Nightlight on a timer tells early risers when it’s morning wakeup time

Here’s Marie’s brilliant hack for teaching her early riser about a reasonable wakeup time. (Especially handy now that the sun’s rising earlier.)

My three year-old daughter was a very early riser and would wake me up repeatedly to ask if it was time to get up yet. [Don’t you love that? My kid would creep up to me while I was sleeping, and then wake me so he could demonstrate how quiet he could be. — Ed.] She was too small to read a clock, and although telling her to look for a “6” was an option, she didn’t quite get it that 5 was not OK, but 7 was. I was looking for a simple “yes/no” cue that did not require her to do too much thinking if she were to wake up in the middle of the night. I did not want to set an alarm, because I didn’t want to disturb her sleep if she were to sleep in.

My hack inspiration came from an electrical appliance timer. I used it to rig her night light to turn off at 6am and told her she was to stay quiet and in her room until the light turned off. After a minor setback when she turned off the light manually to make it “time to get up,” it has worked like a charm!

Related: Clock radio hack encourages kids to sleep later


  1. mikey says

    A similar predicament was explored by Adrienne on her BabyToolkit blog a few weeks back. She had tested a special alarm clock that can be set to glow a different color for waking time (in place of or in addition to an audible alarm). And it has a time-teaching game for older kids:

    I got it for my daughter a week and a half ago and she *loves* it. It’s a great gift idea if you have a special occasion coming up for a kid. My almost 4 year-old feels very proud of it when she rushes into our room in the morning (“My clock turned green! Come and see!”). And, she’s even slept past the “alarm” time (7am) a few days.

    Yes, more expensive than the appliance timer. But also a few more features and a dash of excitement.

  2. Angela says

    This is a wonderful hack! Thank you for sharing.

    I’ll have to use this when my 16 month old is old enough to understand it. =)

  3. Suzen says

    My tot likes to do the same thing… I have grown accustomed to her sneakily creeping up on me every morning.
    I actually have a reptile power center that would work just the same way (it’s like a surge protector that only supplies power to each of it’s outlets at specified times). It would also help keep her from being able to turn ON her TV in the middle of the night too.

  4. Erik says

    I do this too. In addition, I set the “on” time to bedtime. My kiddo knows that when the “sleeping light” comes on it is time for bed, no questions asked. This has significantly cut down on the foot dragging, cajoling by me, then pleading by her for a story even when she drags bath, pjs, and teeth brushing out way past bedtime. Now I have an objective arbiter of bedtime on my side (although I do sometimes manually turn it off on the sly if being late for bed is my fault instead of hers)

  5. Steve says

    We’ve been doing this for years. We have a two tiered system. One nightlight on a timer tells the kids they can get up and go to the playroom, another light (their pink light) tells them they can come downstairs. The first is easily slept through, if the gods favor us with that. The latter is more difficult, and it is usually set for about the latest we want them up (especially on school days).
    It is not fool-proof. They will sometimes ignore it. But, at least we can ask “Did your pink light turn on?” Instead of baking “go back to bed!” And they will usually ‘obey the light!’ Once they are reminded.

  6. says

    Yes, but does anyone have hacks for how they deal with kids who don’t want to sleep?
    How do you get them to bed (at a reasonable time)? and wake them up (in time for school/camp/general daily life)?