Toys in Bed

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Every so often, I get a question about the appropriateness of toys in bed. As in most things with parenting, this depends on your child. Not only does it depend on your child in general, but it depends on your child at the moment. At some stages, toys are a distraction from naptime. At other stages, they are something that seem to help naptime happen.

Young Babies
As a newborn, your child does not need any sort of toy in bed. You might have a mobile. If so, be mindful of the possibility that the mobile could distract from sleep. Some babies might look at it and get overstimulated or be so interested in it that they miss the sleep window. Others might look at it and peacefully slip into slumber.

Both of my children had a mobile as a young baby. It wasn’t a problem for either child. Our mobile has very mild colors. It also is just a mobile; it doesn’t move or make music at all. If your mobile does move and/or play music, I would caution you against turning it on for naptime or bedtime. You don’t want your child to become dependent on it for sleep. You want to avoid sleep props .

You want to be sure you take the mobile down once your child can reach it. Brayden only had it for a couple of months, but Kaitlyn had it for quite a while (though I can’t remember exactly how long).

Older Babies
You might put a stuffed animal in the bed with your baby. I did this with Brayden around 6 months. I actually started it with Kaitlyn from birth, but it was at the opposite end of the crib from her so it wasn’t anywhere near her. If you do this, be sure it is a safe stuffed animal with no parts that can come off and be choked on (like buttons or eyes that could be pulled off). These stuffed animals are “friends” for my kids. They have never been a problem for sleep. Both of my kids would go to sleep without a problem. When they woke up, they would “talk” to the “friends.”

12-24 Months
This is an age when any sort of toy can really start to become a distraction. Both of my kids still had stuffed animals in this age range. Kaitlyn (21 Months) likes to hug one sometimes as she falls asleep. She doesn’t ever play with them before sleep. We have to set them up so they are all sitting along one crib rail. Then she goes to sleep. When she wakes up, she will play with them and talk to them. If I go in to get her right away, she is disappointed because she wanted to play with her babies.

When we moved Brayden from the crib to his twin bed, I was really glad he had his “friends” that he was familiar with. When we moved him, he moved beds and bedrooms. I was glad for him to have something familiar to sleep with. We plan to move Kaitlyn this month sometime, also, and I am sure her babies will help with a smooth transition. See crib to bed transition for mroe on this.

Also, Brayden has a love for one of his “friends” in particular. When he had his surgery last month, he was able to take that friend in the operating room with him. They bandaged him up just like Brayden. His bond with this stuffed animal helped him through this scary process.

2-3 Years
You can continue with the special friends. You might also start to think about something like a toy car for your child to play with. If you do give him a car, pay close attention to what happens. He might play with it for a few minutes then drift to sleep. But he also might play with it so long it takes him past his second wind and prevents sleep from happening.

3 Years and Up
During the third year, your child will likely start to drop the nap some days. Throughout Brayden’s fourth year (ages 3-4), we have had to vary what does and doesn’t go in his bed. At the beginning of his fourth year, he had nothing in bed with him for naps except for a blanket and pillow. That helped him to sleep better. As the year went on, he started to not sleep well for naps. So we gave him one to two cars and a couple of “friends” for a nap. That again got him sleeping well.

Over the last 2-3 months (he is currently 3.5 months shy of 4 years old), he has moved more and more toward rest time rather than nap time. He now has one or two cars, his friends, and a few books. Some days he sleeps, others he doesn’t, but during his nap or rest time, he is quiet and stays in bed without a problem.

No matter the age of your child, whether or not toys are in bed with him is up to you to decide. There is no “rule” that says it is always okay or always not okay. If you see toys are a problem, remove them. If you see toys help naptime go more smoothly and happen, use them. Here are a few guidelines I would use:

