Use a Toddler Alarm Clock to Help Your Toddler Sleep Later

Author Name: Heidi Holvoet, PhD

Does your toddler wake up too early? In those early hours where you would give anything to get that extra half hour sleep? A toddler alarm clock or a simple timed night light works wonders!

Toddler Alarm by Kid'Sleep

It's a very typical toddler sleep problem - and often keeps lingering with older children. Your toddler wakes up in the morning and honestly doesn't know: is it time to wake up? or do I still need to sleep?

And most children have the get-up-and-go reflex: "I'm ready to start playing!!!".

These clocks help avoid that .

When your child wakes up early, we first always try to find out if there is a reason.

Being cold, a wet nappy or potty time, street noises, neighbors getting up early, ... many little things can consistently wake up your toddler in the early morning.

But if we can't find any possible reason, it's mostly a matter of getting used to sleeping longer, and knowing when the day can start.

It is quite normal for young children to wake up early - it is actually a good sign of getting enough sleep (going to bed later is not a solution by the way, it usually only results in less sleep, not in later mornings). But staying in bed quietly until your day starts is also an important aspect to learn. And you need a solution that does not require clock-reading from your little one.

That's when a special alarm clock comes to the rescue! For a real-life example, see this question by Raquel for example: My 13 month old has been waking up at 4AM for the day - HELP!

How to use your toddler alarm clock for longer nights

Your toddler may not be able to read the clock yet, but she can understand a light switching off and/or a different picture showing.

The Kid'Sleep as in the picture above is one excellent example of a toddler alarm clock - see below for my Top 3 toddler alarms .

How does it work?

  • You set the alarm to your chosen reasonable morning time .
  • At that time, by means of alarm, the lit picture will change: the sleeping bunny becomes a running bunny (or another fun event , depending on the model you will choose). If your child wakes up after that time, she'll know that the day can start.
  • Say your toddler always wakes up at 6.30am but you'd like to stretch the night until 7am. So you set the alarm to 6.45am for a few days, then on to 7am. Tell her that as soon as the picture changes, she's allowed to get up or call for you (whichever fits your situation best and what you've agreed upon). Not before that.

    It's OK to be awake earlier, but she should be nicely quiet until the clock switches, and not come out of bed.

    Important If the gap between usual wake time and what you want as morning time is a half hour or longer: it's best to work gradually. You then re-set the clock to later step by step, 10-15 minutes at a time, each time for a few days. See how it goes and don't hesitate to adjust back and forth for a bit to help keep it doable. That makes it easier on your little boy or girl, and allows their bodies to adjust properly. Don't expect too much in too little time or you'll loose the effect.

As with everything your toddler needs to learn, give yourselves enough preparation time (explain to your child what you expect), consistent practice (expect the same every single day, carefully reminding when necessary) and patience. Most toddlers very quickly get the idea. It's a technique that has given many (!) parents precious extra hours of early morning sleep ...

Praise your toddler when he does well, re-explain if it doesn't work. You can also work with a sticker reward chart to help encourage.

If it doesn't work at all, don't make too much of a fuss about it. Your child may be a tad young. Simply give it a rest for two weeks and then try again.

Toddler Alarm Clocks: my Top 3 recommendations

This is my personal Top 3 of options to arrange your early bird toddler sleep-in:

1. Your home-made toddler alarm clock

Timer to be used with night light

My first option because you may have one of these basic timers at hand. And if you also have a simple night light at home, you're all set with no extra cost!

Make sure you plug the timer, with the night light, where your toddler can see it from his bed.

Program the timer to switch off at your chosen morning time. The night light will be on all night - and when it switches off, your toddler knows she can get up to start the day.

2. Kids'Sleep

Kid'Sleep clock

The Kid'Sleep Classic toddler alarm clock is a super practical one, and great looking too. The pictures are cute and simple, exactly what you want for your toddler to understand and like.

There is a bunny version and a little lamb version: in both cases the little animal is asleep until your set time - and is up and running as soon as the alarm time is there.

Important plus : the switch from night time to day time is silent. So if your toddler is brilliantly sleeping later than your set time, he won't be woken by the clock.

A minus : setting the wake up time is not super easy, it could have been made more user-friendly. But after a few tries, all parents manage and after that it's fine.

3. OK to Wake!

OK to wake alarm clock for children

The OK to Wake! toddler alarm clock does not change pictures but starts glowing green at your chosen time.

It is a simple, but still lovely design, easy to use and it works well.

A nice extra feature is that you can separately set the clock for naps - without needing to change the morning alarm time.

Article Author: Heidi Holvoet, PhD - Founder, senior sleep consultant

Heidi Holvoet, PhD

Heidi Holvoet, PhD, is the founder of the Baby Sleep Advice website and movement, an award-winning author, baby & toddler sleep consultant with 15+ years experience as well as a certified lactation counselor.

Over the years, Heidi has received several awards inluding a Mom's Choice Award (MCA) and National Parenting Awards (NAPPA) for her Baby Sleep Advice website, programs and books. Also, Baby Sleep Advice was awarded "Most Trusted Infant's Sleep Solutions Company 2023" in the Benelux Enterprise Awards 2023.

Heidi continually conducts personal research and participates in continued education and in that way stays up to date with current scientific and pyschosocial infant care.

Association of Professional Sleep Consultants

She is also a member of the Association of Professional Sleep Consultants of which she was one of the earliest contributors. She obtained her PhD degree in physics at the University of Ghent in Belgium.

Heidi is passionate about helping babies and their parents sleep more and better, with her trademark approach that has been proven and praised time and again by parents worldwide to be effective and truly no-tears. Respect for you as a parent and your baby, is at the heart of Heidi's warm and kind support. Her approach always keeps in mind a baby's needs and abilities at any given age, is based on pediatric science and the most up to date knowledge in infant care and sleep science.

As well as the award-winning baby sleep programs, Heidi offers popular 1:1 consults and easy-access 30-minute SOS Sleep sessions.