If you’re like most parents, you probably can’t take more than a couple of steps in your house without tripping over a doll, a stuffed animal or a Tonka truck. You are most likely more than familiar with the sensation of getting those hard, tiny Lego pieces embedded in the bottom of your bare foot, or having to spend ten minutes scooping your child’s dripping army of rubber duckies and plastic fish out of the bathtub after he’s had his bath every night.
I often think toy companies must 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 bathtub and the crib, just to name a few.
Of course, toys are a fun and necessary part of any child’s life, but personally I don’t think there should be any toys in the crib at all. The crib is for sleeping. 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 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 obviously 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 10:00 news on your 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 general no-toys-in-the-bed philosophy, I do make an exception when it comes to that one special “security” toy, like your child’s favorite stuffed animal or plastic Spiderman or frog puppet; whatever it may be. 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 help your child feel relaxed and safe.
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 simpler and plain your child’s surroundings are, the easier it will be for him to drift into dreamland.