Kids often sleep with stuffed animals because they provide the child with a sense of security. Teddy bears, stuffed bunnies or even a baby doll can offer comfort to a child at bedtime. Although there is no set age when your child should give up sleeping with stuffed animals, if you feel that he’s too old or too dependent on sleeping with them and want to break the habit, follow these tips to make the transition easier for you and your child.
Wait until the time is right. Taking away your child’s stuffed animals abruptly can cause uneasiness at bedtime. Watch your child for clues that he’s ready to give them up, such as not asking for the animals before bed or going to a sleepover without his favorite bedtime stuffed animal. If he's still asking for his animals on a regular basis and seems uneasy without them, wait a bit longer until he is ready.
Enlist your child to help you find a place for his stuffed animals, other than his bed, once you feel it's time to give them up. Perhaps a shelf in his room or his dresser can serve as a place for his stuffed animals to “live” instead of in his bed.
Prompt your child to let go of his stuffed animals. Say things like, “Teddy is really dirty. Mommy will wash him tonight while you’re sleeping.” This is an opportunity for your child to be without the stuffed animal without you coming right out and telling him you’re taking him away for good.
Take away the stuffed animals gradually rather than abruptly. Start by telling him he has to sleep without them on weekends, but he can still have them during the week nights, or perhaps when he spends the night at Grandma’s, he has to leave his stuffed animals at home. Gradually reducing how often he sleeps with the stuffed animals will make it easier for him to give them up altogether.
Be lenient when it comes to stressful times in your child’s life. Kids want their security items when they are going through a tough time. If a major life event occurs in your child’s life, let him sleep with his stuffed animals during that time to offer him comfort. Once the stress is gone, begin the process of getting him to sleep without them again.