Whether you call them the “Terrible Twos and Threes” or “Terrific Twos and Threes,” we all know that toddler life is crazy – good crazy and messy crazy. With this new found independence and language often comes some sort of sleep regression or change in sleep patterns, and one great tool to introduce at this time is a toddler clock!
Around two years (and older) is a great time to introduce a clock, as toddlers have some understanding of rules and boundaries and they get excited about new or special gadgets. Even if your toddler is not struggling with sleep, it’s still a great tool to introduce/implement! Our family favorite is the Hatch Baby Rest, as you can program it right from your phone. You can choose what time the “clock” comes on in the morning (really, it’s just a light), and your child can even choose which color he or she wants to wake up to. Another popular toddler clock is the Ok to Wake! clock. If your child is a bit older and has a grasp on numbers, you can even use a good old digital clock – wrap tape around the minutes, and tell them to wait for the “Magic 7.”
Toddler clocks are especially helpful for early morning wakings and night wakings. Although those early risers are cute, few people want to start their day before 6:00 am; or if you’re a morning person, you probably want to start your day solo. So set a bedtime/night time rule that when the light is off, or the clock doesn’t show the “Magic 7” yet, your child must remain in bed and quiet. For the kiddos who regularly wake-up before 6:00 am, especially, teaching them they have to remain in bed, lying down, and quiet until their light comes on can actually re-train them to fall back asleep and re-set their body clocks to a more reasonable time! And depending on your child’s age and “house rules,” you get to decide what happens when the light comes on – can the child get out of bed, or is that when a parent will come and get her? For older children who can handle a bit more freedom, their rule might even be they need to stay in their room until the clock changes, but may read or play quietly until then.
When introducing a toddler clock to your child, first explore it during the day; make a little game where your toddler lays down and pretends to sleep when the light is off, and then when it turns on, make a big deal about it being time to wake up! Then when your child goes to sleep that night, show her where the light is and remind her that the special light will come on when it’s time to wake up. You’ll want to talk about the clock quite a bit the first several days you’re implementing it, both during the day and at bedtime. If your child is struggling with night wakings, you can also add a comment about the light in your key phrase: “Your light is not yet blue, it’s still time to sleep. Lay down, close your eyes, a be quiet.”
Side note: Some parents also use their toddler clock as a night light. A rule of thumb I have around night lights, however, is to only introduce one if your child has expressed a fear of the dark, which usually doesn’t come up until kids are closer to three. Because we still want your child’s room to be dark dark dark, we don’t want to suggest that the dark might be scary, or accidentally teach your child that the dark is scary, and then offer a night light that’s not necessary. If your child has expressed a fear of the dark, however, you can absolutely use a night light. Pro tip: a red or orange light is best, as they will not interfere with your child’s sleep like a white or blue light.
If your toddler clock becomes your new best friend at bedtime or for those early mornings, don’t forget it when you travel! It’s one more piece of your child’s normal routine that will help keep sleep as “same” as possible while away.