10 Tips for Lighting a Children's Nursery

Nursery room with natural light filtered through two window and green light pendant hanging

The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

You’ve chosen colors, settled on the theme and even picked out the perfect crib. Your baby’s nursery has become your perfect vision—or would be if only you could see it!

Lighting is an important element of design, but when it comes to getting it right, most parents are left in the dark. Wondering how to best light your child's nursery? Here are ten tips to help you get it right.

Avoid Harsh Lighting

A soft glow makes any room seem warm and inviting, but that’s not the only reason to keep things cozy. Soft lighting reduces the contrast between light and dark, preventing over-stimulation and giving baby’s undeveloped eyes a much-needed rest.

When lighting the nursery, avoid halogens and exposed bulbs. These bright lights make babies uncomfortable and anxious, and they can even be hazardous should a curious toddler come poking around. Opt instead for fixtures offering shaded or diffused light. Bulbs labeled "soft-white" or "daylight" will be easier on a baby's eyes.

Another tip: Consider the baby’s point of view. Ceiling fixtures with bell-shaped shades may look lovely from across the room, but the effect is less enjoyable when you’re lying directly under them!

Install a Dimmer

Used regularly as part of a bedtime routine, a dimmer switch can help your baby wind down and sleep. The serene atmosphere created by dimmed lighting acts as a trigger for your little dreamer, letting his or her body know it’s time to rest. A dimmer also allows you to slip in for the occasional sneak peak without disturbing the little one. It’s also perfect for late-night feedings and diaper changes, helping to maintain your baby’s drowsy state while you take care of business.

Light switch with two dimmer handles on gray wall

The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

Create Light Layers

Soft lighting is all well and good, but when you’re buried to the elbows in a messy diaper, it helps if you can see what you’re doing. The trick? Create layers of light.

Instead of relying on a single overly bright ceiling lamp, use a number of lamps and fixtures to brighten the room as needed. Aim for a minimum of three points of light, such as a ceiling fixture, changing table light, and reading lamp. By keeping your choices task-centered, you’ll always have enough light right where you need it.

Consider a Ceiling Light/Fan Combo

For the ceiling light, a fixture that combines a light fixture and ceiling fan offers many benefits. The fan can assist in energy management, cooling your baby in the summer and pushing warm are down in the winter, and many babies find the motion of the fan soothing and relaxing. A fan with blades painted in different bright colors becomes a visual treat when the fan runs at slow speeds.

Avoid Floor Lamps

Tall floor lamps placed by a crib or changing table are an accident waiting to happen, especially develops into a crawler then toddler. Tall floors lamps can oh-so-easily be sent crashing to the ground by a baby or toddler. Keep your task lighting confined to solid table lamps with cords that can be kept safely out of the way.

Be Aware of Heat

Some types of light bulbs can get dangerously hot, so if you have any of these fixtures, make sure they are positioned in locations where a curious infant or toddler can't reach out and touch them. Compact fluorescent (CFL) or LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs are much cooler to the touch, and they also are much more energy efficient than incandescent lightbulbs.

Control Natural Light

Natural light is a beautiful thing—unless it’s giving your baby a premature wake-up call. Keeping your nursery dark and cool will not only help your baby sleep longer, but it will also prevent overheating—a contributing factor associated with SIDS.

The range of window-treatment options for a nursery is just as diverse as they are for any room in the house, ranging from simple roll-down window shades to the most light-proof heavy drapes. It is critical, though, that you take childproofing measures for all window treatments in a nursery or children's bedroom.

Nursery room window filtering natural light with light-colored shades

The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

Make a Statement

A dramatic ceiling fixture can make a big difference to your nursery. Why not replace your standard lamp with a fun, oversized pendant or even an elegant chandelier? The nursery is a great place to establish a fun theme with a unique ceiling fixture or hanging light serving as the focal point.

Mint green light fixture hanging from ceiling in nursery

The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

Get Creative

Nurseries need practical lighting, some lighting sources can serve other purposes, as well, such as offering entertainment or simple visual interest. Use your imagination! Set the ceiling ablaze with LED starlight, for example. Or cast a magical glow with strings of twinkling fairy lights. You can even use light to enhance a decorating theme. Whatever you choose to do, have fun and create something truly unique!

Don’t Forget the Night Light

Even the sweetest of nurseries can seem scary at night. Your newborn may not be afraid of the dark yet, but after a few late-night stumbles in the dark, your sleep-deprived tootsies will be terrified! Protect your little one—and your toes—with one or more creative nightlights for kids.

Crafty types can use the nursery as an opportunity to make their own DIY nursery lamps.

Tabletop lamp with donut-shaped bulb used as night light in nursery

The Spruce / Leticia Almeida