Selecting the right toddler pillow is an important decision for parents. The right pillow can help your little one sleep more soundly and comfortably. The wrong pillow can lead to neck pain and discomfort. With so many options on the market, how do you choose? This comprehensive guide will walk you through everything you need to know to find the perfect toddler pillow for your child.
What is a Toddler Pillow?
A toddler pillow is a small pillow designed specifically for toddlers generally aged 1-5 years old. Toddler pillows are smaller than standard pillows with dimensions around 13 x 18 inches. They are filled with hypoallergenic and supportive materials to provide comfort and support for growing toddler bodies.
Toddler pillows serve several important functions:
- Support the head and neck – Toddlers have proportionally larger heads and their neck and shoulder muscles are still developing. A toddler pillow provides gentle support to keep the spine aligned and prevent neck strain.
- Transition from crib to bed – Toddler pillows help toddlers who are moving from a crib to a bed get used to having a pillow.
- Promote proper sleep habits – Using a toddler pillow establishes healthy sleep habits and associations.
- Comfort and security – Toddler pillows provide a comfortable and familiar sleeping companion.
When Should You Switch From a Crib to a Toddler Bed Pillow?
Most children are ready to transition from a crib to a toddler bed between 18 months and 3 years old. Here are some signs your toddler is ready for a toddler pillow and bed:
- Climbing out of the crib
- Transitioned to sippy cups and doesn’t drink milk or juice in bed
- Able to get in and out of bed without help
- Following directions to stay in bed through the night
You’ll also want to ensure your child can sleep safely with a pillow before making the switch by checking they can:
- Lift and move their head
- Move a pillow away from their face
- Sit up and reposition themselves easily
If your toddler doesn’t have these skills yet, hold off on introducing a pillow to reduce the risk of suffocation.
Toddler Pillow Features to Look For
When shopping for a toddler pillow, here are the key features to look for:
Look for a more compact pillow around 13 x 18 inches. Standard pillows are too large for little toddler heads and necks.
Material and Fill
The best toddler pillow fills are:
- Memory foam – Supports the head and neck without flattening. Provides even comfort and retains shape.
- Polyester fiberfill – Soft, fluffy synthetic fill that conforms to the head and retains loft. Hypoallergenic and machine washable.
- Microfiber – Lightweight, soft fill that keeps its shape and is easy to wash.
- Latex foam or wool – Natural fills that contour to the body and allow airflow. Avoid if allergies are a concern.
- Organic fills – Natural options like organic cotton, wool, and latex for an eco-friendly pillow.
Avoid pillows stuffed with feathers, down, buckwheat, and water which are too flat, rigid, or heavy for young toddlers.
Look for a pillow with medium soft to medium firm density. Too soft and the pillow collapses, too firm and it lacks cushioning. The pillow should indent slightly when your toddler lays their head down but still provide support.
Traditional rectangle shaped toddler pillows are the most common. Contoured and travel pillows are also available if you want extra head or neck support.
If your toddler gets hot at night, look for pillows with cooling gels, phases change materials, or breathable covers like cotton or bamboo.
Hypoallergenic and antimicrobial
Choose a toddler pillow made with hypoallergenic materials and antimicrobial treatments to reduce allergens. Machine washable covers are ideal for keeping pillows clean.
Select a toddler pillow free of toxic chemicals like flame retardants or formaldehyde. Children’s products should be Bureau Veritas or OEKO-TEX certified.
Top 5 Best Toddler Pillow Reviews 2023
With so many toddler pillows on the market, we’ve researched and reviewed the top options based on comfort, support, safety, and value. Here are the best toddler pillows for a great night’s sleep:
1. Little Sleepy Head Toddler Pillow
- Fill Material: Shredded memory foam
- Cover Material: 300 thread count cotton
- Features: Hypoallergenic, machine washable, removable cover
Our top pick is the Little Sleepy Head Toddler Pillow which provides the perfect balance of support and softness for growing toddlers. It is filled with breathable shredded memory foam that conforms to your child’s head, neck, and shoulders without flattening.
