She Says… One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Owen has been hitting a lot of milestones recently that I really didn’t think we’d be facing until closer to age 3. Potty training is the big one, but also asking really mature “Why?” questions and understanding nuances that I really though would go over his head until he was older and wiser. Recently as we played at a friend’s house, Owen became enamored with his friend’s “big boy bed” and began begging for one of his own.

I’m aware this is super cliche. But, waaaaaah!

I know it’s just about time. Heck, some people switch to the big boy bed by 18 months, and here we are at 2 1/2 still in a crib. But I LOVE the crib. OWEN loves the crib. It’s safe and it’s contained and he knows the “rules” and he sleeps like a champ. I haven’t wanted to rock the boat up until now, and I still don’t. I didn’t realize that I’d feel so emotionally about Owen and his crib, but I do. While Owen may be almost ready for this big switch, I think I’m the one who is not.

Anyway, my own my-baby-is-growing-up issues aside, not to mention I’m-scared-he’s-going-to-get-out-of-bed-all-the-time-and-we’ll-never-sleep-again, we’re working on taking baby steps towards this goal.

Step 1: Get the OK to Wake clock.

I’ve seen several different versions of this clock around the internet, and I think they are genius. Essentially it’s a clock that changes color at a certain time to let your kid know he/she can get out of bed, or wake up from nap, or make noise. Since they can’t tell time yet. My thought process was to institute the clock and lay the ground rules first (since he’s still in a crib, for instance, we’re working on being quiet until the clock turns green, then he can say “Mommy!” and I’ll come in and get him in the morning). I told myself that once he knew the rules, he’d be more likely to follow them (“you have to stay in your bed until the light turns green in the morning”) when he got his big boy bed.

Smart, right?

Well, it hasn’t exactly worked out as I planned. For some reason, introducing this clock has caused nothing but problems.

  1. The first night I told him the night light would stay on all night (because I thought it would), and the yellow light would turn to green when I would come get him in the morning. Except the night light part went out at some point during the night, and he woke up at 4am screaming because his room was too dark and the nightlight had disappeared. Sad.
  2. The next night I left his regular night light on, and figured out that even without the night light on, the light would turn green in the morning when he could wake up. So Owen was up at 5:30am crying, “The light is not green, Mommy. ::Sniff, sob:: It’s NOT GREEN!”. Prior to this, he was staying quiet in his room until 6:40am almost every morning. Harumph.
  3. We did a lot of talking during the daytime about what the clock would and would not do, and how I wasn’t going to come in his room until it turned green in the morning. The next night he was up at 5:00am again, this time wailing about his blanket falling off.
  4. Recently he’s been getting really confused by night time sleep and daytime sleep (he’ll wake up at naptime begging for a vitamin and his milk, which he gets in the morning, and then gets really upset when I tell him it’s the afternoon). We have only been using the clock at night time, since I usually have to wake him up from naptime, but he seems really confused by the different routine for night/nap. The clock does have a nap timer, so first order of business is figuring out how it works.

Now, here’s the deal. I don’t know for a fact that these issues are related to the clock. Owen is dealing with some extra congestion and is definitely fighting some sort of bug, so I get that he’s not feeling well. We seem to have solved the blanket issue by giving him a bigger comforter (he was using a tiny infant blanket that he loved and didn’t want to give up, but it was getting really really small). But still, this morning, more crying right before the clock turned green.

I want to just take the stupid clock away and go back to our blissful sleeping patterns. But I honestly don’t know if this is illness/teething-related, or truly a result of adding the clock. And, in theory, this clock thing could be a really useful tool as we think about getting a big boy bed.

Anyone else use one of these clocks? Did it cause disruption to the routine when you introduced it? Am I missing something about how to explain how it works to Owen? Is this even a useful thing for his big boy bed transition, or should I just scrap the clock and see if getting out of the big boy bed is even an issue?


22 responses to “She Says… One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

  1. This was really helpful, Kate. My 14 month old is obviously no where near ready for a big boy bed, but I’d heard about those clocks and assumed they were awesome. I’m so glad you shared your experience!

