If you aren't familiar with toddler clocks and you have a toddler (or preschooler), you need to stop everything you're doing and learn about them right now. Of all the things I've purchased for my kids, this is by far the best use of my money, hands down. (Unless you have a child that naturally sleeps until 7:00 am every day, then you don't need this. And I may just give you the stink eye a little. Sorry, not sorry.)
For those that don't know, a toddler clock uses colors to indicate when it is nighttime (aka time to stay in bed) and when it is morning (aka okay to wake up and come out of your room). These clocks (with training) help kids to learn to stay in their rooms at bedtime, during the night, and in those early morning hours.
I purchased my first toddler clock years ago and while I pretty much love it, there are a couple things I would change. Since I am in need of an additional toddler clock for my youngest, I decided to scour over my options and the reviews in case there is a clock that has everything I am looking for (and fits my budget). And then I figured, I might as well share my research with everyone else, because let's face it, this took a lot of time and if I can save even one parent from having to spend their precious time on this it will be worth it. So...this is my personal breakdown of the pros and cons of the most popular and most available toddler clocks (well, on amazon anyway).
I started looking at the least expensive options first. The ones that aren't toddler clocks but claim to work as one. I purchased this OUTWIT Alarm Clock for $14.99, hoping that even though it didn't have all the bells and whistles it would be good enough. Sadly, that wasn't the case. It was difficult to set up and I still haven't figured out how to pick a color light or how to set it for a wake up time. Most importantly, there is not an option to have 'light only' as the alarm so there will always be sound at the "ok to wake" time and if you're child is still sleeping, well... they won't be anymore.
Impression: This clock does NOT work as a toddler clock and is strictly just an alarm clock. Watch out for this and other versions of it claiming to work as a toddler clock, and read the description, reviews, and Q&A thoroughly before making a purchase. And keep your fingers crossed that I can return this without a problem. :)
The "Okay to Wake" Clock by Onaroo ($28.99) is a very popular toddler clock option and loved by many sleep consultants and parents. I have never been a huge fan of this clock but I found one on the marketplace and decided to try it since I could get it for 1/3 the original price.
Pros: It can run on battery but also comes with a USB cord (just need to get adapter to plug into wall). Light turns off during the night so it doesn't interfere with a dark sleep environment. Green light (ok to wake light color) only stays on for a short period of time to conserve battery life and you can adjust from 15 minutes up to 2 hours. It is strictly meant to be used for sleep (night and naps) and therefore keeps it fairly simple.
Cons: Not terribly user friendly; I've read the manual a few times and I'm still figuring out some of the settings. The controls are somewhat easy for kids to access. This clock has an "ok to play" light (yellow) that turns on 30 minutes prior to the ok to wake time. Apparently the length of time is adjustable down to 15 minutes but it cannot be turned off completely. Lastly, you cannot set different times for different days; you would need to reset the clock each day. This isn't a factor for me because we keep the same schedule every day of the week, but I know many families that set different times for the weekend and this would be an issue.
Impression: This clock is a nice option if you want a toddler clock but cannot afford the more expensive ones. I personally do not like the "ok to play" light as I don't need my kids knowing that it is "almost time to get up". (I want them to see the clock isn't green yet and go back to sleep - a girl can dream can't she!?) I'm also not happy with the complexity for setting it up and knowing that I will have to reset it every time I change the batteries sounds exhausting (better keep that manual handy).
Update: Apparently the yellow "ok to play" light can be turned off as it did not go on this morning for my daughter. I'm not sure if this is a fluke and the clock isn't working well, or if I unknowingly turned it off. Time will tell on this, but even if it is a setting that I still can't figure out, the clock just earned some points with me.
The Groclock ($39.99) is a toddler clock that I've heard fellow sleep consultants say they like so I decided to check it out. Since I haven't used it personally, my information is coming from reading reviews and looking at the Q&A on amazon.
Pros: The clock has the option to dim the blue light setting at night or turn it off completely. Kids really like the visual of the moon at night, the sun for the morning, and the stars around the clock disappearing and counting down until morning.
Cons: There is no option for the clock to run on batteries. It appears to not be very user friendly to set up and has to be set each day (meaning it doesn't automatically turn to blue in the evening when it's bedtime). Buttons are accessible to kids and easy for them to adjust settings.
Impression: This clock does not appeal to me personally either in appearance or functionality, and given it's limitations I think it is far too costly. However, many families seem to really like the design of the clock and reported being happy with it.
The Stoplight Sleep Enhancing Alarm Clock ($39.99) is another favorite amongst families due to it's design and the stoplight concept.
