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  • Writer's pictureThe Daily Denim

How to Wake a Cranky Toddler

You might be thinking, "Why on earth would you want to wake a toddler?"

About 3 months ago, my son started having some sleep issues. He suddenly started getting up around 4 am, wide awake and ready to start his day. There was no way I was going to start my day at 4 am so I was determined to figure out what was going on. I spent weeks adjusting nap times and moving bed time before I finally accepted that he was getting too much sleep.

At the time, my son was getting about 16 hours of sleep a day. Doesn't that sound nice? I'd let him nap until he woke up on his own and most days it would last about four hours. Since I wasn't willing to give up his 12 hour stretch at night, I focused on adjusting his nap time, which meant I had to start waking him up.

So I started cutting his naps short and waking him around two hours. This was when I realized that I had a very cranky toddler on my hands. He started waking up in the worst mood. He would tell me "No!" and roll over to go back to sleep. When I'd finally get him out of his bed, he'd spend about 45 minutes crying and fussing and making a huge scene. So it was time to re-evaluate my approach.

Here are 5 strategies I've gathered along the way to help wake a very cranky toddler.

1. Open the windows- We have shutters throughout our house so my son is able to sleep in a very dark room. I start by opening the shutters to allow the light in. This signals to him that the process has begun. After I open them, I leave the room and give him some time to accept that his nap is coming to an end.

2. Don't turn off the sound machine- I learned this the hard way. My son loves his sound machine and insists I turn it on before naps and bed time. I used to walk in his room, open the windows and immediately turn off the sound machine and he'd always freak out. Now, I leave it on until he's completely awake and standing. For whatever reason, this seems to help with the crankiness.

3. Cover him with stuffed animals- On days when my stubborn little guy refuses to wake up, I like to use the stuffed animal strategy. He has about 50 of them so I start throwing them on top of him one by one. This always seems to put him in a good mood. Once he's completely covered, I'll say "Vinnie? Where are you?" and I'll pretend to talk to the other stuffed animals. "Buns, have you seen Vinnie? Mickey, do you know where Vinnie is?" It only takes a few minutes before he pops his head out with a smile to show me he's there.

4. Play a song- My son loves this bunny song from one of his cartoons and can't seem to resist singing along. I play the song and within minutes he's standing and singing "hop, hop, hop" with a big smile on his face.

5. Give him space- Even when I do all of the strategies mentioned above, my kid still wakes up pissed. It takes him about 30-45 minutes to fully wake up and be himself. And if you try to rush him, it gets worse and lasts longer. So I've learned to just give him his space. I put on some cartoons and give him some time. Eventually, he'll make his way over to me and ask for some juice and that's when I know he's ready to interact.

Here's to hoping your kiddo wakes up in a better mood than mine!




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