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  • Writer's pictureBeth Christensen

DIY Flexible Bedtime Routine Clock: Get Your Toddler's Bedtime Routine Back on Track!

Updated: Jul 30, 2018

Is your toddler's bedtime out of control? Do you find yourself becoming frustrated that your children are running around the house like crazy people have overtaken their little bodies instead of putting on their pajamas, brushing their teeth, and calming down? You want them to go to bed by 7:30pm but by the time you get through your entire routine it’s closer to 8:30pm. I have a lot of tips on my Facebook Page and Instagram to help facilitate a smoother bedtime, so you should check those out if you haven’t yet!

If you know me as a sleep consultant at all, then you know one piece of advice that I frequently dole out is to “blame the clock!” So when your toddler is having a difficult time focusing on getting those jammies on or brushing teeth I advise families to say something like “I can see that it’s very difficult for you to focus on putting your jammies on right now but the clock is telling me that if you don’t get them on quickly that we won’t have time for an extra story tonight!” It really only takes one or two times following through with this statement to help your toddler stay on task. Recently I’ve been seeing these DIY clocks on Pinterest, and I just think they are one of the coolest tools I’ve seen to help facilitate a smoother bedtime! The thought behind them is that since your toddler can’t tell time but likely knows his/her colors, the clock helps keep your bedtime routine on track. Once the hour hand inches out of the bedtime routine zone it’s time for bed.

To make one of these bedtime routine clocks you buy a wall clock, remove the plastic cover, and color in the times for each step of your routine. So, if your family normally has dinner at 5:30pm for 45 minutes then you’d color that section of the clock green. If you do clean-up time/wind down time around 6:30pm for 30 minutes you’d color that section another color such as blue. And finally you’re getting ready for bed and tuck in by 7:30pm then you’d color that section yellow. You show your toddler the hour hand of the clock and let them know that once that hour hand inches out of the yellow section it’s bedtime, no questions asked. It’s a great tool to point to when your toddler isn’t cooperating with using the bathroom because you can point to the clock and say “I understand you’re having a difficult time staying on track with your bedtime routine tonight. If that hour hand inches out of the yellow section we won’t have time to read a story before bed!” Or you can switch this up to whatever your parenting style is comfortable with, something like “If we get all of our bedtime routine completed before the hour hand inches out of the yellow section we’ll have time for an extra story tonight!”

I just love this concept because not only can you “blame the clock” but you can point to an actual clock that your toddler can help keep track of as well. I have one issue with the designs of these DIY clocks and that is that sometimes your bedtime isn’t the same every night. Actually, a recommendation I make to each of my clients is to keep bedtime flexible. I recommend keeping naps at consistent times each day and then adjusting bedtime based on how naps went that day. If you have an older toddler you may not have any nap and so bedtime might be a little earlier. Or you could be transitioning from 1 nap to no naps, so on the days that no nap occurs you want a much earlier bedtime. Of course, I had to design my own DIY Bedtime Routine Clock! The principle is the same, but instead of coloring in you fasten clear colored opaque plastic with Velcro to the inside of the clock. This way you can change what time you perform each part of your routine to ensure that your toddler is in bed at the desired time for that particular night. It's super easy to make once you have all of the materials. Trust me when I tell you that I'm not very crafty...... this is one Pinterest project that you can't mess up!

Here’s what you need to make it:

1. Adhesive hook and loop dot style fasteners such as these.

2. Non-ticking wall clock like this one that I used (it doesn’t have to be non-ticking if you don’t mind listening to it but I wanted one that didn’t make noise!

3. Transparent colored plastic sheets – various colors depending on how many sections you want in your clock. I used these that come with yellow, green, red, and blue.

4. Scissors

5. Ruler or straight edge

6. Flat head screw driver

7. Permanent marker (optional)

Step One: Remove the plastic cover of the clock. I had to use a flat head screw driver to help pry it off but depending on the clock you purchase you may or may not have to do this.

Step Two: Cut plastic sheets into appropriately sized pie pieces based on how long you’d like every step of your evening to last.

For my clock I included three colors; blue for dinner time, yellow for clean up, play time, and wind down time, and green for bedtime routine (bathroom, teeth brushing, jammies, story time). You could include a fourth pie piece for the nights that you give a bath if you don’t want to include that in your bedtime pie piece. This is where the possibilities are endless!

Step Three: Place hook dots strategically around the 5pm to 8pm areas on the clock so that when you place the colored plastic pie pieces on they will at least partially match up and stick. Now place the loop dots directly onto the plastic pie pieces.

Step Four: Fasten the pie pieces you’d like to use for your first night at the times where you’d like them to be. On my clock I have dinner over by 6:30pm, playtime/clean-up time over by 7:30pm and bedtime no later than 8pm.

Step Five: Re-attach the plastic cover to the clock. This step is optional. If you're in the middle of a nap transition or if your routine changes from night to night for another reason I'd leave the plastic cover off for easy access to move your pie pieces more easily.

Step Six: Explain your creation to your child! Show them the short hand on the clock and explain what your bedtime routine goals are. Try to keep it light and fun! "If you get your bedtime routine all done before that short hand is out of the green triangle we can read an extra story!" Despite how they can act sometimes, your toddler really wants to please you and I guarantee they'll have a blast trying to beat the clock!

*Optional Step: Create a key on a separate piece of paper that you can hang next to your clock. This way everyone will know that blue means dinner, yellow means play, and green means bedtime. Alternatively, use your permanent marker on each pie piece to label the activity it represents. For my family, we're good with just the colors and no key but do what works for you!

Now you’re ready to use your DIY Flexible Bedtime Routine Clock! When bedtime routine is lagging and your toddler won't climb the stairs to use the bathroom, blame the clock and point to your DIY creation! Your toddler is sure to take those stairs two at a time to ensure an extra bedtime story! If your toddler skips their nap for the day then move those pie pieces earlier to help ensure your child stays well rested.

I can’t promise that this clock will magically cure ALL of your bedtime troubles. But it’s a step towards setting clear expectations for your toddler to follow. For many families, a tool like this is just a small piece of the bedtime puzzle. Children can have difficulty with bedtime for a whole host of reasons including a schedule that’s not quite right, being over tired, or for more behavioral reasons like difficulty with limitations. Whatever the reason, examining the entire sleep picture is what I do best so if you need more than this clock, feel free to get in touch! Sweet dreams!

This post was not sponsored!

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