There are some milestones in parenting that shake you a bit more than others. A classic one is when your child starts calling you “Mom” or “Mommy,” rather than “Mama.” One that totally blindsided me was starting to use two piece pajamas rather then onesie pajamas.
Then there are a lot of milestones parents look forward to! My husband couldn’t wait until our girls were strong enough to throw in the air. I love watching little ones swing or go down a slide for the first time. A lot of parents get excited for the day they can give their one year old a small stuffed animal or lovey to sleep with.
And another exciting milestone, especially in the sleep world, is giving your toddler a pillow or blanket to start sleeping with. But with this new introduction often comes a lot of questions, so let’s answer those…
When is it Safe to Give Your Toddler a Pillow and Blanket?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it is safe to give your child a pillow and/or blanket when they are two years old. They also recommend waiting to give toddlers a pillow until they’ve transitioned from a crib to a big bed, and I actually suggest waiting for that transition until your child is around the age of three, whenever possible!
That may seem really late to some parents, but that’s because we think about sleep in terms of how we, as adults, sleep. I certainly can’t imagine sleeping without a pillow; it would be really uncomfortable! So we naturally think our babies and toddlers must be really uncomfortable sleeping without a pillow.
But think about your little one’s dimensions compared to yours…they are so much smaller than you and their necks are much smaller; you sleeping on a mattress without a pillow looks a lot different than a baby or toddler sleeping on a mattress without a pillow!
And trust me, your little one isn’t uncomfortable without a pillow…they have never slept with one, so they don’t know anything differently!
So once your toddler is at least two years old, and ideally around the time you transition them to a big bed, you can introduce a pillow and/or blanket to their naps and bedtime. However, you can certainly wait longer! We waited until our daughter was three years old, simply because she was sleeping well and didn’t know anything differently, and I knew she wouldn’t actually sleep on one all night, so it felt unnecessary.
(For those wondering about a small blankey, lovey, or stuffed animal, those are different! You can introduce those at 12 months old.)
Signs your toddler is ready for a pillow or blanket
Some kids seem to be ready for a pillow or blanket around the age of two or three, and signs they are ready include:
- Showing interest in your pillows, even laying on your pillow for fun
- Asking when they will get to sleep with a pillow or blanket
- Laying on their stuffed animal at night as if it were a pillow
- Intentionally cuddling under blankets while reading on the couch or watching TV
What to look for when buying your toddler a pillow
When buying your toddler a pillow, make sure it is made for toddlers – it should be small, thin, and firm! Their necks are much smaller than ours and they need different support for their developing spine.
My Favorite Toddler Pillows
- Woolino Toddler and Kids Pillow – this is what we we have for our four year old! (Use code VIAGRACES10 for a discount.)
- Dreamtown Kids Toddler Pillow
- Little Sleepy Head Toddler Pillow
What to look for when buying your toddler a blanket
When choosing a blanket for your toddler, choose a blanket that has little to no weight to it; your child should be able to easily put the blanket on themselves or take it off. They should also be able to move freely under the blanket.
My Favorite Toddler Blankets
- Woolino Toddler Blanket– this is what we gave to our now four year old for the first time about a year ago, when she was still in her crib. I was excited when I found Woolino’s toddler blankets, because we use Woolino sleeping bags for both of our girls, and they are super attached to them! So once my four year old grows out of her sleep sack, she’ll have a blanket that feels the same and I’m hopeful it will help her adjust to sleeping without a sleep sack. (Use code VIAGRACES10 for a discount.)
- Beddy’s Bedding Sets– I have not personally seen or tried Beddy’s, but I have heard good things. It’s essentially a sheet and comforter set all in one, that fits on like a fitted sheet and zips together so you don’t have to worry about blankets being scrunched up at the bottom of the bed, or falling off.
- Standard comforter or duvet cover- once your child is in an open bed, you can really use any bedding you’d like! We had an old duvet we weren’t using, so we bought a new cover for our daughter when we transitioned her into a big bed and she uses that duvet.
How to Introduce a Toddler to a Pillow or Blanket
Whenever making any changes to a baby or child’s sleep (i.e. bassinet to crib, sleep training, crib to bed), I always suggest making the change at bedtime first, because we have melatonin (our natural sleepy hormone) on our side at bedtime that we just don’t have during the day. And naps can be tough enough, so we want to preserve them whenever possible.
So once it is safe for your child to sleep with a pillow or a blanket, first introduce it at bedtime. As you’re getting them ready for bed, show your child their new pillow or blanket, and let them touch and play with it. Show them how to lay on their new pillow, tuck them under their new blanket, and let them practice!
And then when you lay them down to go to sleep, lay them on the pillow, or tuck them under the blanket, and then say goodnight and leave just as you always do.
You may find that your little one takes longer to sleep than usual, because they’re fascinated by this new pillow or blanket you’ve just given them. And that’s okay and to be expected! Just let them be, they should eventually fall asleep.
If you look on the monitor later in the evening and find that they’re no longer on their pillow, or they’re completely out of the blanket, that’s okay! You do not need to go in and put them back into place. They are clearly fine without it and we don’t want to disturb their sleep.
You may also find that your child throws the pillow or blanket out, because they just don’t want it! That’s totally fine, as well! Just leave it and let your child sleep – we don’t want to start a game of fetch at bedtime! Then when you put them to bed the next day, lay your little one back on the pillow or tuck them back under the blanket and see what happens.
If they truly just don’t want the pillow or blanket and you’ve given it a few days, that’s okay, too. Take it away and try again in a few weeks or months. Remember, they can still sleep well without a pillow or blanket!
Our Personal Experience Introducing a Pillow and Blanket
We didn’t give our oldest a pillow until she was three. She wasn’t asking for one and never enjoyed sleeping with a stuffed animal, so she wasn’t showing any of the classic signs. We did give it to her while she was still in the crib, as we transitioned her to a big bed around the age of 3.5, and we wanted her used to having a pillow.
Even now, a year later, however, she starts her night on the pillow, but she quickly moves off and sleeps somewhere else on her bed for the rest of the night. And that’s perfectly fine!
We approached blankets similarly. I don’t remember exactly when, but we started putting a blanket in her crib some time between age 2.5-3, because my mom gifted her a nice Woolino toddler blanket so we figured we’d let her use it! We put it on her every night as we tucked her in, and it quickly made it’s way to the bottom of her crib and stayed scrunched there all night long.
Even now, as a four year old in a queen bed, she starts the night under her blankets and wakes up outside of them. And she sleeps straight through the night without a problem! That’s also why she still wears a sleep sack every night, because we live in a basement apartment and we don’t want to worry about her getting cold.
She was no longer napping by the time we gave her a pillow and blanket, and they didn’t seem to be a distraction at night time, so she adjusted without a problem!
And our youngest will be two next month, is still very much in a crib, and we are nowhere near even thinking about giving her a pillow and blanket! She just doesn’t need them right now.
Note that this blog contains some affiliate links, but the reviews are from my personal use.