Is your toddler interrupting your morning beauty sleep or confused about why Saturday is different? We considered multiple contenders for inclusion in our hands-on toddler clock testing before zeroing in on 4 popular options to use with real kids. A toddler clock can be the gear you are looking for. After much use and research, we've narrowed the field to the best choices and include a few words on the not so great competition. So whether you want a simple light changing game-changer or a mini entertainment system with storytelling capabilities, we've got you covered.
The Best Toddler Clocks
The My Tot Clock is the ultimate in toddler clock wizardry. With bells and whistles that are intuitive and function well, this option is a well-made, versatile clock that is fun for children. The components can withstand toddler play and it offers fun features like stories and music, as well as useful functionality like color change indicators for sleep, wake, nap, time out, and a nightlight and white noise. Our little testers love this clock and repeatedly chose it over the other options in our review. Even before they knew it could sing songs and tell stories, they were drawn to its big friendly face with fun peripheral designs and easy to carry chunky handle. The Tot Clock is relatively kid-proof with hidden buttons and a 5-second hold for activating exposed buttons. Older children will be able to remove the faceplate, and our 3-year-old tester had the color change buttons down in under 3 minutes and was able to use the top buttons without help, but it is more kid-proof than the competition. You can even purchase different faceplates or different story cartridges to personalize your clock.
The digital clock face is somewhat hard to see from all angles or at a distance, unlike the previous clock face with physical hands. It also has a limited volume range and setting it up can be challenging. However, we would still choose this clock over the competition and believe the My Tot Clock is a quality product that is kid-centric with thoughtful features.
The Mirari Ok to Wake is straight-forward and works as advertised with a price significantly lower than the My Tot Clock. This simple clock has very few features, but it does them well including a nightlight and color change alarm (from yellow to green) to indicate it's time to wake up (there is no audible alarm). It functions on 4 AA batteries only (no power adapter). Its simplicity appealed to our tot testers who were attracted to the blob design and the animated face that appears when you touch the right foot. Our testers grasped the color change quickly, and the light is bright enough to see even during a daytime nap. This clock has no traditional clock face and only has digital numbers for time-telling. While not a deal-breaker, it seems like a lost opportunity to familiarize kids with traditional clock faces and telling time. The setup for the Ok to Wake is fairly easy, but getting the nightlight to stay on while using the timer feature is challenging. This clock's buttons are concealed behind a cover that is very easy to remove (under 20 seconds for our 2-year-old tester), so we don't think it is very kid-proof and could lead to a need to regularly reset it.
Some reviewers report that the clocks are easy to break, have bad battery connections, and lose time. Our testing didn't reveal these problems, but it is easy to see that the quality of the clock isn't impressive. Overall, if you need a clock that changes color at a predetermined time, without the added expense of bells and whistles, then the OK to Wake is the potential solution for you.
The Mirari Teach Me Time clock can change colors at a set time and even has an audible alarm. This higher-priced choice includes a clock face to familiarize children with real clocks and interactive activities to help them learn how to tell time using clock hands. It has a "hidden" setup panel, child-centric design, and plugs in (something the Ok to Wake doesn't do). Our little testers were intrigued by the blob design, but toddlers as young as 2 quickly figured out how to open the access panel making it inherently not kid-proof.
While we think it is important to teach little ones how to tell time, this clock feels more like a gimmick than a real teaching tool. Our testers lose interest after a day or two and began skipping the time telling guess part and began only pressing the foot to hear the robotic voice say the time. Also, the clock is confusing and challenging to use. With non-intuitive buttons on the back and the visual indicators on the front, you can't make adjustments and look at what you are doing at the same time. Ours didn't come with a manual but even after we found it online and watched a video, we couldn't figure out how to set the audible alarm (a problem shared by other users). The Teach Me Time is a good idea, but it falls short in execution with a higher price for features you can't figure out and a time game children won't use for long. If you'd like a clock that changes color, we think the Ok to Wake is a better choice. If you want to teach your child how to tell time we think there are less expensive, more fun ways to do this than the Teach Me Time.
