What to do when your toddler wakes at 5am.

It can be hard to get a child to sleep through the night – but what if they are habitually waking early?

One mother emailed me about her 3-year old son who refused to do anything alone when he woke up early. If she didn’t let him in her bed, he would cry until he woke his 10 month old sister up. Now there are TWO wailing children to contend with at 5:30 am.  Ugh!

Is this how you start your day? Are you sleep deprived from this toddler sleep schedule regime?

Here was my reply:

Thanks for the email. He is an early riser and you are not. He can rise early (try to make him stop –  HA!)  and that is okay – but he must be a co-operative human in  your house  and realize he doesn’t have the right to disturb others when he wakes.

So…. tonight at tuck-ins, let him know YOU are not to be woken until 7 am (or whenever) and set an alarm for him so he knows when it will be 7am. Then ask him what he would like to do alone when he wakes until 7 o’clock arrives.   As long as he is safe and non-disturbing, it shouldn’t matter to you…

When he says things like “the TV is too bright” or “the hall is too dark”  he is just attempting to eliminate the options you have offered in order to get to be social with you! TOUGH! You are NOT an option at 5:30 am and he must be left to deal with the true fact that life at 5:30 am is BORING and hopefully he will either LEARN to self-entertain, not  be afraid of  the dark, give up minding the TV brightness or go back to sleep.

To ensure he doesn’t disturb you, you can put a childproof handle on the outside of YOUR bedroom door.   It’s okay if he screams and bang for the first few mornings (say NOTHING) so he learns that there is NO mommy interaction until 7am.

If the baby cries – leave her too. Now he has a crying sister and no mom!  Boy – better not be stuck like that again!!!  The baby will settle again (good training for her too) or he’ll go play with her and the two of them can keep each other company.  They’d learn it’s no fun, lots of tears, boring and maybe a bit scary to be up and alone without mom.  Let him / them experience this a few times (the baby will learn to sleep through the noise of her brother) and they both will learn there is no good reason to get up before 7am.

Good luck!



About the Author:

Alyson Schafer

Alyson Schafer is a psychotherapist and one of Canada’s most notable parenting experts. She is the resident expert on The Marilyn Denis Show, CTV News Channel and CBC’s The World This Weekend. Alyson is an “Ask an Expert” Columnist for Today’s Parent Magazine, and sits on the Health Advisory Board for Chatelaine Magazine.  Alyson is the best selling author of “Breaking The Good Mom Myth” and “Honey, I Wrecked The Kids” and her latest, “Ain’t Misbehavin”.  She is an international speaker including the inaugural TEDxKids in Brussels and offers free parenting tips at www.alysonschafer.com

Sleepaway camp: The best way to decide if your kids are ready.

Photo taken by jvlphoto.com

I’m no stranger to sending kids to sleep away camp. My “biggie” kids have been going for several years  and the benefits are countless.

This year, I have a new crop of kids who are great ages for sleep away camp, so for the first time in a few years, I found myself revisiting the age old question of “ARE THEY READY?” Of course, I’m not sure I’m ready, but as a wise Camp Director once told me, “Sorry Julie, this isn’t about YOU!”  Fine thing.

After setting my personal anxieties aside, I looked at my two little darlings and asked myself the following:

Do they want to go to camp?  If they want to go, it’s a pretty good indication that they’re ready. Of course, kids can be indecisive – one minute they want to go and another minute they don’t. When they say they don’t want to go, it’s likely that they’re worried about homesickness. So, I remind my kids that it’s completely normal and they likely will be homesick at some point. But it usually passes and doesn’t interfere with the overall camp experience. Besides, camp staff are trained to deal with this issue. A homesick kid is the biggest and most common issue they deal with.

As the parent, our job is to consider how severe the homesickness will be. So when trying to determine whether they’re ready or not, you can ask yourself these questions:

  • When at home, does your kid stay in their own bed every night? If you wake up every morning having discovered a little visitor migrated into your bed during the night, the kiddo might not quite be ready
  • Does your child feel comfortable having a sleepover with extended family or close friends? If they’d rather be glued to you than have a fun sleepover at Grandma’s house, this could be a sign that the kiddo is not ready for camp
  • Can you get a little friend to go too?  My kids like going to camp with siblings, but kids are put in cabins according to age so siblings don’t usually get to stay together. A familiar friend from home or school can sometimes help a kiddo feel more comfortable.
  • Have your kiddos had the chance to see camp for themselves?  My two kids that are up for camp consideration this summer have been able to visit their siblings at camp, which has familiarized them with the camp setting. This can be helpful.


After putting kids #4 and #5 through this little test, these were the results:

Photo taken by jvlphoto.com

YES, this kid is ready camp! She’s signed up and ready to go!

Photo taken by jvlphoto.com

Sorry buddy, maybe next year!

How do you decide if your little ones are ready for this experience? Do you have anyone heading off to sleep-away camp this season?


About the Author:

Julie Cole Mabel's Labels

Julie Cole

Julie Cole is co-founder of Mabel’s Labels Inc., the leading provider of kids’ labels, and a proud mom of six.


Fiber: Benefits, Sources & 3 Ways to Get More Fiber in Your Diet.

Easter is basically a high sugar, high fat, low fiber celebration. And while self-restraint and holding back may sound like the only option, it isn’t necessarily the best one. There’s a better way to get through such hefty holidays.

Fiber: A few fun facts.
• The benefits of a high-fiber diet are not only in the “prevention” category but also in the “solution” category. Eating lots of fiber can help prevent serious and debilitating diseases like diverticulitis, high cholesterol, many types of cancers (most notably colon), obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.

• Fiber’s job is to move foods through the digestive tract, meanwhile increasing the sense of fullness and scouring out cholesterol and other waste, reducing blood sugar swings and overall inflammation. Recent studies have drawn a direct link between belly fat and fiber intake: when fiber goes down, belly fat goes up and vice versa.

• There are two kinds of fiber: soluble and insoluble. You need both because they do different things.

• Soluble fiber dissolves, so it can be broken down by our digestive enzymes. It’s in things like fruit, oats, beans, sweet potatoes, chia and psyllium. Soluble fiber helps fight heart disease because its jelly-like consistency allows it to capture cholesterol on its way through our blood system.

• Insoluble fiber cannot be broken down in our bodies, so it is the one that bulks up the bowel and moves waste through. It is found in whole grains (like bran), nuts and seeds, wheat, corn and the skins of some vegetables (like tomatoes) and the strings in celery.

3 ways to make friends with fiber:
1. Find a high-fiber cereal that tastes good and have it as a snack throughout the day. A handful can go a long way toward filling your gut, which turns off the “feed me!” signal coming from the belly.
2. Bring a little chia into your day. These seeds contain both kinds of fiber and one tablespoon delivers four grams, which is a whopping amount. If you find bran fiber harsh or explosive, chia is your solution.
3. If you haven’t already switched to whole grains, what are you waiting for? There are lots of whole-grain products on the shelves. Go half and half for a while to smooth the transition: a sandwich with one white slice and one dark slice of bread looks beautiful and tastes great! A handful of whole-grain pasta can go into the pot first and be cooked for a minute or two extra and then you can add the white stuff. (Some of the new white pastas on the market are made with a fiber called inulin, which may or may not have the benefits of the whole-food sources; the jury is still out.)

So go ahead and celebrate! Chomp off a few chocolate bunny ears, dip a little matzo in honey but be sure to add fiber before, during and after you spend that family time.

About the Author

Theresa Albert

Theresa Albert is a Food Communications Specialist and Toronto Personal Nutritionist. She is @theresaalbert on twitter and found daily at www.myfriendinfood.com

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