Use a Toddler Alarm Clock to Help Your Toddler Sleep Later
Latest update: September 17, 2018
Author: Heidi Holvoet, PhD
Does your toddler wake up too early? In those
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!
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
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
Alarm Clocks: my Top 3 recommendations
This is my personal Top 3 of options to arrange your early bird toddler
1. Your home-made toddler alarm clock
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.
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!
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.