The Stoplight Alarm Clock is a cute clock at first blush with its large, easy to see lights and ceramic figures (a variety including cars, trains, and Sesame Steet characters). The buttons are easy to use, even without the manual, and we had it up and running in no time with little ones waiting with bated breath for the light to change. This clock is fairly budget-friendly, but for the price, we suspect parents will expect better quality or durability than they get.
While we concede this clock will work well for some smaller children when it is placed out of reach, it isn't very versatile and it could easily be broken. We were disappointed in the poor quality with visible glue strings and globs, and poor paint job that looks like a child did it. For parents hoping to teach children anything about actual time, this clock is also a no-go as it has a small, hard to read digital clock (no clock face) that cannot be seen at a distance or certain angles, which is where you need to place this clock so little ones can't break it. In short, while we think the stoplight is intriguing to children, our tiny testers quickly lost interest in this product and we worried it was only a matter of time until the ceramic figure fell off or got dropped. However, if all you care about is a good light change and you don't want to mess around with teaching time or confusing functions you won't use, then it could be a good stop-gap between getting up too early and getting a few extra zzzs. Though honestly, a light timer and a lamp can do this for you for a much lower price.
Why You Should Trust Us
Senior Review Editor, Wendy Schmitz, is a mother of 2 and a BabyGearLab team member for the last 5 years. Wendy has a background in product selection, scientific testing, and baby gear with involvement in almost every gear category reviewed on BabyGearLab. Wendy was involved in product testing and results analysis for the toddler clocks in this roundup and the previous version of this review.
We purchased each clock and used them for several months with toddlers of various ages. The clocks were assessed side-by-side both by parents and toddlers for ease of use, kid-proof features, quality, functionality, and entertainment value. We place an emphasis on child engagement and concept understanding, as the products are somewhat useless without your child's buy-in and comprehension.
Toddler Clock Buying Advice
If your toddler is at your bedside in the middle of the night or is ready to start the day far too early, you are definitely dealing with toddler sleep issues and potential sleep deprivation. We know, we've been there. For many parents, help comes in the form of a Toddler Clock.
What are Toddler Clocks?
Modern toddler clocks work primarily by changing color to alert little ones that the day has officially begun. Parents can set them to light up or change color (depending on the model) at a specific wake up time whether it is in the morning or for a nap. They are a great tool that can potentially help children learn about clocks and time via visual and auditory cues, and presents them with the opportunity to feel responsible for their own actions by respecting other's sleep time. This means that children can potentially be learning about numbers, clocks, and the passage of time in a natural and relevant manner. Though the learning process typically takes patience and repetition, most children will quickly understand the concept of red means no (stay in bed) and green means go (time to get up and start the day!).
Our Selection Process
Deciding which clocks to include in our review, we drew from our own experience using the My Tot Clock and hit the bricks with some online research to find other popular clocks. The market in this category is still relatively new, so there were only a handful of possibilities that offered a color change to indicate when it is time to sleep and when it is okay to get up. We also focused on aesthetics children will more likely enjoy and want to use.
We tested our selections side-by-side comparing features, functions, usability, and likeability for parents and children. We put these clocks through the wringer with kiddos from two- to six-years-old, and we discovered that in the world of clocks designed for toddlers, there is a big difference.
We tested the clocks over several months to determine how well they work, which functions were useful, and whether or not they could withstand regular day-to-day use. We used each product for several weeks paying attention to the children's engagement over time and whether or not they adapted to the color change idea.
The clocks were also compared to each other in the following objective metrics: features, set up (including instruction quality), design, performance, quality, and kid-proofing.
Features and Set Up
All of the clocks in the review have a time feature and at least one color change alarm that indicates when to rise and shine. We set up and used the clocks as instructed in their user manuals or online information, scrutinizing each on how easy they are to set and whether or not the interface buttons are intuitive. Some of the products come with instructions on the clock and others provide manuals with more detail on toggling through the buttons. The My Tot Clock is easy to set up and the Teach Me Time is the hardest with only a few buttons that each do multiple things depending on the number of times you press them or how long you hold them down. The instructions for Teach Me Time (online only) aren't much help, and we couldn't figure out how to set its audible alarm. The Ok to Wake and Stoplight Alarm Clock were in between the My Tot Clock and the Teach me Time in terms of the setup difficulty.
