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Sleep clocks for an early riser (update)

October 18, 2010

Update to 2/4/2010 post:

Do you have an early riser? Or a child that yells “get me!” at a way-too-early hour in the morning? Sleep clocks might be a good solution for you.  We were at our wits’ end when we had a newborn and our 2 year old son was getting up at 4:30 or 5am, ready to play. A sleep clock seemed the obvious answer, though it seemed absurd to buy a clock for a 2-year old. We quickly learned he didn’t need to tell time and that it wasn’t so ridiculous after all!


Digital clock:
One friend simply used a small digital clock as a sleep clock She covered up the minutes numbers with paper. Above the clock, she taped the number 7, so when her daughter saw that the number on the clock matched the 7 above it, she knew she was allowed to get up.  That worked for them when the daughter was 2-ish, way before it would have been possible for us.  We use the digital clock now for our son who is 4 years old. He knows not to get up or wake his sister before the clock says 6:00. We have gradually set the clock behind, so when he thinks it’s 6:00, it’s actually 6:43am, way later than I could have hoped.
Pros: you already probably own it, cheap, worth a shot before ordering one of the other options
Cons: your child needs to understand matching or know her numbers

“Sleep” clocks
There are several options.  Parents can set a time at which a picture changes or a light comes on or something happens indicating to the child that it’s appropriately morning. Most have some other features, like a song, changeable face plates or color schemes to match your décor and the ability to be an alarm clock or a night light or a game. These clocks tend to be pricey, but most of us would pay a pretty penny to give the family more sleep.
Pros: more sleep!
expensive for a child’s clock, some have too many “features”

Here are a few possibilities:


What it’s like: The Kidsleep product works by showing lighted pictures indicating when it is time to get up and when it isn’t. Based on the parent-set time, the clock will either show a sleeping animal or a wide-awake animal.
Jill’s review: We used the Kidsleep clock for a year and loved it. We convinced our son the day couldn’t start until the bunny got up (shhh!) and (with the initial help of some popsicle bribes) he knew not to ask to be removed from his crib until the sleeping bunny turned into the going-to-school bunny. Worth the money, though I think anything to get us more sleep would have been worth the money.
Karen’s review:
We have been using the travel Kidsleep (Globetrotter) for about a year too. It’s too complicated for me. I think I have set it correctly and then low and behold! my son comes into our room at 6 am saying the sheep is awake…and the sheep was definitely not supposed to be awake. It seems like some days it works, and others it doesn’t. Even my son got frustrated because the sheep would be awake when my son was going to sleep. My husband concurs: it’s too difficult to set properly and needs to be reset often.  I wonder if it has to do with the fact that the travel version (Globetrotter) runs strictly on batteries.
User reviews:
some said it had a cute theme and was easy to use although other users said it was cheaply made and that it was too difficult to set the times, particularly if you wanted to set the time more than once in a day (for nap time too, for instance). However, most parents tended to agree that the clock serves its purpose well.

Teach Me Time or OK to Wake, both from American Innovative
Cost: TMT is $39.95 and OK is $29.95
What TMT is like:
Teach Me Time! is bedside alarm clock that changes colors when it’s time to get up. It can be used as a grown-up alarm clock and the clock also has an interactive game to help teach children how to tell time. The interactive, talking time-teaching game is designed to help school-aged kids learn to tell time on both analog and digital clocks. The large, bright LCD display is capable of displaying the time in either format or both at once. The shape is fun and cartoon-ish and kids love to press the “toe” buttons to turn it off and on.  The voice volume (thank God!) is adjustable and so is the brightness and color changing option.
User Reviews: In general, this clock gets great reviews. I just ordered mine, so I’ll report back after I try it out. Some reviewers were frustrated that the numbers on the clock weren’t backlit so you couldn’t read the time at night. One has to press the “toes” to see the numbers illuminated.  Others couldn’t find a way to turn the nightlight off for kids who don’t use one (there is a way apparently). One parent’s five-year old son was able to fidget with the controls and change all the times so that the alarm went off in the middle of the night. However, parents do love the design and that it operates both on batteries and by plug-in.
What OK is like:
OK to Wake! glows green when it’s time to get out of bed.  It acts as a nightlight that can be turned on with a tap of the “toe”.  For older children it can be an alarm clock with snooze. It also has a nap timer.
User Reviews:
While a bit more expensive, parents preferred the Teach Me Time clock for its extra functions. There is no plug-in option with Ok to Wake and the time is not illuminated, so while kids can tell that it’s okay to get up, they can’t see what time it is. Some said the nightlight is not very bright. Neither Ok to Wake nor Teach me Time give a money back guarantee, which some of their competitors offer.


The Good Nite Lite
$45 with shipping
What it’s like: The Good Nite Lite combines a 6” traditional night light with a built-in timer that changes the visual display from moon to sun to tell kids when it’s time to wake up. This one seems the most basic of the bunch. I do like that it acts as a large nite lite. If I were buying another one, I would pick this one for its simplicity.
User reviews:
Some parents love it and a few didn’t like the moon face, nor did their kids. The moon face scared them and they weren’t able to use it. A couple parents were frustrated that it was plug-in only.


My Tot Clock
Cost: $60 with shipping
What it’s like:
My Tot Clock changes colors so the child can know when it’s time to sleep (blue light) or get out of bed (yellow light) or have a time out (red light!), and a green light encourages them when it is time to do a chore or task like brushing teeth.  (Sounds like a lot of color options to remember!) The clock can play white noise, a bedtime story and some songs. Of course, more songs and stories can be purchased separately.
User reviews:
In general, parents seem really happy with this clock. They say it’s easy to set the times. Most don’t use the storytime, time out and white noise functions. Those that did found the white noise not loud enough or wouldn’t work. Quite a few reported mechanical issues of some sort or other.  Parents liked that that the clock can be both plug-in and battery operated.


The BabyZoo Sleeptrainer
Cost: $34.99
What it’s like
: The BabyZoo Sleeptrainer has a cute little monkey named Momo that opens and closes its eyes. You can tell your child that as long as the monkey is sleeping, he/she should stay in bed as well. Babyzoo has digital and analogue clocks and a jungle alarm sound with adjustable volume (which can also be turned off/not used). A nightlight is also available that automatically shuts off in 30 seconds. At night, the child can press the nightlight button to see that Momo is still sleeping.
User reviews:
Parents said it’s easy for the child to know that he/she should be sleeping when Momo has his eyes closed and many reviewers were very happy to see their children sleeping later with the clock. Negatives comments include no plug in, and the night light uses up a lot of batteries, although using it is optional. One reviewer said her two-year old learned how to turn on and off the alarm and push the button to open the monkey’s eyes himself so that he could get out of bed/wake up. Another big complaint was that the alarm had to be reset every night. The ticking of the clock is also loud.

Make your own
One last idea, which I never tried, but which could save you $50:  buy a light timer at your hardware store (the kind people use so it looks like someone is home) for a small desk lamp or night light and set it for your wake-up time. Explain that when the light is lit, it’s okay to get up.

Posted by Jill, updated by Joy