Does your house have toys EVERYWHERE?? I was recently at a consultation and managed to step on a puzzle, a matchbox car and 3 (sharp!) little legos before I had my coat off?!
Now I’m not judging – when my kiddos were little, the family room was littered with stuff that never seemed to make it back to the clearly marked toy bins. Their bathroom was no better with foam letters and squeaky toys that always seemed to have water in them despite my best squeezing efforts. And our car had mirrors and toys clicked to anything they could dangle from!
I often joke with my husband that there are clearly some great marketing minds at the toy companies – they’ve done a phenomenal job at convincing parents that they need toys specific to the car, the stroller, the bathtub and the crib, besides the “regular” toys!
And even though I have a (great!) need for order and tidiness, I realize that toys are a fun and necessary part of childhood and having a ridiculously messy home for a few years is to be expected.
But I do have one caveat.
I don’t think there should be any toys in the crib.
The crib is for sleeping, not playing. If you’ve got a bunch of stuffed animals and electronic toys strapped to the rails that will light up and sing at a touch of a button, it feels more like playtime than snoozetime. All those things are distracting and stimulating for their little brains!
Bedtime is obviously a time when you want to be helping your baby or toddler wind down, but instead you may just be winding her up! It’ll be incredibly hard for your baby to make the decision to close her eyes and fall asleep, because there’s so much to look at…
I even suggest taking off the mobile. While your 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 brain and keeping her awake. And it’s a must to take down if your child is sitting up or pulling up – he shouldn’t be able to touch the mobile and potentially pull it down on himself.
I’ve had a few moms really drag their heels on this, but it makes sense. If you have insomnia and talk to a sleep specialist, you’ll be told to limit all activities in bed so that you send a clear message to your body and brain that when you’re in this specific location you are meant to sleep. That means putting away phones, 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 to read one more chapter of your mystery novel or check Facebook one more time…
In talking to moms, I found that one of the big reasons they’re putting these crib toys in the crib is because they thought it would help their babies like the crib more. And while this could be true, this teaches them to like it as a playspace, not as a place to sleep. If a baby really doesn’t like his crib, it’s probably because he doesn’t know how to fall asleep on his own and cries unless you put him down already asleep. So here’s the key to him liking his crib – teach him how to fall asleep on his own. He needs to be put down awake! I’ve seen babies who used to cry every time they walked into the nursery giggle (yes, giggle!) when they see their crib because they know how to fall asleep and it feels good!
I do make one exception to my no-toys-in-the-bed philosophy (as long as the baby is old enough and your pediatrician has ok’d it) – a lovey. A little soft something (stuffed animal or little square blanket) that your baby can snuggle with to make him feel relaxed and safe. This lovey will help comfort and soothe your baby as you teach her to fall asleep without you feeding or rocking her to sleep first.
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 surroundings are, the easier it will be for him to drift off into dreamland!
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Photo credit: Deposit Photos | Reanas