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This $30 Toddler Alarm Clock Gave Us Back Our Mornings

Pre-dawn playtime is no longer a thing.

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When my sweet, perfect little sleeper of a baby boy turned 3, he began waking up at god-awful hours of the morning, every morning, regardless of what time he went to sleep the night before. And once up, he demanded nearly all of my energy and attention. It didn’t take long for the effects to set in: I had a short fuse, I was always in a bad mood, and I looked rough. I was tired — like, really, really, really freaking tired. Something had to be done.

It was at this point that the Mirari OK to Wake clock entered my life, on a parent friend’s recommendation. A digital clock about the size of a grapefruit, the Mirari OK to Wake acts as a gatekeeper for my toddler’s wanderings by signaling to him, with a soft green light, when it’s time to get out of bed.

This brilliant little timepiece saved my sanity and helped my kid sleep through the night.

A battery-operated night-light and alarm clock, the Mirari is deceptively simple: I set a time — in our house, it’s 7:15 a.m. — for the clock to begin glowing. When my son wakes up, he looks to see if the clock is glowing yet, and if it’s not, he knows to go back to sleep or quietly play in his room until “green means go.” (The soft yellow night-light, which automatically turns off an hour after bedtime, helps reinforce the boundaries of sleep time.) That’s it, and yet this little clock has given me back my mornings and allowed us to establish a solid morning routine.

What I found to be most important here is to consistency. I gently enforce the new rule and keep the wake-up time consistent. Now, there is a learning curve for the child here, and you do have to train them to abide by this new element of their morning routine. In the case of my family, it took a few days, a few conversations, and lots of praise before our son started to really get it. Within a week it clicked.

And when it did, oh man, it was a beautiful thing.

Most of my mornings have become much more peaceful. I say “most” because, of course, it doesn’t work every single time. Things tend to go that way with kids. Some mornings he wakes up very early and crawls into bed with us; others, he has to poop before the light turns green. So, I wake up, do the duty, and then I’ll gently remind him that the light is not green yet, so he has more time to play quietly in his room.

Which brings me to another huge benefit of this little light-up clock: it promotes independent play for my child, something that we had been actively working to cultivate and encourage. Independent play isn’t just code for leaving parents alone:  it helps develop self-confidence, imagination, social independence, and emotional regulation for kids. (It also, yes, allows the grown-ups in the house to be more productive, fulfilled human beings.)

The OK to Wake Clock has won me back my mornings. After having it for nearly two years, I can say that for the vast majority of the time, I’ve woken up and walked into to my son’s bedroom to find him hanging out with his toys. He feels content in his own space, he is secure knowing the predictable sequences of his morning, and he is quite good at independent play. Dad feels pretty great about it, too.

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