There are many reasons why a toddler randomly feels as though three in the morning is a good time to wake-up and play. A child is blessed with the ability to sleep whenever they want and be awake whenever they want. It may be fun for them, but makes for an exhausted parent. However, there is a simple way for mom and dad to get a full night’s sleep. Part of the parents’ job is to teach the child to sleep at night and play during the day.
The child does not know this is not an appropriate time to dig through their toy box to find their favorite race car, but a sleepy parent does. A way to teach your child that this isn’t playtime is to not allow any play. There will probably be crying or temper tantrums, but they’re no different than the ones that happen at bedtime. Point out that it is still dark outside. This teaches the child the difference between nighttime and morning. Then give your child the option of lying with you in your bed or on the sofa. But, tell your child they are allowed five or ten minutes with you. Also, let your child know this is quiet time. If they ask a question, simply state, “It’s sleeping time now, so we have to be quiet. I’ll answer your question in the morning.” As the nights progress, take a minute off parent time and tell your child you are doing this. When the time has reached no minutes, only give your child the option to stay in their bed. You can prepare them for this by saying, “If you wake up tomorrow night, you have to stay in your own bed.” Just as an infant learns to self-sooth, a toddler will learn that nighttime is for sleeping, not playing.
When nighttime no longer has recess, your child will no longer want to be awake and will go back to sleep on their own. Do remember that there are many reasons a toddler may be waking up regularly during the night, such as being hungry or stress. The most important thing to remember to make sure it’s not a health problem or growth spurt before trying this method.