  • Delay Introduction of Toys in Bed: I would wait until you see a need for a toy in bed before you ever introduce it. Putting it in earlier than the child is able to handle it is akin to giving a freedom too soon. If it turns out the toy is a hindrance to naptime, your child might be really upset when you take it.
  • Analyze All Angles: Before trying the toy in bed, be sure you analyze all other possible reasons for poor naps. You don’t want to offer a toy when what your child really needs is more waketime. See sleep problems and optimal waketime for help in this.
  • Keep the Quantity Low: Your child doesn’t need every beloved toy in bed with him. A couple will suffice.
  • Take Note of Effect: This might be a good time to keep a log (see log ). Before you give the toy, keep a log of how long it takes him to fall asleep and how the nap goes. After you give the toy, do the same. Then you can concretely see if it is helping or hurting.
  • Pay Attention: If the toy helps, pay attention to watch for it to become a problem. It can. If the toy becomes a distraction, remove it.
  • Avoid Props: I would avoid letting this become a prop. I would rotate toys if needed to ensure that your child will not be particular about which toy, book, or stuffed animal he has. I like to have my children able to sleep so that wherever they are, they can go to sleep. I don’t want to have to remember to pack certain toys or items to help them sleep. If we are at Grandma’s, I grab a stuffed animal she has there. Even though my kids have had the same stuffed animals for basically their entire lives, they are fine with having different ones. Monitor your child so you don’t create a prop.

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Valerie, also known as The Babywise Mom, is the mother to four children. She has been blogging on Babywise and general parenting since 2007. She has a degree in technical writing and loves using those skills to help parents be the best parents they can be! Read her book, The Babywise Mom Nap Guide, to get help on sleep from birth through the preschool years. You can also find her writing at, Today Parenting, and Her View From Home. Read more about Valerie and her family on the About page. Follow her on FacebookPinterest, and Instagram for more tips and helps.

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  1. The Nilsen's Journey
    February 18, 2009 / 2:05 AM

    Awesome post, thanks so much! We just introduced a stuffed animal at 14 months when I went back to work part time. I am away from our son only a few hours a week, but he noticed it on the day I miss his morning wake up. I had a gut feeling to rotate the sleeping animal & now I feel your post has given me confirmation. Thanks so much!

  2. FirstYallPlay
    February 18, 2009 / 6:38 PM

    My son is 2.5 and we have gone through periods of having toys and periods of no toys. For a long time he had some books and small toys… he would play with them in the morning before we got him up. But eventually they became a distraction when he went down for his nap. Now, if he wants to take a special toy to bed, I tell him he needs to put it under his pillow (he likes to take a Thomas train or small car) until he wakes up. He knows if he doesn’t go to sleep I will take the toy… that is his current currency. 🙂

  3. Plowmanators
    February 20, 2009 / 5:01 PM

    You are welcome Nilsens!

  4. Plowmanators
    February 20, 2009 / 5:02 PM

    Thanks for your added thoughts, FirstYallPlay!

  5. Christie
    February 20, 2009 / 6:39 PM

    If you have the chance, will you chronicle the first few nights with Kaitlyn in her toddler bed? My girl is 19 months and I keep debating on when to do the transition. Anxious to see how Kaitlyn does. Thanks!

  6. Plowmanators
    February 25, 2009 / 11:39 PM

    I will for sure. We ordered a bed, it came, we opened it, the headboard was broken. So we ordered another one. Hopefully it will be here within a day or two so we can try it this weekend! If not, it will be next.

  7. cfriece
    June 30, 2009 / 5:16 PM

    have been following your posts for the last year. I have done BW since my baby was 4 weeks and now she is exactly a year. Since 3 months, she has never had a problem with going down for naps or bedtime. Within the last week, when I put her in her crib for naps, she stands up and cries for 15 – 30 mins. I eventually go in and try to calm her down, then place her back in her crib, but nothing seems to help. I know she is tired. She is not hungry, no dirty diaper, not sick, etc. My question is what should I try to help her out and is this normal?? I am at a loss!! HELP!! Thanks!

  8. Miranda
    July 22, 2009 / 9:07 PM

    I've been fretting over the issue of my son's naps for a while now and realized that it might be best for me to just ask someone who knows. :)My son is 14 weeks old and we have been following Babywise principles since about 4 weeks. Up until about 2 weeks ago, he was on a predictable 3 hour schedule and was taking 1.5 hour naps at 9:30, 12:30, 3:30, and 6:30. Suddenly, these are all out of whack, ranging from 45 minutes to two hours a piece. I know that, at this point, he could probably drop a nap if he wanted to and go down to 3 longer ones but 1) how do I know that and 2) how do I do it? I read the posts on dropping naps, but I'm just not seeing what I need. Thanks for your help!

