How to introduce a Toddler Clock
Are you blurry eyed due to your darling child wanting to start the day at 5:30 am like mine used to do? He was so HAPPY about it but I sure wasn’t. I would mutter under my breath, “F me, Max it can’t be 6 am yet. Why the bleep are you out of your bed?” Not the best way to greet your child, I know. It took a while. I adjusted his bedtime and got him to bed a half hour earlier and two or so weeks later, his body finally adjusted and we were back to 6 am or later. For more early waking advice, see my blog posts about Early Wakings and Are You Praying for the Elusive 7am?
Over the past 10 years, his wakeup time has fluctuated between 6 and 7. On growth spurt days, he would sleep in until 7:30 or 8:00 am. Oh, how I loved those mornings when he was a baby. I have to say though, that he is my early riser of my two children. I have not been filling out sleep logs for 10 years, but I am pretty confident that he has been closer to 6 than 7 most days. I can live with that and I actually prefer it now that he is in school. He wakes up well rested and we are not rushing in the mornings like many other parents are. From time to time, he still wakes up before 6 am. It is going to happen.
A Toddler Clock is a useful and FUN tool for your early riser.
All kids love it when you give them a clock! They feel all grown up. My hope is that the toddler clock actually becomes irrelevant most mornings. “What Pam? You want me to have a toddler clock but then my kid not use it? Huh?”
My goal is that your little one gets excited to say goodnight to the toddler clock every night at bedtime and that they sleep through the night. The first time they notice it again, is in the morning when they wake up naturally – on their own – and the clock already says it’s appropriate to get up and start the day. I want this to be true at least 95% of the time. The other 5% of the time or less, if they wake up in the night they can glance at their clock and then relax in their cribs or their beds feeling safe and secure with their loveys, and go back into sleep until morning (see The Lovey – Use a Transitional Object to learn about the all important lovey). If they wake up at say 5:30 am – instead of yelling, calling or crying – you can teach them to snuggle up with their lovey and try to go back to sleep until the clock says it is time to get up. In the case of early morning wake ups, they may not go back to sleep, and that’s okay. Relaxing and snuggling with their lovey is still good.
Tip #1 – Have some FUN and Roleplay!
To help your child understand how their toddler clock works and what you will be expecting of them, explain it all during the DAYTIME. I have instructed clients to do FUN role play with their kids. You can use stuffed animals or puppets so that they can understand when it is time to sleep and when it is time to wake up. Lose your inhibitions and have fun on a weekend afternoon when you have the time available. Trying to introduce the clock at bed time for the first time, or even worse in the night, is never a good idea.
Tip #2 – Set them up for Success
I also recommend that you make it EASY for your child to be successful in the beginning. So, for example, if they are currently rising at 5:30 am and you want them to be quiet (preferably sleeping) until 6 am, then set the clock for 5:35 am and keep inching ahead slowly to 6 am. This will save you all a lot of heartache, tears and meltdowns in the morning. You do not want your little person to get discouraged.
Tip #3 – Consistency All.The.Time.
The clock strategy will NEVER work if you let them get up BEFORE the clock says it is appropriate to do so. If and when your child wakes in the night or in the early morning, go to them and remind them it is still sleepy time and reference the clock. Over time with practice, consistency and continued education, they will begin to understand.
There are lots of great Toddler Clock on the market. Our fave is the Gro Clock, and I wrote more about it when we gave one way HERE. It has a built in nightlight and you control the brightness – or turn the light right off. It has a function for Bedtime and another for Naptime or Quiet Time. If you want to get your hands on one, check it out below.
And if you don’t have the budget for a shiny new clock, I have recommended that clients find an old digital alarm clock and put tape over the last two digits. Then, you can teach your child that they need to wait for the number 6 or the number 7 to get out of their bed.
We hope you have a BLAST teaching your little one how to use their new big kid Toddler Clock!