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Congratulations: You've made it through the baby phase, with its 3 a.m. feedings and unexpected wake-ups thanks to things like teething and night terrors. Your pediatrician has told you that your child should now be sleeping 11 to 14 hours each night, and you are so ready for a proper snooze.
But it can be hard to face the day when your toddler wakes up at 4 a.m. or 5 a.m. ready to party. The solution? One of these handy, kid-friendly clocks that can help them figure out when it's OK to come into your room, and when they should stay put and play with their stuffies—or maybe, just maybe, drift back to sleep.
If you do opt to experiment with one of these toddler alarm clocks, we suggest being realistic: If your child is waking up at 5 a.m., it's probably best not to shoot for 7 a.m. just yet. (Try for something like 6 a.m., and work your way forward.) Don't forget plenty of positive reinforcement when they do follow the plan.
Here, the best toddler alarm clocks on the market:
This squat, rounded device proves that a toddler alarm clock really can be all things to all families. It glows a soft yellow during the night (so it can replace a nightlight, if your child prefers one) and switches to green when it's time to get out of bed. As your child gets older, they can also use it to practice telling time, since the display has both an analog and digital clock, and if you tap one of the feet, the clock will announce the time.
Other helpful features include a nap timer, so you don't need to reprogram the clock back to your morning settings, and a hidden control panel that will deter younger children from futzing with buttons. It comes with a USB cord that can be plugged into any wall adapter, and also has the option for backup using two AA batteries.
When your child starts attempting to sleep in on school mornings (it will happen someday), the clock can also be used as a more traditional alarm with a snooze button. It also comes with three rings for the clock face (pink, yellow, and blue) that can be swapped out depending on your kid's preferences.
This affordable option has a clean, streamlined design and fun color scheme. The premise is simple: It glows red when it's bedtime, yellow when it's almost time to get up, and green when it's OK to leave the bed. Note that the actual digital clock is tucked away on the bottom side of the unit, so this isn't a tool to help your child learn to tell time, but that also makes it less distracting. It can be used as a nightlight as well, and there are three different brightness levels.
If you've gotten used to letting your child fall asleep with soothing sounds, the Dream & Shine can also play white noise, rainfall, or one of three lullabies, and there's a 20-minute auto-shutoff setting if you don't want it on all night. Finally, there's an optional alarm that can be programmed to play a cheerful song and flash a gentle light.
A nap timer can be especially helpful if your child is no longer sleeping during the afternoon, but you still enforce quiet, parent-free downtime in their room. The handy, mod-looking Mella clock, which emerged from a Kickstarter campaign, has a nap timer feature that can be set to make noise, or simply start glowing (there are five color choices) when nap time is over. It also has helpful features like sleep trainer setting for mornings, traditional alarm clock function, a built-in sound machine, and a nightlight.
What's especially fun is the playful expression on the clock's face: Red with closed eyes when it's time for sleeping, yellow with slightly open eyes when "playtime" is allowed (it starts 30 minutes before the official wake time), and green and wide-awake when it's OK to get up. The clock also comes with an extra-long (four foot) USB cord and has optional battery backup.
If your child sleeps best with white noise, you'll be happy to know that the Hatch Rest has 12 different options, including rainfall, clothes dryer, and wind. And all of them, as well as controls for the brightness, volume, color choice, and ok-to-wake time, can be controlled from your phone using the Hatch smartphone app. (No more worrying about sneaking in and waking a snoozing toddler!) The Hatch Rest can be set to glow in several different hues, and as your child gets older, he'll enjoy getting to choose their favorite.
The Hatch can be completely controlled from a smartphone, but there are also a few controls on the device itself—luckily it comes with a toddler lock that should deter curious kiddos from messing with it. Hatch also makes the pricier Rest Plus, which is compatible with Alexa and includes a built-in baby monitor.
If you're already part of the Amazon Alexa universe, it makes sense to get this useful device, which is billed as a kids' smart lamp but can be easily used as a sleep trainer, since you can set it to display a certain color at a specific time. To use it as a sleep-training light, simply say, "Alexa, set a wake-up light alarm for 7 a.m. with Emma's lamp."
Parents of preschoolers will also appreciate the "rainbow timer" mode, which allows you to set a timer with a certain color, and have it change after a certain interval—this can help your little one stay on task with things like getting dressed in the morning or brushing teeth at night. There are also fun elements for kids to enjoy as they get more tech savvy, such as the dance party option, which flashes lights to music chosen through Alexa, and different lighting modes such as campfire, siren, and color flow.
This adorable clock comes with two secret weapons against the early-morning wars: The beloved characters Elmo and Cookie Monster. And the traffic-light concept—red means stay put, yellow means almost, and green means go—will be familiar to any car-loving toddler (which, let's be real, is nearly all of them).
Once you no longer need the sleep trainer function, kids wanting a nightlight can still turn on the yellow light themselves by pressing a button. The clock comes with an AC adapter and battery backup, and weighs about 1.5 pounds, so if your toddler becomes hooked on it, you can easily toss it into your suitcase for travel.
This clock is the obvious choice for young toddlers, who do well with graphic, visual cues. There are two eye-catching displays: A yellow sun for daytime, and a large blue star during the evening. The large star is surrounded by smaller ones, and during the night they slowly disappear until it's almost time for the sun to return. Parents report that their kids get so excited to watch for the sun, that even when they need to make an early-morning bathroom trip they'll happily go back to bed to wait for it.
As your child gets older, you can also opt to display the time digitally, and the brightness setting has three different levels. The cord is two feet long, but the clock doesn't come with battery backup.
Durability As with anything that toddlers touch, choose an alarm clock made out of a durable plastic that can withstand everyday wear and tear.
Design Your toddler is much more apt to pay attention to their alarm clock if they think it’s cool and exciting. Choose one with a favorite character on it, or opt for an alarm clock with fun features like music or flashing lights.
Notification If your goal is to wake up a sleepy toddler at a certain time each day, get an alarm clock with loud noises. If your goal is to keep your toddler in bed until a reasonable hour, choose an alarm clock that clearly indicates when it’s time to sleep and when it’s time to get up.