We love the 300 thread count cotton pillowcase which is cool, smooth, and more breathable than polyester. The pillow and case are hypoallergenic and resistant to dust mites, mold, and bacteria. Both are machine washable for easy cleaning. It comes in three sizes based on your child’s age and a cute elephant print your toddler will love.
With nearly 2,500 positive reviews on Amazon, parents report this comfortable pillow improved their children’s sleep and transition from the crib. Kids are comfier and sleep more soundly through the night. The quality materials also hold up well through nightly use and frequent washing. An excellent value under $25, the Little Sleepy Head pillow is our top choice for toddlers.
- Pros: Soft breathable memory foam fill, cooling cotton cover, hypoallergenic and machine washable, ideal density, great reviews
- Cons: Only one print option, can be too thick for very young toddlers
2. Calla Toddler Pillow
- Fill Material: Proprietary polyester blend
- Cover Material: Rayon from bamboo blend
- Features: Organic and hypoallergenic, antibacterial, machine washable
For parents looking for an eco-friendly option, we highly recommend the Calla Toddler Pillow. This model is stuffed with a fluffy hypoallergenic polyester fill and covered in a silky bamboo rayon blend. The bamboo cover helps regulate your toddler’s temperature for a cool and comfy night’s sleep.
The entire pillow is treated with an antibacterial finish that prevents 99.9% of bacterial growth including dust mites and mold. The fill and cover are certified free of harmful substances by OEKO-TEX. Despite the luxurious materials, this pillow is under $35 making it a great eco-value. With nearly 1,000 5-star reviews, parents love the softness and breathability of this pillow. The Calla is a smart organic choice for your toddler’s crib to bed transition.
- Pros: Cooling and breathable bamboo cover, fluffy poly fill, antibacterial and hypoallergenic, certified safe
- Cons: Slightly more expensive, bamboo cover wrinkles more than cotton
3. Brentwood Home Toddler Pillow
- Fill Material: Shredded memory foam
- Cover Material: Rayon from bamboo blend
- Features: Organic materials, machine washable
For another eco-friendly bestseller, we recommend the Brentwood Home Toddler Pillow. With over 5,000 reviews, this is one of the most popular pillows for toddlers. The fill is made from shredded memory foam scraps which gives it a super soft and squishy texture kids love. The cover is a silky bamboo rayon that stays cool all night.
Everything is made using OEKO-TEX certified organic materials. The foam and case are hypoallergenic and naturally resistant to microbes and allergens. When you need to clean, just toss the whole pillow in the washing machine. Parents love that their kids sleep soundly without getting too hot. The quality stands up well through nightly use. And at under $25, this pillow is an organic steal.
- Pros: Cooling bamboo cover, eco-friendly shredded memory foam fill, breathable, durable
- Cons: Only one size, can be too flat for some
4. Saatva Youth Pillow
- Fill Material: 100% TPU foam
- Cover Material: Cotton blend
- Features: Graphite gel layer for cooling, antimicrobial, washable
For superior cooling and support, we recommend the Saatva Youth Pillow. The incredibly soft fill is made from breathable TPU foam which conforms perfectly to your toddler’s head and neck. Adding to the comfort is a layer of graphite gel which helps dissipate body heat so your little one stays cooler. The cotton blend cover resists microbes, allergens, mold, and bacteria.
The Saatva Youth comes in three sizes to support your growing child from ages 1 through 10. It has great reviews for keeping kids cooler and more comfortable all night. Parents love the antimicrobial cover which prevents odors and acne. With high-end hotel-quality materials, your toddler will sleep as soundly as you do. While expensive at $79, the Saatva Youth does go on sale several times a year making it more affordable.
- Pros: Cooling graphite gel layer, breathable TPU foam fill, antimicrobial protection, luxury quality
- Cons: Expensive, heavier than other options
5. Angel’s Rest Toddler Pillow
- Fill Material: Hypoallergenic polyester
- Cover Material: Cotton
- Features: Very affordable, lightweight, washable
If you want a basic toddler pillow on a budget, we recommend Angel’s Rest. Priced under $15, you can’t beat the value. The fill is a soft hypoallergenic polyester and the cover is 100% cotton. Together this makes a lightweight, breathable pillow perfect for toddlers transitioning to a big kid bed.
