Struggling with getting your toddler or preschooler to stay in bed? A toddler clock might be for you!
Toddler clocks or Ok-To-Wake clocks are a great tool to help you if your child...
● Is fighting bedtime and using a million stall tactics,
● Leaving their room at night,
● Is constantly having night wakings,
● Wakes early in the morning,
● or struggles with Daylight Savings Time or when you're travelling across time zones!
Although it's amazing that our little ones are growing up and becoming more independent, sometimes they're still not old enough to navigate that independence all night long without a reminder of what they're supposed to be doing. This is where a toddler clock can take over some of the responsibility of reminding your child what they're supposed to be doing instead of you having to get up and constantly do it!
They can be used by toddlers and children even as early as 18 months, more commonly starting around 2 to 3 years old and even can continue to be used by older children!
My favorite toddler clock is the Little Hippo Mella because it's perfect for any age and doubles as a sound machine and nightlight too. For younger toddlers, it uses colors and a "face" to indicate when it is time to be sleeping or awake and for older children it also uses a digital clock so that they can don't feel too childish.
It's also one of the few toddler clocks that I like the look of, and when I did the pro/con break down to pick a toddler clock, I felt it had the most "bang for my buck" as it met the most of the criteria that I personally wanted in a toddler clock. Use code SLEEPYBUNNY10 for 10% off your Mella here *FYI, this is an affiliate code
When you first start using a toddler clock, it's important to incorporate it as a positive thing rather than as a punishment. Oftentimes, this can be best done by giving it as a gift to your child or just pumping it up and making it an exciting new change!
Before using a toddler clock, though, you should always make sure that you are familiar with it, practice changing the settings and even have it set and test it first before incorporating it with your child to make sure that you have set it correctly, helping things go smoothly!
I recommend using the system;
●Red in bed! Not only is it a cute little rhyme, but the colour red is the least disruptive to sleep!
●Yellow in room (or whatever colour your child chooses). The expectation is that it's almost morning time so your child can quietly play or read in their room until the light turns green.
●Green means go! (or whatever colour your child chooses). Time for good morning! Your child can leave their room.
To minimize its impact on sleep, have the light settings set to the dimmest possible setting and even face it away from your child when they're sleeping as they'll still be able to see the glow of the light even if it's not facing them.
Now that you've figured it out, it's time to teach your child how to use it as well!
You can do this during the daytime by first modeling how it works. Set it up so it’s changing in a short period of time while you’re pretending to sleep, wake and get up to show your child what you do with each changing colour. Remember to actually lay down and sit up as the color changes to help teach your child exactly what's expected of them.
Then you can involve them and practice with a stuffy or have your child practice themselves by playing, sleep when it's red, quiet time in room when it's yellow and waking up when it's green, just like your child will be doing!
Most importantly is to set realistic expectations, if your child is currently waking up at 5:00 a.m., you don't want to try and get them to sleep in until 6:30 the first morning, you want your child to feel success! Start by setting the clock only 5 to 10 minutes later from their usual wake up time and slowly move it in small 5 to 10 minute increments every few days to help their bodies (and patience!) adjust to stay in bed that long.
Plenty of positive reinforcement, praise and even small rewards can make huge differences in how successful the toddler clock will be for your family. It's important for your child to feel success when they're first using a toddler clock because it can take up to a few weeks of consistent use for them to really buy into it, but receiving immediate positive feedback can help them stay excited to use the clock.
Remember that toddlers don't have fully developed impulse control and patience so making them wait for a reward after a week or even a few days can be too long for them, having small and simple daily rewards can be more effective than a larger reward later on. Even just little things such as they get to pick the meal, an extra 5 minutes of play at the park, getting a sticker, or getting to pick this song on the drive to daycare are small things that don't cost a lot of time, money , or effort on your part but can be very exciting to a little one!!
When you start to implement your Ok-to-Wake clock, it's important to keep your expectations realistic, toddler clocks don't work miracles! They're simply one tool that can help maintain your child's healthy sleep. The real magic is in the consistency and your confidence in the implementation of your new toddler clock.
If you've been consistent in using a toddler clock for a few weeks and you're still struggling with early morning wakes or other sleep issues, check out my Ending Early Wakes Webinar that goes into detail on all of the causes of early morning wakes [and how to fix them!] or reach out to work with me 1:1 to figure out a plan that matches with your family's needs. Let me help you move from having meltdowns around sleep to making memories with your little ones!
Your Sleep Coach