Everything you need to know about Okay to Wake Clocks!
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What is it?
An okay to wake clock is one of the best tools you can use when it comes to helping your toddler sleep better at night! Toddlers have no ability to tell time, but an okay to wake clock can help them know when it’s time to wake up in the morning by changing colors!
(psssst…. While an okay to wake clock is a great tool, it’s not the ONLY tool that you should use to help your child get great sleep. I recommend also making sure that they are on an age-appropriate schedule. If you are not sure where to start with this, then download my free schedule guide HERE)
What age is it for?
I love introducing these clocks around 18 months. At this age your child is beginning to understand more about how routines work! They also can start anticipating when an event is going to happen! This makes it the perfect age to understand an Okay to Wake clock. When their clock turns a certain color, they know that mom or dad is about to walk through that door and wake them up! It’s also the perfect tool to use in preparation for transitioning out of the crib! If they are already used to waiting until their clock turns a certain color before they can get out of bed, then this can help that transition go so much more smoothly.
You CAN introduce an okay to wake clock earlier, however I don’t recommend introducing it until you feel like you are on a consistent time-based schedule. Often, I’ll have my client’s transition to a time-based schedule around 9 months. By nine months your child has likely dropped down to two naps a day, and those naps are a little more predictable in length. Their wake windows have also become a bit more flexible at this age! It’s an age where you may feel like you can implement a more consistent daily wake time because your bedtime is more consistent as well.
How do you use it?
Keep things simple
When you first introduce an okay to wake clock, I encourage you to keep things as simple as possible. Program your clock to turn red when it’s sleep time and green when it’s time to wake up! The idea behind using these colors Is very intentional! Red is the only color that will not inhibit melatonin production! Every other color will work against your child’s natural sleep drive. It’s the best color you can use for sleep time! Green is the color I like to use for waking up because you can use the phrase “green means GO!” As an easy way for your child to remember what the color means!
Verbally remind your child what the colors mean every time!
Every single time you put your child to bed and get your child up in the morning I want you to verbally remind them what their light means. When you put your child in bed you can say “Your light is red, that means it’s time to stay in bed!”. You can also repeat this phrase at any night wakes where you child may signal for you.
When you get your child up in the morning, point to the light and say “Your light is green! Green means GO! Let’s get up from bed!”. As your child becomes familiar with the process, AND as their language develops, leave off the end of the sentence for them to complete! For example, instead of saying “Your light is green! Green means go!” You might say: “Your light is _______ (pause to see if your child says the last word while you point at the light). Green means _____ (Again, pause for a few seconds to see if your child can finish the sentence)
It is important that you reinforce the light every morning! As soon as that light turns great you should be getting ready to walk into their room! We really want them to grasp the concept of cause and effect here!
In order for an okay to wake clock to work, we need to be consistent with it! If your child wakes up before their clock turns green then we are not going to get them out of bed. This can feel difficult if your child is having a hard time and it's only 5 more minutes before their clock turns green. I know it almost feels petty at this point, but I promise this consistency matters! Instead of getting them out of bed, you can go into their room and tell them that their clock will turn green soon, and you will get them out of bed when that happens.
Where can I get an okay to wake clock?
The good news is, if you already have the all too popular “Hatch” sound machine then you are in luck! You can program an Okay to Wake feature in the Hatch app!
If you don’t have a hatch, then don’t worry! I don’t have one either and I have found the BEST alternative. I use the echo glow! This is a light that you can program with your Alexa! What I love about this option is:
1.It’s inexpensive: Retail price: $29.99, and they run sales on it all the time!
2.It is easy to program: You can program it from the Alexa App!
3.It’s small: We don’t want a big, huge light in your child’s room for sleep! This one is about the size of a baseball!
4.It’s durable: This has been dropped by myself countless times and we have had no issues!
If you do use the Echo Glow, I would HIGHLY encourage you to turn off the “tap” feature. You can do this in the Alexa App! It will automatically come with this feature turned on, and it allows the light to be changed by tapping it. However it’s SO sensitive that if you breathe hard enough it will change colors – which your toddler will find very amusing very quickly.
Not a fan of Alexa systems? I’ve got a third option for you! LittleHippo Mella not only has an adorable name but is a very functional okay to wake clock. It also works as a white noise machine!
What else can I use this clock for?
After your child gets older and becomes more accustomed to the clock, you can add in more of the lights to mean different things! For example, our twin boys share a room. When they hit 3 years old they discovered that each other was quite good company! They also decided that the BEST time to talk was before falling asleep. As parents, we didn’t want them to stop their bonding, but we also didn’t want them to stay up until midnight talking every night (and subsequently be quite grumpy the next day!). We introduced a third color for them, which we still use to this day. For our house, yellow means that you need to be in bed, but you can talk! Once the light turns red there is no more talking.
I’ve seen other families use the yellow light first thing in the morning as an indicator that it’s okay to get out of bed and play in your room until the light turns green. It buys parents a bit of extra time in the morning to get breakfast ready!
Like I mentioned at the beginning, if your child is not on an age-appropriate schedule then I recommend starting there! You can download a free schedule guide HERE.
If you have any questions about this blog, leave them in the comments!