A Life Hack for Mom: 10 Uses for the Flashlight

If you think a flashlight is just for blackouts, camping trips and scaring the neighborhood racoons out of the yard, we've got some info you'll be glad to have. See the 10 reasons the flashlight is the one item you never knew you couldn't live without.

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It's not just a tool; it's a parenting tool.

by Veronique Autphenne

Sometimes the simplest things can save a parenting “situation.” It’s about finding new uses for everyday items and finding solutions for common childhood problems, using what we already have creatively and efficiently.

That’s a parenting life hack. The flashlight is a prime example. Invented at the end of the 19th century, it continues to light our way out of some of our darker parenting moments. Here are 10 uses for one of our most essential parenting tools.

Keeping your mellow during middle-of-the-night feedings.

There’s nothing worse than a harsh light when you’re up for those 2 a.m. feedings. A strategically placed flashlight (pointed against the wall, for example) won’t jar you awake and maybe, just maybe, help ease everyone back to sleep without harshing your mellow.

Finding your magazine/e-reader in your sleeping baby’s room.

So you’ve finally gotten the baby to sleep and are ready for a little “me time” with some easy reading. Problem is, you left the e-reader in the baby’s room—again. Your choices are to either stumble around in the dark and risk setting off the booby trap of noisemaking toys surrounding the crib, or turn on the lights and jar your baby awake with harsh light. Both may set you back an hour or so if the baby wakes up—unless you have a flashlight, that is. Then you can sneak in like a cat burglar in the thick of night, avoid the booby traps, and read away.

Scaring away the monsters.

Sure, we can tell our toddlers that there are no monsters under the bed or in their closets, but can we prove it? Yes, we can! Whip out the flashlight and dispel their theory forever, or at least until the following night. Pretty soon, you’ll just do a preemptive sweep as part of your bedtime routine—your very own neighborhood watch for monsters.

Hotel survival tool.

When you’re sharing a hotel room with your kids, you may find yourself wide awake at, say, 8:30 p.m. while the little ones are sleeping away. You can’t very well leave them. Sure, you could sit outside the hotel door trying to relive your college dorm days, chatting with your neighbors, but there’s a small risk that someone will call management and end the part-ay. So there you are, in the dark, awake. Luckily, you read somewhere (cough, cough) that when you have kids, you should never travel without a flashlight. Bingo! You can now read under the covers or in the closet.

First sleepover.

While most kids will be beside themselves with excitement at the prospect of their first sleepover, the middle-of-the-night bathroom run in an unfamiliar house may cause them some anxiety—unless, that is, the lucky kid’s parents snuck a flashlight in his overnight bag. And, in the event that there may be monsters under his friend’s bed, he’s ready for a pre-bedtime sweep.

Best party favor ever!

Let’s face it: Most party favors are basically landfill. Not so with the flashlight. It is useful, gender-neutral, and it’s guaranteed to last long past the drive home from the party. Use metallic or brightly colored markers to personalize each one with the guest’s name.

Finding comfort.

Whether it’s “Blankie,” “Binkie” or “Little Pillow,” many kids have some item of comfort they can’t sleep without. And sometimes, they realize it’s missing in the middle of the night. While turning on bright lights may get you right back to the starting square of bedtime rituals, a flashlight will help you retrieve the comfort and the sleep with minimal disruption.

Getting the winter wiggles out.

It’s 5:30 p.m. in the dead of winter. It’s cold. It’s dark. And as much as you’d love to call it a day and start bedtime, even Ned Flanders doesn’t put his kids to bed quite this early. So what to do? Give each kid a flashlight and have a rousing game of hide-and-seek in the dark, of course! Before you know it, it really will be bedtime.

Late-night walks.

Young child can’t sleep at night? Dogs aren’t the only ones who like a good walk from time to time. So long as you live in a safe enough neighborhood, take the kid and a flashlight for a quick walk. It’s a bit of light exercise and a chance to bond with your kid, and the flashlight will keep you visible to passing traffic.

Capture the flag.

A nighttime game of capture the flag is one of the least expensive and most memorable birthday parties for tweens and teens. It gets them outside (and out of your house), uses up plenty of energy, and is a great alternative to dancing and spin-the-bottle for co-ed parties. Just give everyone a flashlight and send them on their way.

So next time you’re trying to decide whether to buy your friend or sister-in-law a Diaper Genie or a swaddling blanket for her baby shower, do neither. Head instead to your local hardware store and get a flashlight … with plenty of batteries.

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