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It’s no surprise that children like to keep parents on their toes! Just when you thought all of your sleep issues were sorted out, your toddler starts waking up early. When they are in their “big” kid bed, they no longer have the confinement of the crib. What should you do to keep them from appearing at your bedside during the wee hours of the morning? Luckily, our sleep consultants have had personal experiences with this very issue with our own toddlers.
What’s helped many of us?? ….Toddler clocks. What’s that, you ask? These cute little clocks are very effective in helping to teach children to stay in their beds/room until the clock hits a certain time, or turns a certain color.
There are several versions of toddler clocks on the market. Bonnie, a veteran sleep consultant, says, “We use the ‘Teach Me Time’ clock and it’s awesome. My daughter waits for it to turn green and then she’s free to go. She loves it.”
Jessa, another one of our expert consultants, says, “We use the ‘Ok To Wake’ clock, it’s great! My son (who is almost 3) always waits for his “green light” to turn on before he starts the day! We’ve turned it into a game and he’s proud to say he woke up before or after his “green light” comes on. He really likes it because it makes faces if you push some of the buttons, so anytime we travel it’s one of the first things he packs!”
The OK to Wake and Teach Me Time clocks are very similar, however the OK to Wake clock has a nap button which has come in very handy with my own son while we are currently in the midst of transitioning from nap time to rest time. He is almost 4 and I am able to set the clock for a 1 hour countdown and he knows that rest time is over once his light turns green.
Alternatively, other families have great success using a “regular” digital clock as a toddler clock simply by covering up the minutes so when the clock turns a certain number (i.e. 7), their child knows it’s time to wake up. What can I say? I’m full of tips. 😉
So when is a good time to start using a toddler clock? Our recommendation is to start between 2.5-3 years old to be sure that your toddler is developmentally able to grasp the concept. You will want to be sure that you include your child in the process and that they are able to fully understand the new expectation. Once you have decided that the toddler clock method is for you, there are a number of things that you can do to make the outcome more positive.
Here are 5 Tips for Using a Toddler Clock, so that you can put an end to your toddler’s early rising once and for all:
1. Get your toddler to buy into it: Buy your clock and set it up together! Make your child a part of setting it up. The more they are involved, the more they will likely be excited to use their new clock.
2. Talk it over: Talk it over a few days before you begin using the clock. Once you begin using your clock, explain the rules and review before bedtime and/or nap time. Make a game out of it and role play what it looks like to wake up when the light is on versus when its off.
3. Positive Reinforcement: Introduce some form of positive reinforcement; verbal praise, sticker charts, marble jar, etc.
4. Review and repeat: Review the rules and practice, practice, practice.
5. Don’t give up: Stay consistent, patient and committed!
Like with most things, children learn by repetition. The same goes for using a toddler clock. It may take some time, but with consistency and repetition, your child will start to understand the concept. I have found that with my son, I had to find his “currency,” so to speak. What motivates him is earning a reward, so I had to really up the ante when it came to using positive reinforcement with his toddler clock.
Toddler clocks are great because they take YOU out of the equation. This is especially helpful when you have a strong-willed child (like I do!). You can blame the clock for it not being time to wake up. This is one of the first steps in teaching your child self control and it helps to lay the foundation for teaching your child how to take responsibility for their choices. By choosing to stay in their room/bed until the clock says to get up, they will start to feel empowered!
If you are finding that you are struggling with your toddler’s early rising, you should consider giving a toddler clock a try!