As many of our clients can attest, our team loves using a GRO Clock or ready-to-wake clock when working with toddlers. They are designed to help toddlers and preschoolers understand when it’s time to get out of bed – and when used correctly, will encourage your early riser to get some extra shuteye.

Here’s how they work; when your child goes to bed, you set the clock to ‘wake up’ at a certain time. When your child should be sleeping, the face of the clock will have a blue star on it. When it’s their ‘wake up’ time, the star turns into a yellow sun. It’s a great visual way to explain time to children.

Now, we’ve had some potential clients come to us and say that their clock ‘doesn’t work’ with their child. But after digging into it a bit more, they’ve made some honest, common mistakes. Below are our team’s top tips on how to successfully introduce your GRO Clock.

Before we get into it, it’s important to note there are many reasons why your child may be waking early and the GRO Clock isn’t a miracle worker. If you’re struggling and want some personalized support, our team would be happy to help.

1. Don’t introduce the clock too early

Your 12-month-old may be waking up at 5am but a GRO Clock isn’t going to fix that problem – we promise. We suggest introducing a clock no sooner than 2.5 years old – but 3 years old or older seems to really be the sweet spot.

Typically, over the age of three will better understand the ‘rules’ around the clock and how it will work. They’re also old enough to understand the concept of consequences and rewards.

2. Prep them

Toddlers do much better with change when they’ve been prepared for it. Tell them they will be getting a new, special clock and how it will work. You can even bring them with you to the store to buy it.

The GRO Clock comes with a little book you can read to your child about how their new, special clock works and gets them excited about it. We also suggest practising with the clock before officially using it. There is a demo mode on the clock, so have your child practise saying goodnight to the sun at bedtime and hello to the sun in the morning. You can have your child practise with a doll or snuggle buddy, too.

3. Slowly work towards a desired wake up time

If your child is waking at 5am, setting your GRO Clock for a 7am wake-up probably isn’t realistic right at the start – that 7am wake time will likely be something you need to work towards. We suggest starting at 6 am and then work in 20-minute increments, so your child has time to adjust. 6 am is a win! It may still not be ideal, but it’s progress– so celebrate it! Also, keep in mind, some children may always wake at 6:15am. Every child is different, and our children aren’t robots. The good news is the average time a child wakes is 7am.

4. Be consistent

If your child wakes up before the sun, ideally, they will go back to sleep, but if that doesn’t happen, make it clear to them that they need to stay in bed and wait, quietly. If your child wakes early, gets out of bed, and starts yelling for you – don’t go in their room and start the day. If you’d like, you can open their door and calmly explain that the sun is still sleeping and everyone else is too. This conversation needs to be short and sweet! Tell your child you will be back to get them when the sun comes up and then leave the room. We don’t suggest allowing your child to play quietly in their room until their wake-up time. This is so tempting to do, because it may give parents some extra time to rest in the morning but doing so may result in an even earlier wake up … and no one wants that.

5. Use rewards

While it would be nice if your child was motivated by the clock and your desire for them to stay in bed in the morning, we know that’s likely not going to be the case. Toddlers and preschoolers respond very positively to age-appropriate consequences and rewards. We promise you won’t be offering them rewards every morning, forever, but rewards are a great tool to use when establishing a new routine. When your child stays in bed until the sun comes up, celebrate that win and set up a reward system that works for your family. For example, maybe your child gets a special sticker in the morning if they stay in bed until the sun comes up and if they do that for the entire week, on the weekend they get to go to the dollar store and choose a surprise or go to that new indoor playground. Whatever you choose, just make sure the reward is specific to sleep – not the same one you used for potty training, for example.

If you’d like help introducing your GRO Clock or want someone to dig deeper into why your child is waking early, we’d love to connect. Click here to book a free 15-minute consultation with one of our certified Sleep Consultants. Throughout this blog post, we’ve referenced the GRO Clock, however, if you’re looking for alternatives, we also love the Onaroo Ok to Wake Alarm Clock and the VTech Sleep Training Soother.