at 5:30 at the very latest, most days at 5 AM. And this is at any time of year, and always with effective black-out curtains.

We have (and have had for years) a lamp on a timer that goes on at 6:30 AM to let her know that it's time to get up, and we have instructed her repeatedly to stay in bed (or at least play quietly in her room) until that lamp goes on. Sometimes, she comes to us at 4 in the morning to let us know that "the lamp doesn't work", and every time we've told her that it works just fine, it's her that's up too early. An adorable story, but not so fun really. This has become worse to the point where she will frequently just ignore the lamp and gets out of bed to play from 5 AM, most such days coming to us for entertainment or at least she will wake us up (we are both light sleepers in a not very sound-proof home).

What can we do to make this delightful morning person respect the rhythms of the rest of the family? We realize that you can't force someone to stay asleep, and that it won't work to just keep her up for longer (she'd still get up early, but then crash shortly after noon). Of course, very soon they'll both have to get up at 6:30 so we can get big sis to school by 8.

Edit for clarification: She does have an analogue wall clock (with a sweeping second hand) that we have annotated with coloured markings to show different periods of interest, and she understands that. With the aid of an always-on red night light, the clock is readable throughout the night, so she can "tell time" well enough at any given moment.

3 Answers 3


We have a son who is a bit like that, though he gets up a bit later.

It used to be a problem until he knew how to read. Now he just gets up and quietly sits downstairs reading until the rest of the family gets up. I imagine something similar to that might work with your daughter - try to find something she likes doing that doesn't produce noise, and tell her she can do that in her room / in the living room / wherever is best for the rest of the family. Maybe getting her an iPod with good headphones and loading it with interesting stories for her to listen to might work.

When our son was closer to your daughter's age (he's older now), sometimes he also liked to come to our bed when he woke up. He often started dozing again for another hour, and while it did wake us up when he came and was somewhat less comfortable, we also dozed off again pretty quickly.

Teach her how to read the clock, too, so she can find out herself for how much longer she needs to be quiet. Waiting for a light to go on when you don't know how long you'll have to wait sounds like torture to me. We used to have a digital clock and an analog one, unfortunately without a hand for the seconds - I think it would be ideal if she can see time passing by watching the moving seconds hand go around in circles.

Unfortunately, though, we never figured out how to get our son to respect the family sleeping patterns - he just grew old enough to understand.

So I can't offer a working recipe. I'm convinced that trying to keep your daughter in bed is an exercise in futility, though, so I'd focus on the "keeping her entertained" branch of solutions.

  • 1
    Thank you for this. She does have an analogue wall clock (with a sweeping second hand) that we have annotated with coloured markings to show different periods of interest, and she understands that. It's a very good idea with the audio books, I think she'd like that.
    – KlaymenDK
    May 9, 2019 at 19:20
  • I haven't looked for them yet, but do they still make those books with tapes that a kid can follow along? Those were my jam when I was that age. (Obviously it's probably CD's or something now). Alternatively, Google Home has a plethora of children activities (including story telling) and the minis are relatively cheap. (Obligatory disclaimer about not being affiliated with Google) May 16, 2019 at 17:27
  • @KlaymenDK have you seen the clocks that change color or light up when its time to wake up? we got a Sun & Moon Rise Kids Alarm Clock and it worked amazingly for our 4 y/o because he doesnt need to understand before/after 8am, just if the light is on or not
    – Hatman
    Jun 19, 2020 at 16:17

I sympathize with your sleepless nights... and we all know that hearing someone stirring in the house doesn't allow you to really sleep. But. Now that she's 5 and able to move about freely, perhaps you could set a list of things she can (or should) do if she wakes up before you do. This will take a little prep on your part, and possibly learning on hers, but she could:

  • brush her hair, wash her face
  • dress herself (if her clothes were laid out the night before)
  • eat her cereal (if you fill her bowl and put some milk in a mug so it's easier for her to handle)
  • clean up after her breakfast (put her bowl and mug in the sink, wipe the table off with the sponge)
  • brush her teeth (after breakfast)

I seem to keep hearing things that suggest people who wake early, early in the morning, end up being successful business executives/entreprenuers. This might just be her natural rhythm, so helping her learn to do things for herself instead of waking you up... might be a good solution for the whole family.


My 5 year old son is very similar in his wake-up routine. I’ve found a few things that help keep him occupied for a bit longer in the mornings so that I and my daughter can get some more time to sleep.

  • have easily accessible breakfast foods so he can spend about 10-15 minutes eating breakfast on his own. I have a basket system and also a designated “grab and go” drawer in the pantry, plus individual milk cartons in the fridge.

  • prepare an activity the night before for him to do when he wakes up. Whether it’s a solo game, an art activity, etc. I lay everything out at his table in his room and let him know that it is waiting for him in the morning.

  • allow tablet or tv time on the weekends. If it is Saturday or Sunday, I leave his tablet out on his nightstand for him. I have content restrictions on there and only Children’s educational games, so I’m not really concerned about what he can get into. This is a fool proof way for me to get more uninterrupted sleep during the early mornings.

There are still some mornings these things don’t work and he’s standing by my bed telling me he’s bored (especially if there is something fun we planned for the day) but for the most part, these all work.

And one thing to note: Option 2 has taken the most practice to figure out because his natural instinct is to come out of his room and then he forgets about the activity we’ve set up in his room.

Hope this helps!

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