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Toddler night light projectors: what you need to know before you buy

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Should babies sleep with night lights? It’s a question most parents ask – after all, it can be convenient for the parent, except a dark room is crucial during the child’s earliest stage so as to establish one’s circadian rhythm. Now when your child becomes a toddler – things start to become less about what had already been set up, and more about your child’s current sense of comfort and security.

Is your little one afraid of the dark at bedtime? If so, they are definitely not alone.  According to Beverly Hills family therapist Dr. Jenn Berman, “The fear of the dark tends to evolve around the time children are old enough to have a sense of imagination.” Usually around the toddler years, around ages 2 to 3, bring about the child’s first fears of the dark, says Berman, due to they’re being “old enough to imagine, but not wise enough to distinguish fantasy from reality.”

It’s not unusual for children of toddler age to experience such fears, and there are ways you can help. The most common way? Get them a projector night light. Because now that their circadian rhythm has been established, getting one has become considerably safe – notwithstanding a few limitations and precautions, of course. Night light projectors ideally illuminate the room just enough to show children that everything is fine and that the clothes tossed on their chair isn’t really a scary monster like their imagination is suggesting.

Of course, parents should consider all the features of today’s projector night lights and compare options. It’s important to get the right one so they don’t end up disrupting their child’s sleep patterns. The disruption of sleep patterns can cause problems for children during the day, including aggression, lack of focus, and hyperactivity. To avoid these, parents should make sure their child’s bedtime ritual, including their night light projector, are conducive to relaxation, winding down from the busy day, and finally going to sleep.

Projector Night Light Features

Some features to pay attention to when choosing a night light are:

  • the adjustability of brightness (ideally from medium bright to dim)
  • volume control
  • timers
  • automatic shutoff after a certain amount of time
  • music, white noise, lullabies
  • projection of colors or shapes onto the ceiling and walls
  • sensors that let the night light know if your baby is crying, and starts music or lights to calm them

Each of these features may or may not impact your child’s sleep patterns. For example, some toddlers may be able to sleep with lullabies playing, while others need white noise or complete silence. Certified Sleep Coach Linda Szmulewitz of Sleep Tight Consultants discourages playing music at bedtime, as she believes “music during sleep can prevent your brain from getting into a good sleep pattern overnight.” Instead, Szmulewitz recommends that “If parents want to play something continuously throughout the night, I suggest white noise, which is a consistent sound that can also help block out household noises.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parents go with their gut when it comes to nighttime rituals for their child. Overall, doctors advise parents to pay attention to their individual toddler to see what works best for them. Does he fall asleep to classical music but wake up the minute a colored light turns on? Or is he fine with lights but gets wide-eyed at the sound of Tchaikovsky? Your best bet is to establish what works for each child individually and stick with it to the best of your ability — whether that requires a night light, musical light, white noise, or no light or music at all.

Be sure to find your child’s own best bedtime ritual and seek out the product that most closely meets their needs. This, for the most part, will likely mean seeking out the products with the most adjustability. This way, whatever doesn’t work for your child can be minimized while you make use of the more beneficial aspects.

With this in mind, here are some of our favorite night lights for toddlers with projectors:

Twilight Turtle

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A bonafide favorite of some littles we know personally, the award-winning Twilight Turtle from Cloud B is a lovely addition to any child’s room, especially since each shell is beautifully and uniquely hand-painted!

This plush and soft turtle can light up in soothing hues of amber, blue, or green, and the push of a button on its shell sends a your choice of a slew of glowing stars and a crescent moon, or eight constellations onto the walls and ceiling. The gentle glow of the stars produces a relaxing effect which lulls your little one to sleep. The enclosed Star Guide shows children and their parents how to locate each of the eight constellations, and the story included tells the tale of how Twilight Turtle got lost one day and had to use the constellations to find his way back home.

The single press of a button keeps the constellations lit up for 45 minutes, after which Twilight Turtle shuts down, thinking your baby has fallen asleep. If they haven’t? Just press the button again for another 45 minutes. Comes in several colors including pink, blue, purple, aqua, and classic ladybug. Get your Twilight Turtle in classic here for $30.00.

