The most common complaint amongst parents almost always revolves around sleep. Whether it's a toddler who gets up too early or a tweenager who gets up too late, there's no end of sleep related issues to keep parents perpetually exhausted. If you're a parent who is at their wit's end because your 9-year-old wakes up before the sun (hello, me) or your 7-year-old never wakes up in time for school (also me), you may be wondering if an alarm clock designed just for kids could be the answer to your problems. Is it possible that there's a magical clock that would be effective at keeping an early bird in bed, while also serving up enough noise to wake a sleeping beauty?
I tested seven popular alarm clocks for kids to see if there really is an alarm clock that could work for early risers and sleepy heads alike. After weeks of early mornings—as well as a dreaded time change—we found that the LittleHippo Mella(available at Amazon) is just what we needed. With its cute design that appealed to both of my kids, built-in white noise machine, and its ability to function as both an alarm clock and an OK to wake clock, the LittleHippo Mella can help with a variety of sleep issues.
Here are the best alarm clocks for kids that we tested ranked, in order:
PlayMonster Teach Me Time!
Capello Cloud Clock
Good Nite Light
For an alarm clock that really can do it all, you can't beat the LittleHippo Mella. This is the clock that can take you from the toddler years through the big kid years and will likely only be retired once your teenager deems it no longer cool. Both of my kids loved the look of this alarm clock—specifically the cute face that shows on the digital display—and every kid who came over for a playdate was intrigued by it, too. While that may not sound like a big deal, if you want your kids to use an alarm clock, you're going to need their buy-in, and—as we discovered with some of the other models we tested—they were far less inclined to put the clock in their room if they didn't like the way it looked.
Aside from its cuteness quotient, the Mella has a lot going for it. It works as both an "OK to wake clock" as well as a traditional alarm clock, it has a built-in night light and white noise machine, and it was simple to set and easy to snooze. While it can be tempting to buy a kids' clock that serves just one purpose—either to help them wake up or keep them in bed, depending on the sleep issue you're facing—having a multi-functional clock like the Mella is far more practical in the long run. As proven by my two kids, you can have a kid who gets up with the sun and one who would sleep the day away, and the Mella can serve both of their needs.
One of the biggest reasons the Mella took the top spot is because it is the only alarm clock we tested that was consistently loud enough to wake kids out of a deep slumber. While some of the other models worked from time to time, the Mella worked every time. It didn't seem to be significantly louder than the other alarms, but something about the tone of the Mella's alarm made it the best choice for waking kids up and getting them out of bed in time for an early school drop off.
Another feature that I really appreciated about the Mella is the built-in white noise machine that can be easily activated with the push of a button. The sound is a classic white noise—almost identical to that put out by the Marpac Dohm white noise machines we've been using for years—which makes the Mella a great option if you're looking to minimize gadgets in your child's room.
The one thing the LittleHippo Mella is lacking, however, is the ability to set an alarm schedule. Once you set the alarm, it's active until you manually turn it off, which means that we had a number of weekend mornings where my 7-year-old woke up before she had to because I forgot to disable the alarm. That being said, it's incredibly easy to turn off with a quick push of the "alarm" button, you just have to remember to do it on a set schedule.
Hi, I'm Anna Lane. I was a comedian and freelance comedy writer for many years before joining the staff at Reviewed as the Parenting editor. I live in Los Angeles with my husband and our two children: a son who is 9, and a daughter who is 7. Yes, they are 18 months apart, and no, it was not planned that way. My reviews are informed by my life as a working mom who wishes she had the ability to be in two places at once. I enjoy helping other overwhelmed, exhausted parents find the answers to such burning parenting questions as: What Nerf gun should I buy?, Which matching family pajamas are softest?, and Why does my child always tell me about the class bake sale the night before? I fear that I will never find the answer to that last query, but I do suggest that you stock up on my favorite organic cake mix.
When we decided to test alarm clocks for kids, I figured that I would be the perfect person to take on the assignment because I have two kids with completely opposite sleep issues. My son is an early bird who often gets up before 6 am (and subsequently wakes us up), whereas my daughter has a hard time getting up in time for school. With the goal of keeping one kid in his bed until 7 am and getting the other one out of her bed at 7 am, I tested seven popular alarm clocks for kids to see which one was most effective at being both an OK to wake clock as well as a traditional alarm clock.
