How Crib Toys and Baby Mobiles Affect Your Baby’s Sleep

Do Crib Toys Affect Baby's Sleep?A very common question is whether it’s okay to put toys, baby mobiles, or aquariums in your baby’s crib. The concern is that baby won’t sleep and would rather play with her toys. This article will discuss whether there is concern about having toys in your baby’s crib and how it may or may not affect your baby’s sleep.

Last week, I talked about how you can develop positive sleep associations with your baby by giving them a Crib Aquarium. But, will your baby or toddler play with it too much rather than sleep?

Once again, I’m sure I will go against the grain compared to other sleep consultants and say that crib toys and aquariums can be GOOD for your baby’s crib. It is obvious that we don’t want our babies treating their cribs like a playground and it’s true that we don’t want to stimulate them too much to the point they are not soothed to sleep. We want them to associate bed with sleep, not playtime. And, “they” say if you, an adult, are having trouble sleeping in your own bed to make sure you don’t do anything but sleep in your bed. No TV, reading, etc. if you have insomnia.

So, how is it good for your baby to have toys in his crib?

The way I view it is that we WANT our babies to feel comfortable in their crib. We WANT them to be able to “unwind” in bed before they sleep. We WANT them to play for a little bit when they wake up at the crack of dawn. Imagine your 10-month-old baby waking up at 6:30 a.m., rolling over and finding a little toy and playing for 30 minutes while you snooze in bed. Sounds good, right?

A baby mobile, for example, is a good toy to put above the baby’s crib, away from her face. A mobile provides visual stimulation and promotes brain development. Keep in mind, though, that some mobiles are meant to stimulate baby and others are meant to soothe baby to sleep. Make sure you use it at appropriate times. If your baby gets too excited by the baby mobile, he might take longer to fall asleep or have trouble settling down.

Remember the crib aquarium my son used? There was a time in his life that he’d play with it for over 30 minutes before he fell asleep. I took it out. Guess what? He still took a long time to fall asleep. It’s not that he was playing too much. I was putting him down too early! His younger brother has played with his fingers, feet, imagination, blankie, toy cars, books, and now his “bad guys” (superhero figures) for 5 to 30 minutes before he falls asleep since he was a little baby. Once he feels sleepy, he simply stops playing and goes to sleep.

So, how are toys in the crib NOT a problem?

Have you ever noticed just how short our baby’s attention spans are? They can hardly play with the same toy for a few minutes let alone hours. A baby who is sleepy is not usually going to play with the same toy for too long before drifting off to sleep. Again, we want them to feel comfortable and happy to unwind before sleep, not lonely and bored, especially if we happen to put them down a little too early for their nap (it’s usually better to err on the earlier side than later, for most babies). Will there be some babies who truly WILL themselves out of sleep and play with a toy, instead? Probably. But, I’d say most of our babies would love to unwind before sleep just like we might watch a little TV, read a book, or our favorite magazine before we drift off to slumberland. Why not let them do it too?

But, are crib toys safe?

To keep SIDS risks low, you should refrain from putting any soft objects in your baby’s crib, and that includes soft plush toys, blankets, pillows, etc. Make sure you read all information to reduce SIDS risks. You do not want to put any crib toys that can potentially cover your baby’s face or suffocate them and, of course, nothing that has little pieces that can fall off and your baby can choke on. But, if you add a mobile, crib aquarium, or other safe toys to your baby’s crib, it can be perfectly safe. If you are concerned, always talk to your doctor.

What toys or baby mobiles do you have in your baby’s crib and have you had trouble with sleep-related to them?

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12 thoughts on “How Crib Toys and Baby Mobiles Affect Your Baby’s Sleep”

  1. Thank you for this topic. I am due in February (FTM) and my husband and I have been researching everything. We got the cutest mobile off of Etsy (I had to have it LOL), but I actually got it to hang above the changing table for diaper changes (although we’ll have to hang it high enough not to hit DH in the head. We’ve been debating a mobile above the crib or a light projector/white noise machine. It is nice to hear how so many different things have worked for different babies/parents. I think on some level it is just hard to know what will work best until the baby actually arrives and you get to know him/her.

    • Hi Sarah,
      Thank you for visiting us, and congratulations! 🙂 I have two kids and they are so different, and were so different even as newborns. I think you’re completely right that you just don’t know who you’re getting! Buy what you think will work for your family, and check into consignment or other opportunities for anything you buy that ends up not working for you all, is what I would recommend. Good luck with the rest of your pregnancy and everything to come!

  2. Thanks Nicole for a lovely topic. I enjoyed hearing everyones thoughts on this subject. I was a nanny for years and some kids had toys in the crib and some didn’t. One of the “crib toys” I had given to one of the children I sat for was just given back to me. Its a book that reads to the child as they turn the plastic pages. I will probably slip this into his crib on weekend nights before I go to bed so that he can play in the mornings!

  3. We don’t have any toys in our daughter’s crib, but she does have a bunny thumbie which she sleeps with at night. We often see her playing around with it before she falls asleep. It’s funny to watch her on the monitor “wrestling” with Bernard.

