Will Crib Toys Ruin Your Baby’s Sleep?

Crib Toys Baby Sleep
A question we hear fairly often from parents is whether or not it’s okay to put toys or aquariums in the baby’s crib. Lots of us use these kinds of crib toys as a way to entertain our babies, or to give them something to do after they wake up from sleep (in the hopes that they may let US sleep a little longer!). The concern for some parents, however, is that baby won’t sleep and would rather play with her toys.

Fortunately, this is a question we have answered before, in past articles. Keep reading to find out Nicole’s opinions on whether or not crib toys hinder sleep and to read her recommendations.

Are Crib Toys Bad for Baby Sleep?

Nicole: I’m going to go against the grain of what other sleep consultants have advised and say that crib toys 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” (the experts) 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.

How Can Toys In The Crib Be Good for Sleep?

So, toys in the crib can actually be GOOD for sleep? How does that work? Here’s how Nicole explains it…

Nicole: The way I view it is that we WANT our babies to feel comfortable in their cribs. 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 then playing for 30 minutes while you snooze in bed. Sounds good, right?

A 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 mobile, he might take longer to fall asleep or have trouble settling down.

Remember that 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 wasn’t that he was playing too much; it’s that I was putting him to bed 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, and he has done so since he was a little baby. Once he feels sleepy, he simply stops playing and goes to sleep.

Toys In the Crib Are Not Necessarily a Problem

Have you ever noticed just how short our babies’ attention spans are? They can hardly play with the same toy for a few minutes, let alone for 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).

Now, there are some babies out there who truly WILL themselves out of sleep, even when they feel sleepy, and play with a toy instead of going to sleep. Most babies, however, will stop playing with the toy and fall asleep once they feel sleepy. In my opinion, this is just further proof that all babies are different, and that we have to make adjustments based on our own unique babies and toddlers! So if you have one of those unique babies who really won’t fall asleep with toys in the crib, then adjust accordingly. 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 enjoy a magazine before we drift off to slumberland. Why not let them do it?

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 use any crib toys that can potentially cover your baby’s face or suffocate them. Additionally, avoid anything that has little pieces that can fall off and your baby can choke on. But, if you add a mobile, crib aquarium, or another safe toy to your baby’s crib, it can be perfectly safe. If you are concerned, always talk to your doctor.

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9 thoughts on “Will Crib Toys Ruin Your Baby’s Sleep?”

  1. Our two and a half year old also has toys in his cot and it’s been brilliant for his wind down! He is often quite amped up if tired after daycare, so needs a long wind down. Sometimes he’s in there singing to his ‘friends’ who are all soft toys, but he’s also become hilariously attached to taking cars and trucks in there.

    We have strict boundaries around how many extra toys he can get to take in each night otherwise he’d be stalling bed all night fetching more things 😉 But once he’s in there he’ll play for a while then fall asleep.

    This all also helps us keep to his seven pm bed time even if he’s not 100% sleepy just yet, as well as being good for nap/quiet time in case he’s too hyped to sleep straight away but definitely needs the time out. Not to mention the mornings. And yes, definitely books have gone in as well.

    Given our second son’s temperament we’re suspecting some crib mobiles for him to gaze at would be highly useful as self settling aids too. Will see what he thinks of them when he goes into his own room and cot in a couple of week’s time. And if that fails, we’ll be signing up for a sleep consult package I can assure you of that! lol. Does not have the same natural skills our first born had that’s for sure.

    Thanks again for wonderful site, and yes, we’re all for cot toys as settling aids! Lovely to make the cot a fun but safe and restful place that they like to hang out 🙂 It’s not very Sleep Whisperer we know, but what the heck! 🙂

    • @ Caitlin – Awesome insights! Thanks so much for taking the time to share your experience with us – much appreciated! We agree totally; crib toys can go a long way towards making the crib or sleeping area a happy place, and towards teaching little ones to self-soothe before falling asleep 🙂

  2. @ AlixF — thanks for sharing the particulars of what worked for you! I agree – toys in the crib were always a great thing for my kids. That was always a nice way to have some downtime (for all of us!) Plus, I think it’s great to teach kids how to entertain themselves from an early age. I love my kids, but I also love my space, so I’m thankful now that my kids, by and large, know how to occupy their time without my help. 🙂

    Thanks for commenting, Alix!

  3. At a few weeks old we put a mobile up on our daughter’s cradle which she still loves. Once she was in her bigger cot (crib) and could roll about easily we gave her a few soft, safe toys. She loves playing with them while she goes to sleep and when she wakes. As she’s grown we’ve heard her chatting to them and practicing all the new words she’s learnt that day/week (she’s now two). For this great language practice alone I think its a great idea to have toys in her bed with her. It gives us both space to spend some time alone too. If she’s really tired she just goes straight to sleep. I’ve never thought the toys were distracting her from sleep. Rather, they keep her company while she winds down. We always take her fave teddy with us when we’re away. I don’t think she’d be able to sleep without it now! Pros & cons… Have to have a secret spare exactly the same of course. Just in case it ever gets lost.

  4. @ Sarah Williams — awesome! I always did this, too — when my kids were in cribs, I’d put a soft, fabric books in there, and the occasional board book. Now that they’re bigger, I always put a little stack of books at the foot of their beds during rest time and at bedtime. I think it’s a great way to build the ‘reading-before-bed’ habit. 🙂

    Glad you found a system that works for you and for your little guy! And thanks for commenting, Sarah!

    @ Rosie — sounds like my daughter! She always has lots of ‘friends’ lined up in bed, too. And she has favorites as well, and like you, I’m pretty convinced that they actually help her feel calm and fall asleep. In fact, a few times, I’ve heard her talking to her teddy before she falls asleep (which is crazy adorable!!)

    Thanks for commenting, Rosie! 🙂

    @ Jane B — aquariums can be great; in fact, sometimes our consultants recommend them to families, in situations where they think it will help. I think it totally depends on the your son’s personality, though — some kids may find aquariums overstimulating, while others would use it until they felt sleepy and then leave it alone. Couldn’t hurt to at least test it out, and see what happens. 🙂

    Thanks for commenting, Jane!

  5. We’ve thought about getting a crib aquarium for our 16 month old son who likes to wake up early (5-6am). However we weren’t sure if it would be too noisy and wake everyone-although he pretty much wakes us up anyway. He tends to throw out any toys in the crib at nap so it would need to be something attached.

  6. My 18 month old has a few stuffed toys in her bed. They are all soft and comfy so if they get in awkward places they won’t hurt her, but she does often play with them a little before going to sleep, maybe for 10 mins or so. If she wakes in a good mood she’ll also play with them in the morning so we’ve found they certainly don’t disturb her sleep. We take the most familiar ones away with us too so in fact I’m sure they help her sleep.

  7. Our son is almost 3, and his bed time routine has actually really improved since we provided him with a little light, and let him have books in bed.

    He’s frequently reading when we leave the room, but that means he goes to sleep on his own.

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