I had both of my kids test each clock for a week, and I scored them on how effective they were at their intended goals. I also rated each clock on how easy (or difficult) it was to set and change the alarm, and whether or not my kids liked how they looked and wanted to use them.
What You Should Know About Buying an Alarm Clock for Kids
It Should Be Multifunctional
If there's one thing I've learned after nine years of parenting, it's that products that are one-trick-wonders just don't cut it. Babies and kids have so much stuff so buying yet another gadget that only serves one purpose just means more things to dust and keep track of. Select an alarm clock that does more than just tell the time and you'll get a lot more use and longevity out of it.
Your Kids Need to Like It
I say this a lot but I think it's worth reiterating: For any product to work for your kids you need their buy-in. If they don't like the look of the alarm clock, they are not going to want to use it, and they definitely won't hew to its guidelines. Let them select the clock they like the most and then lay down the ground rules.
It Needs to be Easy to Use
I'm not telling you anything you don't know already, but parents are exhausted and overwhelmed and they just don't have time to deal with something that's hard to use or difficult to set up. Select a clock that can be set quickly and easily and doesn't require you to have 30 minutes to reprogram when the time change rolls around. Ease of use is absolutely priceless.
Is it Loud Enough to Wake Your Child?
If you have a child like mine, who is somehow able to sleep through almost any alarm, you need an alarm clock that is truly effective at cutting through their slumber and waking them the blank up. Only one of the alarm clocks that we tested always woke up my heavy sleeper, so you may need to try a few different ones in order to find the winner.
Other Alarm Clocks for Kids We Tested
If you want an alarm clock that can take your child from infancy through college, the Hatch Rest+ is the way to go. This is the ultimate multi-functional gadget, in that it offers all of the same capabilities of the LittleHippo Mella—alarm, OK to wake clock, white noise, nightlight—but it can also be used as an audio baby monitor.
The Hatch Rest+ integrates with a companion app on your smartphone, which it's necessary to use in order to do anything with this clock other than control the brightness and the volume. I found the app intuitive and easy to use, and I loved (loved!) that parents are able to create separate schedules for different days of the week. This enabled me to be able to create both a "weekend" and "weekday" alarm program so that I didn't have to worry about remembering to turn off or change an alarm on days when the kids didn't have to get up for school.
While the Hatch Rest+ offers an impressive selection of 11 sound effects, it lacks a classic alarm to wake kids up. I tried all of the sounds on offer and raised the volume to the maximum level, but none of the lovely choices were capable of waking up either of my children. The chirping birds, lullabies, and wind in the trees sounds are wonderful options for the sound machine aspect of this clock, but they just don't work as effectively as a classic, loud alarm. The sound of waves crashing on the shore is definitely more pleasant than a beeping alarm, but if it doesn't serve to wake your sleepyhead up, that's a bit beside the point.
For kids who can't yet read or are just learning to tell time, the Teach Me Time! clock is a great choice. It has a number of the same capabilities as the Mella—alarm, OK to wake functionality, built-in nightlight—but it will also tell your child what time it is with the press of a button. While this wasn't a feature that my kids needed, they both enjoyed pushing the button and listening to the clock talk, so I can see how it would definitely appeal to kids in the preschool age range.
Setting the clock is pretty straightforward, but it does take a few different buttons and a few focused minutes to get it done correctly. It's very easy to turn the alarm off—you just tap the alarm button—but, as with most of the clocks, there's no way to set varying schedules for different days of the week.
My kids did not like the look of this clock, going so far as to call it "ugly." I don't think it's particularly unattractive, but it's definitely not as cute or sleek as some of the other clocks that we tested, which may by why they gave it a harsh rating. My main complaint about this clock is that it just doesn't feel as durable as the Mella or the Hatch, and since kids—especially toddlers—tend to be tough on toys and gadgets, I wasn't sure if the Teach Me Time clock would last until they outgrew it.
The first thing one notices about the Capello Dream Cloud is that it's absolutely adorable. It's a compact size that's just right for a small bedside table, and the cloud shape was a winner with both of my kids, as well as all their friends who happened to see it.