Infantino 3-in-1 Musical Soother & Night Light Projector

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Set this colorful cutie on your toddler’s nightstand and enjoy the variety of features it brings. The adjustable music and lighting are especially helpful since we mentioned the strong benefit of adjustability when choosing a night light earlier. Also attractive are the full 20 minutes of songs and nature sounds it plays, the way the gently moving fox tail projects layers of light onto walls, the ceiling, and other surrounding surfaces, and the removable baby fox mini-light that your little one can cuddle as they nod off to sleep. Watch a video of the night light here. This night light is appropriate for ages birth and up and requires 3 AA batteries (not included).

Available in orange (shown above) and grey. Get your baby an Infantino 3-in-1 Musical Soother & Night Light Projector here for $30.

Fisher-Price Butterfly Dreams 2-in-1 Soother

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Perch this super-soft Butterfly Dream Bear in the white soother when he needs to rest or let your little one hold him as they fall asleep. It’s one of several choices you get to make with this popular night light. There’s also a choice of stationary starlight projection or the night light itself cycling thru a series of color changes, assorted music, white noise, and soothing sounds, and 3 timers with automatic shut-off after your selection of 10, 20, or 30 minutes of sound or projection. This video shows how it works.

Butterfly Dream Bar is also conveniently machine-washable whenever you feel the need. Requires 4 AA batteries, not included. Make this 2-in-1 soother part of your baby’s bedtime ritual today; buy it here for $22.

Noa Store Calming Autism Sensory LED Light Projector 

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This innovative device gives the relaxing feeling of being deep in the ocean, a very calming bedtime effect, especially for children on the autism spectrum who tend to enjoy being near water. The Noa Store Calming Autism Sensory LED Light Projector offers multi-colored LED lights (includes even a black and white setting) to project waves on the ceiling which gently move to mimic the waves found in nature. The quality of light projection is outstanding, and you can set up your iPod or iPhone with it to play music along with the lights. 

This Noa Store product has been found to be a thrifty addition to therapeutic sensory rooms as well. Requires 4 AA batteries, not included. Buy your toddler a Noa Store Calming Autism Sensory LED Light Projector here for $36.

Cacchino My Snuggly Sleep-Time Whale Baby Shusher, White Noise Machine, and Night Light Projector 

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This snuggly sea dweller helps babies drift off to sleep with several features, including five different volume settings, a color-changing night light projector with 7 soft glowing colors, 10 lullabies and nursery rhymes, white noise, heartbeat sounds, bird songs, and automatic shut-off after 30 minutes of the selected activity.

This elephant pal has a handy hook with a loop to clasp onto your kiddo’s stroller or car seat to be taken along effortlessly on your day’s adventures. Easily kept clean by hand washing. Comes with a mini-screwdriver, 3 AAA batteries, and an instruction booklet on how to use/maintain product and insert batteries.

Enjoy a brief video demonstrating how it works. Get your little one a Cacchino My Snuggly Sleep-Time Whale Baby Shusher, White Noise Machine, and Night Light Projector here for $25.

Soothing Aurora Borealis LED Night Light Projector by Abco Tech

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Lull your tot to dreamland in quiet fascination when you turn on this aurora borealis night light projector. Mounted on a tasteful wood-like base to match nearly any decor, this night light projector features 8 distinct light modes, an assortment of built-in sounds, a complete speaker system, and is adjustable up to a 45-degree angle. You can plug it into your phone, tablet, or laptop to play music or any sounds your baby likes, and forget about it — it shuts down automatically after one hour. Makes a great gift. Get your baby’s Soothing Aurora Borealis LED Night Light Projector here for $20.

There are a few of our favorite night light projectors for toddlers. Give them a bit of consideration as you begin shopping for yours, and be sure to select what works best for your own unique child. Let us know what you choose and how it works out!

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KJ Callihan
Former Digital Trends Contributor
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