Have your kids enjoyed a lazy summer? If they’ve been off school, chances are the return of the morning alarm is already something they – and you – are dreading as the new term approaches. Or perhaps you’ve got younger children, and it’s a struggle to rouse them after a nap. Whatever the circumstances, we’ve got some ideas that will help you wake up sleepy kids.
Make sure they’re getting enough sleep
One of the key factors when it comes to getting kids up in the mornings is to make sure they’ve had enough sleep in the first place. How much they need will depend on their age, health and level of activity level.
Once you’ve worked out their bedtime, set a routine and stick to it. If your child is going to school, do this now, before term begins. This is even more important if they’re starting school for the first time – the change in their lives and routine means they’ll be exhausted at first.
Remember to limit screen-time and use of any electronic devices for an hour or so before they go to bed, as this can make it more difficult for them to fall asleep.
With young children and toddlers, it always seems a bit mean to wake them from a nap – especially if they’re deeply asleep. So, make it a gradual process.
Create a slight disturbance to rouse your child – stroking their back or hair, for example, or pulling back the covers a little. Once they stir, if you can, snuggle up to them either on their bed or by carrying them to a comfortable chair. Alternatively, sit next to them and cuddle them as best you can. They’ll be happier than if they wake suddenly, and then you can offer some water or milk if appropriate.
For older children, disturbing them gently and giving them a hug should be enough to start the waking process. If you want to be sure they’re sufficiently conscious, ask them to waggle one hand at you; the action means their brains have to work, making it less likely they’ll fall asleep again.
Let there be light
We’re not suggesting you flood a darkened room with startling brightness – that would be a bit unkind! But opening the curtains or turning on a bedside lamp will help bring them round after the initial waking. If your child has had enough sleep, this should happen fairly easily.
The ten-minute warning
Not everyone feels like leaping straight out of bed after they’ve woken up. Build time into your routine so you can let your child have ten minutes or so to adjust gradually and prepare themselves to get up. Leave the door open and the lights on so they can hear you moving around – if they can see and hear activity, it will help them stay awake rather than nodding off again.
It’s very tempting to let kids sleep in at weekends, but when you’re trying to establish a solid routine it’s not helpful. In fact, if you let them stay up much later and get up when they like, you’re undoing all your previous good work – so you have to start over each week.
We’re not saying there should be no leeway, and of course it depends on just how early your kids have to get up during the week. But ideally, neither their bedtimes nor their wake-up call should be more than an hour later than usual.