There isn't any sound machine capability with the Dream Cloud, but it does have a built-in nightlight, and it can be used as either an alarm clock or an OK to wake clock. The alarm was only effective in waking my daughter two times out of five, but it does produce a traditional, pretty loud beeping sound that may work better for other kids who don't sleep as deeply.
It was simple to set and easy to disable the alarm, but the Dream Cloud doesn't offer the capability to program different alarm schedules, thereby relying on the parent to remember to set or turn off the alarm on the appropriate weekdays. One of our favorite features of the Dream Cloud is that in order to snooze the alarm you gently tap the top of the cloud—no need to hit a specific, hard-to-find-when-you're-drowsy button.
The biggest issue that we encountered with the Dream Cloud is that the built-in nightlight was too bright, and it ended up waking my daughter up way before her alarm was scheduled to go off. The clock does offer a way to adjust the brightness, but even at the lowest setting it was too bright to have right next to her bed without disturbing her sleep.
For a traditional alarm clock that will appeal to kids and teenagers alike, the Peakeep is a great option. It's available in a variety of different colors, and the seafoam green one that we tested appealed to both my son and my daughter alike.
The Peakeep is a cooler version of the OG digital alarm clocks we all had in the '80s, though it also includes a built-in nightlight with adjustable brightness as well as a temperature display. The thermometer feature was pretty much meaningless to my kids—they're still at the age where it's just "hot" or "cold" out—but I can see it being useful for teens who want to know whether to wear their winter shorts or their summer shorts.
The alarm is loud and annoying—just what one wants in an actual alarm!—and it was effective at waking my kids up almost every single day that we tested it. The issue I can see with the alarm, however, is that it doesn't keep beeping until someone physically turns it off—it turns itself off after a few minutes—which could be a problem for especially deep sleepers who take longer to wake up.
My main complaint with the Peakeep is that it runs entirely on battery power and there's no way to plug it in. While I appreciate having batteries as a back-up power source, like many of the clocks we tested do, I really wish that I'd been able to plug the Peakeep in, since I feel like we use way too many batteries as it is.
Billed as a "complete sleep system," the SleepBuddy is one of only two alarm clocks we tested that don't have audio alarms. Designed primarily to be used as an OK to wake clock, the SleepBuddy changes color from blue, when it's nighttime, to orange, when it's time to wake up. Kids who are especially sensitive to light may find that the orange light is enough to wake them up, but that was not the case with either of my deep sleepers.
The SleepBuddy is definitely not a clock that one would use past the toddler or little kid years, but it was relatively simple to set and it does have a separate "nap" alarm that parents can use for reticent afternoon sleepers. It also comes with smiley face stickers, a four-week incentive chart, and a little booklet about a boy staying in his bed until morning, all of which I can see being very effective for young children.
My kids found the dome design boring, but it's small enough to not be an eyesore in a nursery or bedroom, and it feels sturdy and like it could withstand a rough toddler.
One thing to note about the SleepBuddy, however, is that there's no backup power source, so it has to remain plugged in to an outlet in order to work and to maintain the correct time.
I'd heard lots of rave reviews for this popular clock, but every aspect of testing the Good Nite Lite was incredibly frustrating, beginning with just opening the plastic storage box it comes in!
While the design of this clock is creative—it's a smiling blue moon face at night and a yellow sunshine in the morning—setting the clock was a total pain in the rear end. It's a complicated system: The clock requires battery power to be set, but it only runs its program when it's plugged into an outlet. This would probably be fine if the buttons were on the front of the clock, but they're on the back of the clock, so once you plug it in you can't access the buttons without unplugging the clock again.
I did appreciate that the Good Nite Lite came with a battery already inside as well as an extra one, but neither of those batteries worked, and I ended up having to go out and purchase my own watch battery in order to set the alarm. Once I was able to get the clock to power on, I was able to set it, but the buttons are squirrelly, and it didn't always work correctly.
The Good Nite Lite also doesn't have an audio alarm, so if you have a kid who needs noise to wake up, this is not going to work for you. However, if you're just trying to get your toddler to stay in bed later, I can see how they would respond positively to the sun and moon faces.
Prior to joining Reviewed as the Parenting Editor, Anna worked as a stand-up comedian and freelance writer. A graduate of New York University, Anna currently resides in Los Angeles with her husband and two children.
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