You tuck your toddler into their crib, kiss them goodnight, and leave the room. Moments later, you hear a thud – the sound of a pacifier or teddy bear hitting the floor. You pause and listen. Seconds later, your child begins to whine and then shout. You sprint back to the nursery, drop to your knees, and grope around in the dark while they clutch the bars of the crib and wail. Finally, after what seems like forever, you spot the lovey under the dresser on the opposite side of the room – just out of reach. After five minutes of struggling, you manage to retrieve it and hand it back. All’s right with the world, so you say goodnight again and leave the room. Then two minutes later – THUD! It’s time for round two of “If I Drop It They Will Come.”
Sound familiar? Tossing loveys out of the crib is a favorite toddler sport. Some do it because they enjoy watching things fly through the air – but most toss things because it’s a great way to bring mommy or daddy back into the room after lights out.
If your child only tosses their lovey occasionally, you may not mind handing it back. If you’re constantly retrieving it, it may be a game you don’t want to play. Remember that children only learn what we teach them. If they throw an object and you hand it back, it reinforces the behavior.
So what do you do to stop your child from tossing things out of the crib? Here are a couple of choices:
Give it back immediately – but only one time.
You may be tempted to wait 15 or 20 minutes before going back into the room to retrieve tossed items, but if your child is awake when you finally go back, you’re really only teaching them that if they keep fussing, you’ll cave in. Instead, return the lovey as soon as they toss it BUT explain that it will stay on the ground if they throw it again. If they call your bluff, stay strong, and don’t give it back a second time. Once they’re asleep, you can place it back in the crib, so they have it for the rest of the night. This approach may not completely stop the behavior or prevent them from tossing it again if they wake up during the night, but it will teach your little one that there are consequences if they throw it more than once.
Ignore the behavior.
This may sound harsh, especially if your child relies on their lovey to fall asleep, but if you can resist the urge to hand it back, most children learn very quickly to stop doing it. This approach also assures that they’ll stop doing it in the middle of the night. As always, it’s perfectly okay to return the lovey after they fall asleep so that they’ll have it if they need it in the middle of the night. Expect a few rough nights until your child adjusts, and praise them like crazy when they keep their beloved object in the crib all night long.
Alison Bevan – Sleepytime Coach
Pediatric Sleep Consultant – The Center For Advanced Pediatrics