Pros: I thought that this clock included an "it's almost time to wake up" light since there is a yellow light (I've already explained why I don't care for that type of light), but that's not the case. The yellow light can be used as a night light (which I would actually call a negative because you don't want a bright yellow light for a night light) but it does not turn on prior to the green light as a warning. The design appeals to kids with the car and the stop light, and the concept is easy for kids to understand because many kids have already been introduced to the idea that red means stop and green means go.
Cons: This clock, while able to place batteries for a back up should the power turn off, cannot be run soley on batteries. Reviews report that the lights are very bright and there is no dimmer option.
Impression: For the price, the features and design of this clock do not appeal to me but if you like the look and the simplicity of it, and the brightness isn't a factor, it may be a nice option.
The LittleHippo Mella Ready to Rise ($49.99) toddler clock boasts a modern design, a light that turns on 30 minutes before wake time to signal it's "almost time to get up", 5 night light colors, 3 sleep sounds, and 3 alarm sounds (for when your child is older).
Pros: In addition to the description above, the light can be turned off during the night if you do not want a night light. There is battery option for back up. Kids like the different faces the clock makes to assist in learning when it's ok to get up.
Cons: Clock cannot run soley on batteries. The "almost time to get up" light cannot be turned off. The timer feature that you would use for naps is not just for naps so the clock stays lit up. There is not a dimmer option for the light; many report the light to be very bright.
Impression: I love the look of the clock and the different color options for the night light. I like that the night light can be turned off completely. I'm disappointed by the nap feature (or lack thereof), the fact that the "almost time to wake up" setting cannot be turned off, the lights can't be dimmed, and that it cannot run on batteries. For this price point, I am surprised by these limitations and therefore, this clock does not appeal to me.
The "My Tot Clock" ($49.99) has been the clock we've been using in our house for the last four years. Other than a bluetooth clock, this clock has the most features I've seen in a toddler clock. The clock has 5 color features for nap, bedtime, waketime, thinking time (time out), and fun time. It can play bedtime stories, lullabies, and white noise (although we've never used these features). The face plate hides the parental controls and can be changed to customize to your child's preference (purchased separately of course). The nightlight has a 5 level dimmer, the clock can be set for both week and weekend schedules, the controls are simple to use, and it has both digital and analog clocks. The clock can run on batteries which is a nice feature if you take the clock when you travel or to sleep over at Grandma's house, or if you need to have less cords in your child's room (well, because, toddlers).
Cons: The things I dislike the most about this clock are the design and the light color choices. The design isn't the worst but I think there are far cuter or more modern options. Now we all know that this is a "me problem" because none of my children are walking around questioning the design of their clock. :)
The light colors though are set and cannot be changed. This is really the ONLY reason why I was looking for a different clock, (well, this and the price) as the nighttime color is blue. While this makes sense (nighttime blue, daytime yellow), blue lights can interfere with sleep because it can disrupt melatonin production. Even on the dimmest setting, it's still brighter than I would prefer. However, my kids have NEVER had a problem sleeping with this clock despite the blue light.
Impression: I've always loved this clock but wondered if I should look for a clock that didn't have a blue light during the night, and is less expensive. What seems like a good idea with the first kid adds up when you're on kid and clock #3. Am I right!? With that being said, now that I've done more research on the available toddler clocks, I am realizing that the price may be spot on for the features that it provides.
The last clock I looked at is the Hatch Baby Rest Sound Machine ($68.99). This clock comes with a hefty price, but it might literally do everything and can be adjusted through an app on your phone (which means it can be adjusted without ever having to go into your child's room. Ah-MAZ-ING). Hatch combines nightlight, sound machine, and time-to-rise alert in one device; color, brightness, sound, and volume level can all be customized.
Pros: A ton of features. Nice, modern design. Easy to use via app on your phone.
Cons: Since it runs on bluetooth and not wifi, it may not work through the app if you are too far away from your child's room. Also, due to bluetooth technology, there is concern regarding possible exposure to electromagnetic frequencies.
Impression: This clock sounds amazing if you're not turned off by the price, however, I personally do not use any wifi or bluetooth devices in my kids' rooms due to concerns for eposure to emf's.
So what are my personal and professional recommendations? Here you go...
Make a DIY toddler clock by placing a timer on a lamp. You know, the timers you can get for your Christmas lights? Yep, it's simple, inexpensive, and gets the job done.
Or search 2nd hand options for the clocks listed below to get them at a cheaper price. I would be buying another "My Tot Clock" if I hadn't found the "Ok to Wake" clock 2nd hand.
"Okay to Wake" clock
My Tot Clock
Hatch Baby Rest (bluetooth)
Hope this helps you navigate the world of toddler clocks. Once you choose your clock, if you need support in training your child to obey the clock, I'm only a click away.