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Wednesday, February 1, 2023

How to Use Smart Lighting to Transform Your Kid’s Bedroom

Both my kids have gone through periods of being scared of the dark. Long ago, I went through it myself. It’s a natural part of growing up. Parents and children around the globe have conducted tense nightly negotiations about precisely how open bedroom doors should be and how long the hall light needs to stay on for decades. But nowadays, we have so many more lighting options.

Whether your kids are afraid of the dark or have trouble getting up in the morning, smart lighting can help. Internet-connected smart lights are more affordable than ever and easy to use via remote controls or smartphone apps. Options range from simple bulbs that slot into regular fixtures to smart light strips that can be installed in unlikely spots.

A child’s bedroom is usually multifunctional, serving as a place to study, entertain (pod) friends, relax, and sleep. Smart lighting makes it easier for them to set the right mood.

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Start With a Color-Changing Bulb

There’s no need to spend a lot of money. We bought a color-changing bulb like this one for $10. Simply screw it into your light fixture and use the remote control to choose different colors and effects. My daughter immediately fell in love with this bulb and started holding regular discos in her bedroom.

We also have a variety of recommendations you can choose from in our Best Smart Bulbs guide. Some are on the pricier end, but they tend to offer better quality light with greater adjustability, and typically require smartphone apps, making them harder to use for younger kids (or easier, depending on how tech-savvy your kids are). Some require hubs too. 

For our purposes, the simple color-changing bulb with a remote control was the ideal solution before my daughter had a phone.

Try a Smart Lamp

If you'd rather not change the room's main light source, consider adding a color-changing lamp. There are loads of options, from the Amazon Echo Glow to the Govee Aura, but it’s worth noting that you can always use a smart bulb in a regular lamp.

For parents using a lamp as a night light, consider pairing it with a smart plug (we have several recommendations here), so you can turn it off remotely without waking your child by creeping into the room. You can also schedule smart plugs to turn lamps on or off automatically.

We tried several lamps before settling on a Bluetooth speaker called the Soundcore Flare Mini (we recommend the larger Soundcore Flare in our Best Bluetooth Speakers guide too). It has LEDs in the base with a variety of lighting modes. After settling down for the night, I use it to play sleep stories, music, or soothing sounds. My daughter also uses it for Spotify during the day and the lights change in time to the beats. (It doesn't have Wi-Fi connectivity.)

Smart Light Strips Can Transform Rooms

For more impactful and versatile lighting, consider smart light strips. They are rows of LEDs on a strip with adhesive backing. Some are not designed to be viewed directly and can look quite ugly. What's tricky is finding the perfect spots for them. Recessed areas are best, so the light glows while hiding the strips, but one end must be close enough to a power outlet.

Here are a few tips I learned the hard way: Test it before fixing it in place. Clean the wall thoroughly to give the adhesive backing the best chance of working or you may find it peels off over time. You can usually cut a light strip to the size you want, but make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions. And whatever you do, make sure the cat isn’t in the room when you install it. Also, know that these strips can be difficult to remove; they might leave residue or peel off paint. 

There are two main types of smart light strips. The cheapest kind can only display a single color at a time. I fitted the Govee Smart LED Strip Light under both of my kid’s beds and it works extremely well as a night light. It supports app and voice assistant control, but what I appreciate most is the simple control unit with physical buttons for power, color cycling, and syncing with music.

My son has another of these strips behind a large display cabinet in his room and he uses the two light strips almost exclusively now. They offer a nice ambient light level when he’s gaming or relaxing. These Govee strips only display a single color at a time, but the brand's more expensive multicolored strips are great too.

My daughter also has a LIFX Z light strip in the recess at the top of her built-in closet. It’s more expensive, but it can display color animations with multiple colors at once, including a rainbow effect she adores. With the LIFX app on her phone, she can change effects herself, but with no physical controller, this strip won’t work as well for younger kids.

Sleeping and Waking

Smart lighting works well at bedtime too. If you choose warmer colors and dim the brightness, it can be very relaxing. Find that balance where it gives off just enough light to confirm no monsters are lurking, but not so much that sleeping is difficult.

Whether you go for smart light bulbs or strips, many of them can be scheduled. If you prefer not to leave them on all night, you can have them automatically switch off at a certain time. Even better, you can have them switch on in the morning.

My daughter is not a morning person and can be grumpy when woken. We set the LIFX Z strip to gradually increase brightness over half an hour each morning to emulate sunrise and it has made life much easier by waking her gently. Like the best sunrise alarm clocks, having a smart bulb or light strip wake you is less jarring than a loud sound or hurried parent. Look for light strips and bulbs that allow you to set gradual fades.   

On Privacy

On a final note, the bulbs, strips, or plugs we recommend here don't have microphones or cameras, so you don't need to worry about potential prying eyes and ears. One exception is the Govee light strip, which has a mic that activates in music mode, so its LEDs can react to sound in the room. It all happens locally on the device, so it's not recording or sending audio. 

If you don't care about these lights being “smart,” you often don't have to connect them to Wi-Fi at all. They'll still work just fine from the control panel on the strip (though you might find some functions are limited).

Whether you want help with their sleep schedule or spruce up their bedroom, give these tips a try. Smart lighting can bring a futuristic feel to rooms, and color can change the atmosphere. More importantly, kids can enjoy having a greater measure of control over their own space. 

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