Best Toddler Clock of 2020
The My Tot Clock is the ultimate in toddler clock coolness. With bells and whistles that are intuitive and function well, this clock is a well-made, versatile option that is fun for toddlers. The components can withstand rough toddler play, and it has fun features like stories and music. It also includes useful functions like color change indicators for sleep, wake, nap, time out, a nightlight, and white noise. Our little testers love this clock and repeatedly chose it over the competition in our review. Even before they knew it could sing songs and tell stories, they fell for its friendly face with fun peripheral graphics and easy to carry toddler-sized handle. The Tot Clock is relatively kid-proof with hidden buttons and a 5-second hold for activating exposed buttons. Older children will find the removable faceplate, and our 3-year-old tester figured out the color change buttons in under 3 minutes and was able to use the top buttons without assistance. Still, it is more kid-proof than the competition. You can also purchase a variety of faceplates and story cartridges to customize your clock.
The digital clock face on the Tot Clock can be challenging to see from every angle or at a distance, unlike the older clock face with physical hands that we liked better. It also has a limited volume range, and setting it up can be challenging. However, we would choose this clock over the competition and believe the My Tot Clock is a quality product that is kid-centric with thoughtful features that can get the job done with ease.
The Hatch Rest is an app-controlled light-up clock for toddlers and children that you can set and monitor from your phone at a distance. We like that parents can set multiple alarms and make adjustments remotely should plans change or new limitations need to be set. The sleek design is calming and will look good in almost any location, and the clock is relatively kid-friendly, resisting breakage unless dropped or thrown. Parents can use this clock as a nightlight, light changing clock to indicate when it is time to get up, and a noisemaker to soothe little ones or cut down on other ambient noises. It also can be used past the toddler years, unlike the competition, and many adults enjoy the clock more than kids.
This clock doesn't have kid-centric features and is limited only to a color change, nightlight, and sound machine. While these are all the features you need to teach your child when is the right time to rise and shine, we worry younger children will lose interest in the design that isn't playful or interactive. Overall, this straightforward clock is perfect for tech-savvy parents who want to control the clock remotely and rely on other products to entertain little ones.
The Big Red Rooster Alarm Clock is a cute dog-shaped alarm clock with a glowing ball that changes color for sleep (red) and time to wake (green). This adorable and simple clock is kid-friendly, easy to hold, and has a battery for cord-free operation. Parents can set two alarms and a nap timer to help little people learn when is a good time to rise.
While this clock is pleasing to the eye and little ones will want to hold it, we worry the "hidden" parent compartment isn't childproof and will result in random button-pushing. The user interface isn't user-friendly, and we think a more straightforward design would help this clock significantly in the long run. While most parents will be able to figure it out, we worry you'll need to keep instructions on hand as a reminder or after a long period of unuse. Despite these control issues, we think this straightforward clock does what it should do and will appeal to little ones enough to help them learn when it is okay to get out of bed.
The Mirari Ok to Wake works as advertised with a price significantly lower than some of the competition. This simple clock has limited 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). 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 only has digital numbers. While not a deal-breaker, it seems like a lost opportunity to familiarize kids with regular clock faces and telling time. The setup for the Ok to Wake is relatively straightforward, but getting the nightlight to stay on while using the timer 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 it isn't kid-proof and could result in regular resetting. It functions on 4 AA batteries with no ac adapter, which means you'll need to invest in batteries. Also, the clock breaks fairly easily, have hit or miss battery connections, and lose time. We didn't have significant problems during testing, but it is something to consider. Overtime (a year or so), some children lost interest in the clock. 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 two 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 lost 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 believe 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 relatively 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 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 the 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 boys and a BabyGearLab team member for the last six years. Wendy has a background in product selection, scientific testing, and baby gear with involvement in almost every equipment category on BabyGearLab. Wendy was involved in product selection, testing, and results analysis for the toddler clocks in this roundup and all previous versions 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 by parents and toddlers for ease of use, kid-proof features, quality, functionality, and entertainment value. We emphasize 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 training 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 actions by respecting other's sleep time. This design 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 choices. The market in this category is expanding and is far greater than it was only a few years ago when we wrote our first toddler clock review. We focus on aesthetics children will 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 eight-years-old, and we discovered that in the world of clocks designed for toddlers, there is a vast difference in likability and usability.
We tested the clocks over several months (some for years) to determine how well they work, which functions were useful, and whether or not they could withstand regular day-to-day child use. We used each product for several weeks paying attention to the child's engagement over time and whether or not they adapted to the color change idea.
We compared the clocks to one another for features, set up (including instruction quality), design, performance, quality, and childproofing.
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 for setup difficulty. The Hatch Rest app arguably is the easiest with intuitive icons for adjustments and simple, straightforward design most parents will feel is familiar. The Big Red Rooster has buttons similar to the Ok to Wake and Teach Me Time, and we think it could be vastly improved with a more user-friendly interface.
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 indeed 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. The Hatch Rest has a few features directed by parents like a noise machine with sounds and lullabies and the ability to work as a nightlight, but there are no kid-centric features that allow kids to interact with the clock itself.
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 different levels of interest. While the Stoplight Clock was attractive 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. The Hatch Rest is a lovely nursery addition that is bright enough to keep children engaged with the color change and to use it as a nightlight. The Big Red Rooster is super cute, and kids can hold it, but if the open the setting panel, all could be lost, and it doesn't do anything but change color.
Except for the My Tot Clock and the Hatch Rest, 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 rough toddler handling. The Big Red Rooster is probable the third most durable, but it is still hard plastic that could easily break if dropped or thrown by a toddler during a tantrum. The Stoplight Alarm Clock appears haphazardly put together with visible glue strings and paint that looks like a toddler applied it. The two Mirari clocks are manufactured better than the Stoplight with no obvious 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 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 nightlight 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 "childproof" "concealed" compartment for their buttons (as does the Big Red Rooster). However, the tot testers in our review popped the panels open in under 20 seconds without prompting, help, or prior knowledge of the location or functionality. The Hatch is probably the second most kid-proof clock in the review as it is relatively sturdy in construction, and most kids won't be interested in holding or playing with it.
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 children could potentially never learn where the controls are on this clock. 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.
Only the My Tot Clock is built for children actually to play with and hold the clock. The Stoplight Clock is partially ceramic, and the car can come loose if mishandled because only a little bit of glue keeps the car connected to the base. The Mirari clocks and the Big Red Rooster all appear somewhat fragile, and we worry about use over time if children hold or move them too much. We suspect they wouldn't hold up to regular handling and are, therefore, not childproof.
Finding a useful toddler/sleep training clock can be the difference between a restful night's sleep and rising with the sun. While a toddler specific sleep training clock is not a necessity, it might feel like it if your little one has difficulty determining when it is ok to wake up and explore, and when they should go back to bed. We feel there is a clock in this lineup for most families no matter what your budget size or need, and we are excited to see new options on the market that are higher quality and more interesting than the clocks we've seen in the past.
— Wendy Schmitz & Juliet Spurrier, MD