  2. We’re going to have to make the transition to a bed soon too, and I’m also terrified of what it might do to our sleep!
    You could try taking to clock away until Owen’s sleep is back on track and he’s 100% well then try reintroducing it and drying if out stol causes issues.

  3. Obviously every child is differnet, so i can’t say how Owen will behave. When my son was 23 months we took the side off his crib, converting it to a day bed. We dreaded this, thinking he would get up and pull all his books off his shelves and come in to us at all hours.

    Nope. He stays in his bed and calls to us! We were shocked, but thrilled. In the past week, he’s started getting up at various times of the night/morning, going to his door and unlatching it, but still keeping it mostly closed. And then he gets back into bed. Huh? We don’t understand this behaviour at all!

    Anyway, as much as I dreaded the bed transition, it hasn’t been too bad. However, I’m not quite mentally ready to transition him to a twin bed (even though we have one in his room already). That would mean admitting that he’s not a baby anymore. 🙂

  4. Im thinking he’s excited about the clock and thinking about it so when he wakes at 5am, instead of just laying there still tired and drifting back to sleep he is excited and gets up to check the clock and then is angry that it is not green yet! I would try without the clock in the big boy bed and if he does get out of bed too early etc. then maybe explain the clock again? Good luck!

  5. We transitioned Ethan to a “toddler bed” (took one side off his crib, put up a railing) right around 2 years, 4 months. This was mostly to get him ready for baby #2, who was arriving in four months and was going to be using his crib! I was also worried that he would get up all the time – but it never happened. He still waited for us to get him in the morning. And he was always really great in his crib about entertaining himself until a reasonable hour (6:30am was usually his max) and he did the same thing in his toddler bed. However, when we moved him into a twin bed a few months later, things did change a bit. He started waking up earlier, calling us earlier, etc. Still didn’t get out of bed, but also was unwilling to entertain/soothe himself. We also got one of those clocks – it had a sheep that was sleeping or a sheep that was awake, on his way to school (he really liked that sheep!) It worked sometimes, but sometimes he ignored it and called for us anyway. We never knew what caused him to abide by the sheep and what caused him to ignore it! And of course, now that he’s almost 4.5, he’s realized he can get out of bed and just come get us. I miss the old days….

  6. Can not stress enough the potential sleep disruption issues you can stave off by not moving out of the crib until you have to (because child is regularly climbing out, for example) – Wait until age 3 (even 3.25!)

  7. I think Anonymous said it best- he sounds like he is thinking about it and literally “watching the clock”. I would shelve it for a while. The getting out of bed problem may not even surface. It didn’t for me. In fact, the thought never even crossed my kid’s mind- I STILL have to get her in the mornings. (That said, we do have a baby gate at the door so she can’t go roaming around the house at midnight.)

    What type of bed are you getting him? We got our kiddo a full sized mattress (no box spring) and plopped it on her floor. Best thing ever. No worries about her falling out and she can jump on it to her heart’s content!

  8. All kids are different, of course, but we found the wake up clock to be alternately sort of ignored (as in not interesting, not as in willful ignoring) or great. And then all great. We got it for Miss A when she was about 2.5 because we were converting her crib to the toddler bed. We were worried about her wandering around the house and possibly hurting herself, so we also got one of the ‘child lock’ things that go over the inside door knob so small kid hands cannot open it but adults can pretty easily. (like this:

    Ours does stay yellow all night. We set it to turn yellow a half hour before what we were shooting for for bedtime. And then we’d say “oh, let’s look at your clock. It’s yellow. Time to be quiet in our voices and our bodies.” And then tooth brushing, storytime, etc. would ensue. She was a good sleeper if you could just get her to calm down and go to sleep, so the ‘quiet in the body’ part was very important.