    • @Dyan I can totally see how some babies or toddlers might be too engaged by some toys. Considering how long my youngest son can play with a fork and spoon, I can imagine some kids just wouldn’t fall asleep quickly. It’s all about finding what works and if he doesn’t need anything that’s GREAT!! There is nothing to “fix”. If you ever want to sleep in one morning, maybe you can just give him the aquarium and go back to bed. Ha! 😉

      @Jennifer Yes, all kids are truly unique. Thank you for sharing what works for yours!

      @Nakia That’s great!! 🙂 I’m so glad the aquarium is working.

      @LeShelle That’s good! Thank you for sharing.

      @Marie Your son sounds very interactive and knows what he likes. I like that. 🙂 Thank you for sharing!

      @Chris That is awesome!! Books are soooo good for them! It’s great when the crib is a nice place to be and I really think having “down time” without sleep is sometimes a very good way to make the crib a happy place. Thank you for sharing!

  4. we keep some books in our twin boys’ beds, they read in the morning!!! And while they wait for me to dress each one. Crib is a nice place to be.

  5. When our son was a couple of months old, we got this play mat, which included a sun/flower to attach at the top of it, which has different coloured lights and a couple of tunes. One of the settings is that it only plays if you shake it. You shake it, it plays for about 30 seconds and stops. It has worked wonder with our little one. The moment we started a bed time routine, I put this in his cot and to this day, he plays with it every day. It can take from 3 to 30 minutes for him to fall asleep. We tried other types of toys (like the one that projects a picture on the ceiling and plays music) but I think the little man wants to ‘control’ the toy: play when I want you to, stop when I want you to.

  6. My son has a few stuffed animals in his crib as well as Leap Frog Scout, an aquarium and a mobile (just the music part, as he is too old for the mobile). I do see him play at times in his crib with his animals.

  7. I just recently put a musical aquarium in my one year old’s crib, and I wasn’t sure if it would hurt or help. So far, I think it’s working out great! When he is just wiped out, he goes right to sleep, but sometimes I can hear him playing with his aquarium, but never for more than a few minutes. It doesn’t seem to disrupt his sleep at all. As a bonus though, my husband (who is an early riser) tells me he hears him playing with it in the morning, which gives us extra time before we have to get him. Yaaayyy, extra sleep for mom, and time on the computer for dad!

  8. Oh, I am all for toys in the crib, it just was overstimulating for my son. He is usually asleep within 10 minutes and has never cried when I put him down at bedtime. He plays a little more at naptime, but that’s okay. My only concern was his playing for 2 hours in the middle of the night. That, in my opinion, is not okay on a regular basis.

  9. I’m all for toys in/near bed. It has worked well with my children. I understand that not all children react the same way to toys in bed, however. With my children toys didn’t really become needed until they were a little bit older (old enough to sit and stand). My daughter started with a “lovey” she would sleep with and then as she got a little older she could reach the books near her bed and she would spend time pulling out each book and looking at it and then droping it on the floor. Sometimes she would look at the books for a long time before sleeping, somtimes she wouldn’t. Later she started throwing her favorite toys in before bed to play with. I don’t remember how long it would take her to fall asleep, I know it wasn’t concerned, though. My son (1) has just started playing with toys in bed. Bedtime was a nightmare and took forever to happen and he would cry and cry if you put him in bed awake. I had a few toys for him to play with, but he didn’t really care, then I put in a sleep aquaarium I found at a thrift store-He loves it. I will put him in bed with his bottle (I know, another habit to break) turn on his aquarium, make sure there are toys nearby and-if he is tired-he falls right to sleep watching his aquarium. If he isn’t tired, he will play with the auarium and throw toys all over until he is tired enough to fall asleep. It is wonderful because no more hassle and fights, and he plays when he first wakes up. I don’t think toys keep my kids awake any longer than they would normally be awake without toys. I find that playing themselves to sleep created better sleep and shorter falling asleep times than leting them cry in a barren crib did. This, however, is my children, not all kids react the same way.

  10. When my son was a few months old we had a “crib aquarium” that I would turn on before he went to sleep and he enjoyed it. As he got older it needed batteries and I took it off the crib. I kept forgetting the batteries and finally a few weeks later it went back into the crib. That opened a can of worms. He could now stand up and turn the switches from relaxing music/sounds to lively play songs and movement. No sleep. I mean, for hours. No naps. Up at 2 am playing for an hour or so. I figured after a few days he would get bored with it…nope. He still loves it, but it is in his toy box now. He sleeps with a few small teddys, a blankie with a head that rattles, and he has a hanging toy bag that he can pull small toys out of from inside the crib. He goes down at night around 8 and I get him up around 7:30-8 most mornings. At times he will get up as early as 6:15 but will play quietly and usually will fall back asleep by 7. He takes 1 nap that lasts 2-3 hours. I think he would have been okay with the crib aquarium if I had not taken in out for almost a month, but I LOVE the way he sleeps so I am not concerned.

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