Teaching toddlers not to cannonball onto your bed at 5:30 every morning is one of parenting’s greatest challenges. It’s made even more difficult by the fact that they’re naturally early risers and can’t read a damn clock ⏤ an unfortunate combination. And while there are plenty of tricks and techniques to getting kids to sleep later (routine is king), these best sleep-training clocks for toddlers can help by reinforcing good behaviors.
READ MORE: The Fatherly Guide to Sleep
What are sleep-training clocks? Well, most operate on the same premise as a traffic light and use warm colors as visual cues to tell a kid when to ‘go to bed’ or ‘get up.’ Whether the individual child wants to obey the lights is another story, but that’s the basic idea. When the light goes green in the morning, the child is free to move about the cabin ⏤ usually after a short play period reflected by a different color light. Many also feature playful graphics, either stars and suns or facial expressions with digital eyes that open and close based on the time of day, to help drive home the message. Others include actual digital clocks (with an alarm) for when the child gets older. A number of smarter clocks are controlled via smartphone app and can also be used as night lights, white noise machines, and even audio baby monitors.
Here are our favorite toddler sleep-training clocks based on aesthetics, budget, and bells and whistles.
Little Hippo’s Mella is an adorable sleep-training alarm clock with a smiling face and a happy disposition. In addition to glowing a pre-set bedtime color, Mella closes its little digital eyelids when it’s time to knock off for the night. Thirty minutes before the wake-up time, it turns yellow to indicate “play quietly” before an alarm goes off and the clock ⏤ now smiling broadly ⏤ glows green. It has a built-in sound machine with three settings (rain, white noise, and ocean), a nightlight with five colors, a countdown timer for naps and time-outs, and comes in one of four colors. It can also be paired with the company’s other device, a $25 nightlight and room thermometer/hygrometer named Kelvin that changes colors depending on whether the room temperature is too hot or too cold.
The Sleep Buddy is a comprehensive training system that eschews the whole alarm clock in favor a simple soft glowing light. Program the amber/blue dome to go on for naps and at bedtime (or just hit the button to override the schedule), and off when it’s okay to get out of bed. There are multiple brightness levels and a rechargeable internal battery that ensures it has power for an entire weekend, should it accidentally get unplugged or need to travel. It also includes a parenting guide, an illustrated children’s book to explain the process, and even a chart on which to tracks and rewards good sleeping patterns with stickers.
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Hatch Baby Rest Night Light
A follow-up to Hatch Baby’s Shark Tank-successful smart-scale changing table, the Bluetooth-enabled Rest is a nightlight, sound machine, and “time-to-rise” hybrid controlled by your smartphone. Like the Sleep Buddy, it skips the clock in favor of a simple light and uses whatever color you choose to let kids know when they can get up. It also offers preset light and sound themes to promote healthy circadian rhythms and melatonin production and can be customized with one of nine decorative covers.
REMI from Urban Hello is a fanciful French clock, Bluetooth-enabled baby monitor, and sleep coach for ages ‘just born’ up to 10-years-old. And like Mella, it also uses fun colors and smiley faces to win over skeptical toddlers. Parents simply set the child’s bedtime routine using the synced smartphone app (although there are actual buttons on the device too) including REMI’s facial expressions and whether it plays music as they nod off or wake up. In the morning, REMI’s eyes stay shut until the designated time, at which point it’ll flash your kid a big smile and they’ve got the green light to jump on your bed. REMI also features a two-way walkie-talkie, adjustable nightlight, white noise machine that plays lullabies or preprogrammed music, and acts as an infant-tracking sleep tracker.
Mirari OK to Wake! Alarm Clock
One of the most popular (and highly reviewed) kid clocks on Amazon (with a solid four stars on 3,313 customer reviews), the OK to Wake! is also one of the most affordable at $27. It’s based on the same premise as the others ⏤ green light and open eyes mean clear for takeoff ⏤ but it also includes a digital clock with snooze alarm, nap timer, fun faceplates to change its appearance, and a panel of parental buttons hidden in the back so kids can’t mess around. The Mirari also features a battery backup and plugs directly into a USB jack.
Popular in the UK, the Gro Clock uses illuminated images of the sun and stars to tell kids what the deal is. The stars come out at bedtime and slowly, one by one, disappear through the night until it glows orange and the sun rises. (Similarly, rays of sun disappear throughout the day until the stars come back out.) It offers both weekday and weekend programs, an optional digital clock with alarm, and like the Sleep Buddy, also comes with both a fun illustrated bedtime book entitled “Sleepy Farm.”