  9. Plowmanators
    July 23, 2009 / 8:30 PM

    cfriece, it seems that this is normal for some. I would just tell her gently but firmly that it is time to sleep, lay her down, and leave. Experiment with you going in. Some might be better if you go in after 15 min or so and tell her to go to sleep, others will do better if mom doesn't re-visit at all.

  10. Plowmanators
    July 23, 2009 / 8:32 PM

    Miranda, 14 weeks is a little young for most to go to 3 naps. Most are ready at 4 months. If it were an issue of needing only three naps, then the fourth nap would be the problem nap OR night sleep would be the problem.It is likely he is having a growth spurt. Have you tried feeding him as soon as he wakes up?

  11. pkgormong
    January 27, 2010 / 9:29 PM

    First of all I love reading your blog…it helps me a lot and I appreciate all the time and effort you have put into this! Ok, as for sleeping problemss…I have a few. We have been doing BW since she was 2 weeks old and we CIO during week 9. She goes to bed/nap great! She doesn't cry, but is waking up at the 45 minute mark occasionally. She is now 14 weeks old and is almost or just at 12 pounds. My biggest problem has been as of late. In the evenings I feed her at 5pm, 7:30pm, and dreamfeed her at 10:00-30ish. She had been waking up 2 times at night and then I decided to put in the pacifier at the early wake time (around 2 or 3ish AM) instead of feeding her to see if she could go longer. Well she did and that seemed to work. Then she woke up to eat around 5ish for a few days. (and I still put the pacifier in when she cried during the early morning). Ever since we have been putting the pacifier in during the night, she has been waking up even more. Last night she woke up at 1:45, 2:30, 3:30 (I fed her) and 6am! I am not sure what I should do. i don't think she is going through a growth spurt because she doesn't seem more hungry during the day. (I breastfeed) Should I let her CIO during the night? Is the pacifier being a proop and causing her to wake up? I have read all about the sleeping props and sleeping disruptions. Just need some advice! Thanks!!!

  12. Plowmanators
    February 8, 2010 / 5:44 PM

    pkgormongit does sound like the pacifier is a becoming a problem. You can definitely try CIO if you would like to and are sure she isn't hungry at all. Good luck!

  13. The Beagles!
    February 14, 2011 / 6:35 PM

    Hi! Thanks for your blog, I just love and appreciate it. It has helped so much and I have referred many friends. I am wondering if using the shush pat can become a prop for my 4.5 month old. I use it with more success to extend his naps (he's a 30 minute waker) now that he sleeps on his tummy, and also I sometimes use it (always while he's lying down in his crib) if he cannot settle and is screaming. I have been doing controlled crying for 5 days now, but the shush pat seems to really help when he is screaming not just complaining/mantra/ etc. Is he still learning to self soothe if I only use it as needed? Or will I end up having to do CIO in the end anyway?THANKS for your opinion.Brandi (and Nickolas)

  14. Plowmanators
    February 28, 2011 / 7:29 PM

    Brandi,I haven't ever done it, so I can't say for sure. I would say it likely depends more on his personality than on the method itself. The Baby Whisperer highly recommends it, so I am sure there are plenty of babies it works really well for. However, I can also feasibly see some kids getting to where it was a prop.If you are wanting to avoid CIO, then I think trying sshhh/pat is a good idea. You can do that and hope he naturally transitions to sleeping on his own. If not, try CIO. But you don't need to jump to CIO right away if you would rather not.

  15. Kara and Cody Markham
    June 14, 2011 / 10:18 PM

    Thank you so much for doing this blog, I love it. It has helped me a lot with my little guy.I do have a question though. My son is a pretty good sleeper "little crying before naps" But when he does cry or wake up early I turn on the radio static on very loud and it puts him right back to sleep. Do you think this is a bad "sleep prop" that I will regret using later on? He can fall asleep w/o it but I find myself using it more and more just so I dont have to hear him cry before a nap.What do think?….

  16. Plowmanators
    July 8, 2011 / 10:23 PM

    It depends on his age. 0-6 months, I think it is fine. Older and it might be something you regret. But that said, I have humidifiers in each of my children's rooms, which provide some white noise. They still sleep fine in other places without the humidifiers.

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