Once you sort out how to use them, some clocks have more features than a simple light color change to indicate when it is appropriate to get out of bed. The Teach Me Time has a teaching feature with a robotic sounding voice that encourages children to guess the time and the ability to press the foot to tell them once they've guessed. The My Tot Clock has the most features in the group including lullabies, stories, various light indicators, and white noise sound. Our little testers quickly sussed out the red timeout light that switches to green when a timeout is over. Some crafty youngsters even figured out how to make the color change before the time was truly up, indicating a potential kid-proofing problem depending on your child's age or interest. The My Tot Clock has the features we think you'll use the most and the color change that likely made you search for a clock in the first place, plus bells and whistles you probably never thought of.
Design and Performance
We consider overall design related to parental ease of use and attractiveness to children. In short order, it was clear which clocks children preferred, and which were mechanically functional and worked to modify a child's sleep behaviors. We had varying levels of success and the kids had varying levels of interest. While the Stoplight Clock was interesting to the testers at first, they lost interest when they weren't allowed to touch it and after a few days, they didn't give the clock much consideration beyond the change of color. My Tot Clock held the interest of children more than the others with features that children can utilize on their own and interact with. While the Mirari clocks are sort of fun at first, they couldn't stand up to the My Tot Clock either. The Ok to Wake doesn't do much, and the Teach Me Time is challenging to use without a parent and if little ones try to use it on their own, they would likely unplug it which could cause it to stop or require a reset.
With the exception of the My Tot Clock, the other clocks in the review are not the highest quality. In our experience and those of other users, the clocks materials don't inspire confidence in longevity and are highly likely to succumb to toddler manhandling. Also, the Stoplight Alarm Clock appears haphazardly put together with visible glue strings and paint that looks like it was applied by a toddler. The two Mirari clocks are manufactured better than the Stoplight with no clear structural problems, but they both look and feel like cheaper plastic. In fact, users claim significant challenges with the Mirari clocks no longer functioning or falling apart quickly and easily.
Most of the products attempt to kid-proof the buttons or features, but very few actually manage this feat. The Stoplight Clock has the least kid-proofing with front buttons that are easy to press and anyone can easily change the settings without trying. While we like that kids can adjust the night light feature by themselves, it isn't great that they can change the alarm and time from what you want. This clock is also fragile and can be easily broken if accidentally dropped. The Mirari clocks claim to have a "child-proof" "concealed" compartment for their buttons. However, the tot testers in our review popped the panel open in under 20 seconds without prompting, help, or prior knowledge of the location or functionality.
Only the My Tot Clock has quality kid-proofing with most of the buttons being concealed behind the faceplate. We suspect if parents only open the plate in private to make adjustments, that potentially children might never learn where the controls on this clock are located. The faceplates are not easy to remove and it isn't obvious that you can remove them. Alternatively, the top buttons are accessible and some tiny testers figured out how to use them.
In addition to the control panel problems on most of the clocks, only My Tot Clock is built in such a way that children can actually play with and hold the clocks. The Stoplight Clock is partially ceramic and the car can come loose if manhandled because only a little bit of glue keeps the car attached to the base. The Mirari clocks both appear somewhat fragile and we worried about use over time if children held or moved them too much. We suspect they wouldn't hold up to regular handling and are, therefore, not childproof.
Finding a great toddler clock can be the difference between a night of restful sleep and getting up at sunrise. While a toddler specific clock is not a necessity, it might feel like it if your little one has trouble figuring out when it is ok to wake up and explore, and when they should be going back to bed. We believe there is a clock in this lineup for most families no matter what your budget or goal, but we hope this kind of gear becomes more prevalent in the future with more kid-centric and higher-quality competitors.
— Wendy Schmitz & Juliet Spurrier, MD