If you’re like most parents, (me included), stuffed animals, blocks and little cars can be found in almost every room of your house. I have a play room for my daughter, but half of her toys still end up in the living room, every day.
I often wonder if toy companies sit around brainstorming all the different places they should convince parents they need to stockpile toys in order to entertain their kids: the car, the living room, the yard, the bathtub, the crib, etc.
Don’t get me wrong, toys are a fun and a necessary part of any child’s life, but there is one place they should be banned: the crib. The crib is for sleeping, period. If it’s filled with brightly colored plush toys or gadgets that strap on to the rails and make sounds or play songs when your child pushes buttons, it is all far too distracting and stimulating for naptime and bedtime.
Even a mobile is off-limits if you want your child to learn to sleep properly. While the child may seem to be staring calmly and intently at the pretty floating butterflies above her head, the colors and movement are actually firing up her mind and keeping her awake. If you put your child to bed in a crib-full of toys to amuse himself, he is far less likely to just close his eyes and go to sleep. Bedtime is a time when you want to be helping your babies and toddlers wind down, but instead, you may just be winding them up!
Any sleep specialist will tell an adult struggling with insomnia to limit all activities in the bed, so that you send a clear message to your body and brain that when you are in this specific location, you are meant to sleep. That means putting away phones, iPods, iPads and laptops and turning off the TV. The very same holds true for children. While the toys might not seem as stimulating as electronics, your child will play with them when she should be going to sleep, even if she’s tired. Kind of like you staying up later than you should just to check Facebook one more time…
Despite my no-toys-in-the-bed philosophy, I do make an exception when it comes to that one special “security” toy, or as I call it, a “lovey.” I’m referring only to that one toy that they cart around all day, or stuff in their pocket, or can’t leave the house without. These beloved toys offer soothing comfort and will help your child feel relaxed and safe.
Make sure your child is old enough for a lovey, according to the American Association of Pediatrics, nothing should be placed in the crib with your child until 1 year of age as it is a SIDS risk. Your child should be able to roll over, sit up and be moving around on their own before introducing a lovey, safety first! Be sure that is in good condition and doesn’t have small parts that can fall or be ripped off.
Side note, only one lovey in the crib/bed at a time. If you allow them to bring just one more, soon they will have a circus party happening in their crib or bed, which will not be fun when you have to convince them to put them back.
Anything you can do to minimize distractions when it’s time for bed will really help as you are establishing good sleep habits and routines. The more simple and plain your child’s room is, the easier it will be for them to drift into dreamland.
Life is hard when you're not sleeping. As a Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant, I teach families how to live a well-rested life.