    We started, at the same time, telling her to stay quietly in her room until the light turned green in the morning or if someone came and got her. However, it was easily six months, I think, before that really took. She never cried about it not turning green, but would definitely just go ahead and knock on her door for us to come get her whenever she wanted to be up. We didn’t make a big issue of it, just kept explaining that she should stay quiet (unless she needed to go potty!) until the light turns green and how nice it would be for her to let Mama sleep and so on. Eventually, though, she just got it. It was close to when she potty trained, at 3.

    We used the Big Girl Bed as a goal for potty training. One month of no accidents and she would get a Big Girl Bed. At the same time as that happened, we took the child door knob lock thing off her door and explained she could get up to go potty all by herself, but she had to go back to her room after until the light turned green and then she could knock and a parent would come. It worked out great by that time.

    So, I guess I’m a fan of starting with the clock before they are really developed enough to get it, because it just sets the ground work for them to grow into as they mature.

  9. Also, with regards to Big Boy Beds, may I suggest you get a full sized mattress that is latex or memory foam? I know they’re more expensive, but I think they will be better at not developing dips for one sized body that don’t fit as the body grows. Of course, Miss A is 4, so I have no data, but I think it will be better with her growing body and she’ll have a high quality mattress to take with her to college, or whatever she decides to do.

  10. Best laid plans…huh? We have a version of this clock that is orange all night until it turns green at the ripe ole time of 6:28 am (hey, that’s sleeping in over here). I will say that for us, overall, it has operated on a 3 out of 4 stars kinda level. We still have a sticker chart of every morning the boys (at 4 and 3 they share a room) wait until the clock is green to call for us. I’ve never had my children happily entertain themselves in bed. In part, because (and part of me regrets it), we’ve always had the crib/toddler bed/twin bed only be used for sleeping. No toys, books, etc. And our ceiling isn’t fun to look at, so when they wake up, it’s not like there is much to do besides call for some company! But when they do wait until it is green (or wake up after it has changed), they feel like rock stars and it just generally sets a good tone for the morning.
    In terms of advice, I am joining the others that are suggesting that Owen is waking and really bummed it isn’t green. It must be frustrating because not only did he wake up to a disappointment, but expecting a 2+ year old to sit there while he knowingly waits for what must seem like eons for it to change is hard. 😦 I think he *gets* it in terms of rules, but I don’t think he *understands* it in principle. (And do any of these kids know how much they are going to pine for a morning to sleep in in a few years???)
    I say, don’t pitch the clock, but what about trying the transition to a new sleep space when you are READY (toddler bed/twin, or like my 3 year old, a freakin’ mattress on the floor!), and maybe reintroduce if you do find it presents sleep issues. But yeah, keep it in your arsenal of tools.
    He will be undergoing a lot of transition over the next couple of months–developmentally as well as his family dynamic will change. My feeling, is keep things as consistent and predictable as you can. And if that means abandon the clock for a bit and let him sleep peacefully in a crib for a few more months–go for it!

  11. Waaah! I’m not ready for this either!
    I’m putting this one off as long as possible to avoid the sleep disruption issues!

  12. I ordered another version of this clock and it just arrived yesterday ( I’m excited to use it, but haven’t yet because for some reason he’s sleeping until 6:10-6:20 this week which, as you know, is a freaking success! I’m ready to whip that puppy out if he starts doing early again. I never thought it might excite him in that way, but it makes complete sense.

    He’s also still in a crib for all of the same reasons – he’s not trying to climb out of it, so I want him in there as long as I can get away with it! He never happily accepts that it’s time for me to leave the room and for him to go to sleep, so I know that if he wasn’t contained in there, he’d come running after me!

