I really like toddler clocks – and there are many to choose from on the market. It is a great visual cue that you can use to teach your little one to know when it is time to sleep and when it is time to wake up.

At what age can you start to use a toddler clock? I suggest around 2.5 – 3 years old. You can use it before then, but your little one might not fully grasp the idea right away. At any age, consistency is key.

So how do you use it? Well, unfortunately, you cannot just plug it in and “voila” they sleep until the alarm (wouldn’t that be nice?) Here are some tips to teach your child how to use the clock:

Give it as a gift:
When you get the clock, make a big deal about it and explain to them that this is going to help them understand when they need to sleep and when they can wake up. You can wrap it up and have them open it after their nap or first thing in the morning (this will give you enough time to set it up before bedtime).

Write up a simple list of sleep rules:
It is important to have a plan in mind before you give them the clock. Do you have a little one who gets out of bed way too early? Maybe her rule will be “Mama or Daddy will come and get you when the clock says it is time. You cannot get out of bed before that”. Decide what you will do if they do not follow the rules – what will you do if she gets out of bed before it is time? Write a simple list of the rules and consequences and then read them every day before naptime and bedtime. It might take a few days of being consistent in how you respond to her getting out of bed, but the morning she stays in bed until the clock says it is time, make a big deal of it. Tell her how proud you are and keep reminding her of the rules (they will test you from time to time)

Put it out of reach:
The rule in our house is “only adults can press the buttons” – why you ask? Because too many clients tell me about their kids learning to change the time or press the button to make the “sun come on” or “colour change” (depending on the clock). We make it fun though and once our little man is in bed, he gets to count and then say “wink” and we activate the clock.

Be consistent:
Yes, I say this in almost every post I write – but it really is one of the most important points. If you set the clock for a certain time, you need to stick to that wake up time as well. If your little one wakes before the clock, they can hang out until it is time to get up (that is the point of the clock). If you start going in to get them before the clock says it is time, it is YOU who is breaking the rules…and if you break the rules, then your little ones will think that they can too.