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The Best Way to Keep a Preschooler from Getting Out of Bed

Does your 3 or 4 year old pop out of bed as soon as you leave the room at bedtime? Has it become a game to see how many times your child can get you to walk her back to her bed? Or is she up WAY too early, expecting you to be up too?

I’m working with a family right now whose 3 1/2 year old was having troubling staying in her bed at bedtime, waking up for 2 hours in the middle of the night, and up at 5am ready to start the day!  Bedtime had become a 2 hour process, ending in a super late bedtime, and then she was up at the crack of dawn and would go into her parent’s room and announce it was time for everyone to get up!

Mom said this was a daily habit at work…

imagerymajestic /

This family was at the breaking point and needed help…FAST!

One of my secret weapons with children this age who are having trouble staying put in their beds is a toddler clock.  I love them! They are very effective in helping to prevent those early morning bedside wakeup calls where your child tiptoes quietly into your room, stands next to your head and then announces it’s time for breakfast…or just crawls in your bed, hoping you’ll be too tired to notice!

If you’re not familiar with them, here’s how they work:

  • Set bedtime and wakeup time on the clock (and some models have a second setting for nap times)
  • The animal, child or sun/moon will be shown asleep at night and awake when it’s time to get up

These work because they are a visual cue for the child to know when they should be staying in bed, and when it’s time to get up. It’s pretty abstract for a child who’s used to getting up a few times every night or waking as soon as the sun comes up to say “stay in your bed until morning.”

My favorite is the Kid’Sleep Classic…I have this one for my son:

This particular clock has LOTS of features:

  • Has the dual capability of setting wakeup times for night time and nap time
  • Has a night only option for younger babies and children
  • Has an alarm clock for older children

If your child is waking up SUPER early (like 4:30am), setting the clock for a 7am wakeup isn’t going to fly in the beginning…think gradual progress, so set it in 15-20 min increments to slowly push the wakeup later.

It’s important to go to your child’s room when the bunny wakes up. You’re teaching your child to stay in her room all night, so you don’t want to create that loophole that if the bunny wakes up, your child can come looking for you. My advice is to set your alarm for a few minutes before the bunny is scheduled to wake up and go into your child’s room as soon as it switches…and make a big deal that your child stayed in her room. Praise goes a long way in these situations!

Of course you’ll also want to get to the root of the problem of WHY your child is waking so early!

  • Typically overtiredness is the culprit, so make sure that your child is going to bed early enough to get enough sleep for her age.
  • Or your child may hearing the garbage truck rumble down the street at 5am, in which case a white noise machine will help.
  • Or take a look at how much light is coming in when the sun is coming up…you might need to consider a better window covering.

So that 3 1/2 year old I’m working with? She’s eliminated those 2 hour night wakeups AND she’s staying in her room until 6:45am. And bedtime is a breeze…they do their bedtime routine, tuck in and lights out. Not a peep until morning. Huge progress, and her toddler clock was an integral part of her success!

Did you find this post helpful? Please share!

Other posts you may be interested in:

4 Reasons Why You Need to Ditch the Pacifier Before Toddlerhood

The Key to Successful Sleep Training

Is Your Child Scared at Bedtime?

7 Things You Don’t Need in Your Toddler’s Bedtime Routine



  1. […] are hard for toddlers and preschoolers to understand! If you’re not already using one, a toddler clock works really well in this […]

  2. […] are hard for toddlers and preschoolers to understand! If you’re not already using one, a toddler clock works really well in this […]

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