  13. Obviously everyone has VERY different experiences. You have to do what is best. Ditch the clock for now if you think it is hindering his sleeping. If after a couple of nights it’s not better, then then clock wasn’t the problem in the first place. Or if you really feel the clock will help, then he will get used to it. Promise!
    We have one a different version of the clock, but same idea, which we bought this fall because Emmy (3 1/2) was getting up a LOT a night and early in the morning. When we transitioned to a big girl bed when she was a little over 2 she would not get out of bed on her own. She would turn on her light and read for awhile, then call for us when she was ready to get up. It was awesome. She COULD get out by herself, but she wouldn’t, at least for about 9 months.
    (We transitioned b/c she spent a week away with grandparents where she refused to sleep in the pea pod, so slept in bed with grandmother and refused to go back to her usual routine at home. We tried the big bed, which wasn’t the problem, but we’d already made the switch so we stuck with it and a painful week, 2 days of crying it out and a slightly extended bedtime routine with a timer later all was right with the world).
    Then we moved out of state. And she she decided she would get up at night on her own. It settled down, but then we had periods where she would wake up a lot. We made the rule she could not get in the bed with us, she had to sleep on the floor, so that curbed it after awhile (we are heavy sleepers and sometime she would crawl in and we wouldn’t even notice). Finally we got the clock. It has helped some. She will come in and announce that her light has turned green (she does not like the bright night light part so we don’t use that) and is excited. Other mornings, she’s up before it’s green and will climb into bed with us. My husband leaves for physical training at 6 am so if it’s after he’s gone, I usually just let her get in bed with me so I can get at least 30 more minutes of sleep. We have moved (yes, again – Military life) and in our new house I think she hears Daddy more in the mornings.
    Now that she’s night potty trained, she typically has to wake up to use the bathroom at least once a night, and unfortunately she usually does come get us when she has to go potty. We are working on that. If it is later in the night, meaning super early in the morning, sometimes it’s harder to get her back to sleep.
    We are also expecting No. 2 and I want to get back to all night sleeping before that baby arrives in July or August. Then we’ll have the baby crying to wake us all up, yay! 🙂

  14. My oldest is seven and I had never seen that type of clock when she was getting us up at increasingly earlier times when she was two. I put a regular alarm clock in her room. I set it 5 (painful) minutes before she had been getting up. Then I slowly set it back to the time we wanted her to get up. That worked wonders–I think because she had that early success of staying in bed until it went off, even though it was super early.

  15. We transitioned our daughter (who is Owen’s age) when she was 26 months old. We expected the worst, and she did great. We made a photo book about her bed to help her with the transition, and she did great! She got out of bed the first night about 7 times right after we put her down (no big surprise, being able to get out is a novelty!), and then didn’t get out again! She slept through the night immediately, though there are some naptimes when she will get out of bed to get some books to read quietly in bed.

    Unrelated to her big girl bed, we just started using that clock last night since we had a sleep regression when her brother was born 5 weeks ago, and she started waking up throughout the night (two nights ago she woke up 10 times calling for us, when her brother only woke up once!). We’ve used it to tell her when we’re going to come back into her room — she can call for us during the night, but until her clock turns green she needs to stay in her room and we won’t come in to fix her blankets, rub her back, etc. It seemed to help last night and she was able to settle herself down each time she called for us within a couple minutes. She was so excited when her clock turned green this morning and she could come in to see us!

  16. Hi Kate!
    I got the Gro clock like Angie a while ago – maybe 6 months ago? It took a while but it’s really working for us now. It stays on all night as a blue star, and in the morning it becomes a yellow sun. It came with a little story book that you can read before bed too – it explains what the clock is and what you should do when the blue star is up… I told him at first – when you see the sun you can call me and I’ll come and get you. Well, he would wake up early and just yell “maman! soleil! (sun!)” even though the sun was not up yet… Like I said it took a while, but after repeating what was expected, and just giving it time, it ended up working! I know he waits for the sun because every morning on the dot he yells ”maman, soleil! (sun!)” at the exact time that I set it up… 🙂
    So I would say, regardless of what you do – once you decide what you want to do, give it time – it’s an adjustment and it’ll work out in the end I’m sure 🙂

    Mine’s still in his crib though, I am sooooo scared of him going in a big kid bed, not ready at all – I understand how you feel completely! Looking forward to reading about your adventures in transitioning to a big boy bed 🙂 (when you are all ready…;)

