Did you know that it’s possible to get your toddler to sleep in in the mornings by using an alarm clock?
You’re probably reading this thinking “How on earth am I going to get my toddler to read an alarm clock?”. Don’t worry; I won’t be springing flashcards and worksheets on you as a prerequisite to a quiet morning. What I use with my toddler is what is known as a toddler alarm clock or a sunrise clock.
This past summer my youngest decided to become an early bird and started waking up at 5:30 am. I also happened to be going through the first trimester of my third pregnancy. So my son and I developed a routine of lying on the couch watching morning cartoons and eating toast.
However, I wanted my mornings back, so I brought our toddler alarm clock ( a Gro Clock) out of storage.
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What is a Toddler Alarm Clock?
A toddler alarm clock is a clock that uses cues like lights and images rather than time to show a toddler when it is time to wake up. There are a ton of options for toddler alarm clocks. It looks like while the Gro Clock is by far the most popular option, in the States, the Ok To Wake Up Clock by Mirari is the go-to option. Like the Gro Clock, it features different colours for night and day to teach your toddler when to wake up.
What is a Gro Clock?
The Gro Clock is a super smart sunrise clock designed to teach toddlers when they can get up. Mine features two modes. The nighttime mode shows an image of stars and a blue light while the morning mode shows a sun image and a yellow screen. The idea is that you teach your toddler to stay in bed until the sun comes up each morning.
Tips for Sucess
Don’t start using the Gro Clock when your toddler is too young.
The Gro Clock website suggests starting to use the clock for toddlers 2 and up. However, I started using the clock with my daughter at around 18 months and with my son at about 17 months. I wouldn’t suggest starting much younger than that as your baby won’t understand the concept.
Explain the Clock to your toddler
If you purchase a Gro Clock, it will come with a storybook to help explain the clock to your toddler. However, by the time we were using the clock on our second child, the book had vanished, and I taught my son about the clock without its help. What we did do was practice saying hello to the stars every night before bed. Then in the morning, I made a point of saying hello to the sun on the clock.
Change your toddler’s wake up time slowly
While it is so tempting to put in a wake-up time of 7 am and call it a day that’s not how a toddler alarm clock works. Start by setting the alarm for your toddler’s earliest wake-up time. What you’re aiming for is for the clock to be in morning mode when they wake up. Then, once they are used to seeing the sun every morning (for us it took a few weeks) then start changing the wake-up time VERY slowly. Increase the time by 5 minutes at a time or at the most 10 minutes until you’ve reached a reasonable wake-up time.
While your toddler is learning about using a sunrise clock, it is so important to be consistent. Make sure you’re a few things.
Use this clock every single night. Make sure that at bedtime you and your toddler are watching the clock change to its nighttime mode. And, make sure you’re telling your toddler that you will see them when the sun comes up.
Your toddler may wake up before their scheduled wake up time. Always wait and see if your toddler is willing to play quietly in their crib before rushing into their room. I found that my son was about 50/50 for this. Some mornings I would hear him happily chatting away with his bunnies while on others he was screaming for me after 5 minutes (usually because he had pooped).
Some mornings you may have to go into your toddler’s room before their scheduled wake up time. When you do go into their room make sure you subtly manually change the clock to the morning mode. Then, before you get your toddler out of their crib comment on the clock. I would always make a point of pointing at the sun on the dial and saying something like “Look! The sun is up and that means you can get up. Good morning sun”.
Do you need to use a reward chart?
While the makers of the Gro Clock suggest using a sticker reward chart while your toddler is leaning I never have. I avoid reward charts like the plague, mostly because I always seem to run out of steam when using them. I’ve managed to get both of my children successfully waking up at a designated wake-up time without using a single reward chart. However, if your toddler loves sticker charts and is not catching on to the alarm clock concept, then it’s something you could try.
It’s been almost four months since I started using our Glo Clock with my toddler. He’s gone from a 5:30 wake up time to a 7 am wake up. I’ve even had a few mornings where I’ve forgotten to set his clock, and I’ve had to go it and get him at 7:15 because he’s just happily playing in his crib waiting for the sun to come up. Every morning I hear “sun, sun, sun” coming from his room when his clock changes to morning mode and we know it’s time to start the day.
My morning has changed too. Right now I’m writing this blog post in my now child-free morning time before my kids are up. Most mornings I’m able to have a shower without any children around and get things organized for the day. I’m expecting another baby in the Spring and with that, my morning routine will change again. However, as with my first two kids, my third is going to be trained with a Gro Clock as soon as possible.
If your mornings have been taken over by an early riser, then I suggest you try a toddler alarm clock too.