It comes in fun prints your little one is sure to like. The whole pillow can be tossed in the washing machine to keep it fresh. With nearly 3,000 mostly positive reviews on Amazon, parents say it provides the perfect amount of cushioning and support for the price. Toddlers find it soft and comfy for a better night’s sleep.
- Pros: Very affordable, soft poly fill, 100% cotton cover, variety of prints, lightweight
- Cons: Can be too thin for some, flattens with use
How to Choose the Right Toddler Pillow Size
Picking the proper toddler pillow size is key for comfort and safety. Toddler pillows come in a range of sizes based on your child’s age:
- 12 x 16 inches – Best for ages 12-24 months old. Provides some elevation for the head without overcrowding the crib.
- 13 x 18 inches – The most common toddler size. Fits most toddler beds and is suitable for ages 2-4 years old. Allows some room to move and reposition.
- 14 x 19 inches – For ages 4-6 years old. More room to cuddle and roll with a transitional kid’s size.
- Standard/Queen – Once your child is 5+ and sleeping mostly still throughout the night, you can size up to a standard bed pillow.
Consider your child’s sleep habits – restless sleepers do better with more room to move while stillers may prefer a more fitted pillow. Get input from your toddler when selecting size and print so they feel part of the decision.
Toddler Pillow Safety Tips
While toddler pillows provide many benefits, they do also pose a risk of suffocation if used improperly. Follow these tips for safe pillow use:
- Wait until your toddler is developmentally ready before introducing a pillow
- Select the proper pillow size – too large can obstruct breathing
- Maintain a clear airway – tuck pillows under the crib sheet and away from walls
- Teach your toddler to keep the pillow out of their face
- Avoid pillows and soft bedding with children under 12 months
- Remove pillows, blankets and stuffed animals during naps for babies
Monitor your toddler’s adjustment to using a pillow and don’t hesitate to remove it if you have any safety concerns. With some time and training, your little one will get used to sleeping soundly and safely with their new pillow.
Frequently Asked Questions About Toddler Pillows
When can babies start using pillows?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no pillows or soft bedding for babies under 12 months. Around 18 months to 3 years is the ideal time to transition from a crib to a toddler bed and pillow once your child meets developmental readiness signs.
How do I choose a toddler pillow firmness?
Look for a pillow with medium soft to medium firm density – too soft and the pillow collapses, too firm and it lacks cushioning. High quality memory foam or polyester pillows provide the best blend of support and squish. Let your toddler test the pillow in the store to get their input on comfort.
Is memory foam safe for toddlers?
Yes, memory foam is safe and often preferred for toddlers since it cradles the head gently without flattening. Ensure the memory foam pillow is made without harmful chemicals and uses eco-friendly certifications. Breathable shredded memory foam allows for more air circulation than solid memory foam.
Should a toddler pillow be hard or soft?
The best toddler pillows have a density slightly softer than adult pillows but with enough firmness to provide support. Avoid pillows that are too thin and flatten out easily. However, young toddlers generally need a softer fill than older children and adults. Look for soft responsive materials like memory foam or polyfiber that also retain their shape.
How do I wash a toddler pillow?
Check the pillow’s care label but most toddler pillows and cases can be machine washed and dried. Use a gentle cycle and mild detergent. Some pillows can only be spot cleaned. Having a removable, washable cover makes cleaning easier. Wash pillows weekly or biweekly to avoid germs or allergens accumulating.
The Bottom Line
Helping your toddler transition from the crib into a big kid bed with their own pillow is an exciting milestone! While toddlers have unique sleep needs, the right pillow can provide just the right amount of soft cozy support as your child gets used to sleeping in a bed. Look for the proper size based on your toddler’s age and a comfortable, breathable fill like memory foam or polyester. Additional cooling, hypoallergenic or antimicrobial features also make excellent choices for a great night’s rest. Sweet toddler dreams!