  17. Up until about a month ago, Amélie had been staying in her bed and really sleeping a solid 12 hours at night(8-8). She’s been sleeping in a twin size bed since she was 21 months and we never had a problem. She loves her big girl bed. But, recently she’s been getting up REALLY early. There were a few nights when she came to our room at 3am! That and getting up to feed a baby 2-3 times a night are not allowing me much rest. I wonder if there is some 2 1/2 year old sleep regression I don’t know about. Well, because of this early morning rising I’ve been considering one of those clocks. I’ll have to think about it some more now. Our friends recently decided to just use a plain old alarm clock with big numbers and told their daughter that when the clock read 7, she was allowed to get up and leave her room. They’ve had great success. Easy enough if they can read numbers. Just an idea.

  18. We’re going to make the switch to big girl bed in the next month or so – I’m excited to not heave Elle in to the crib every night, especially now that I’m pregnant, but I’m worried that her great sleep and the “safeness” of the crib are going to go out the window. I know we can’t avoid it forever, though … I bookmarked a post a few months ago and hope that some of the things that worked for this blogger will work for us, too:

  19. We changed E’s crib to a toddler day bed when he was just over 2. He was starting to try to climb out and that was enough for me. I didn’t want him to fall. I thought it was going to be a nightmare–had visions of him in and out of bed all night long. In the end, it’s been fine. Initially, he would call for us in the morning, not realizing he can get out. Eventually, he figured out that he can get himself out of bed but most mornings he will still call for us. My son is a very good night time sleeper though. He sleeps straight through from about 7:30pm-7am. He no longer naps so I suspect that is why he’s sleeping solidly through the night.

    Something that has eased my mind is that we have a permanent hinged baby gate (not one of the pressure ones) at the top of the stairs so E. can’t leave the top floor of our house. Usually, my husband or I are up but just in case, I have peace of mind that E. can’t go too far if he does wake up.

    Another thing we do which I suppose might be a no-no in some parents’ book is that E. starts the night in a big bed in his room. Either my husband or I, will lie down beside him to help him fall asleep (usually takes ~5-10 mins most nights because he’s exhausted) and then before we go to sleep we transfer him into his bed. My husband and I are okay with this method of getting him to go to bed. We figure he will only be little for a short time and being able to lie down beside him before he goes to sleep is a wonderful way to spend our evening with our little boy.

    I don’t know much about the clock business. When I saw them in the stores, I thought it might be useful in the future when E. is older and we are having issues with him waking up. It might be overcomplicating things right now for Owen?

  20. If Owen is excited about a big boy bed then I would recommend following his lead! AND if he is excited and wants it then using the “old” crib as a consequence for getting out of bed will work wonders. With both of our kids we left the crib up in their room so that if the bed thing didn’t stick we would have the option of going back to the crib, but also for threats:) You get out of bed, you go back in the crib. Simple as that. This of course wouldn’t quite work for a kid who didn’t want to go in a big bed, but we found it worked wonders for Maeve who was really so excited about her new bed. (With Esme, it was never even an issue as many others have stated–it never even occurred to her to get out!) Good luck!

  21. Hi, delurking to comment on this… I have 3 kids. My boys have never had problems getting up at night once a big boy bed was instituted. My daughter? We went through like well over a year of me getting a nightly visit and having to put her back to bed. Then one day, poof! The visits stopped and now I only see her in my room if she is sick. So my addition to the above comments would be — it varies by child and you can’t predict necessarily which ones will keep you up and which ones won’t, or how long it will go on. You just have to work through it, if it happens.

  22. Thank you all so much!!! Your comments are so, so helpful.

    – To those who have not yet tried the clock, don’t let my experience scare you! So many people use them successfully. I was a little surprised that it didn’t work out for us, but hey, we’ll try again in the future.

    – To those who shared suggestions and stories, I SO appreciate hearing what worked for you! I had never thought about leaving the crib and the bed in his room at the same time, and have waffled back and forth about using a toddler bed (our crib converts into one) as a stepping stone. Listening to all of your comments, though, I have a much better sense of what might work for our family. Thank you again!

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