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 toy such as The Leap Frog Hug and Learn or 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 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’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.