Teaching rules to stuffed animals makes them easier (and more fun) for kids

Ah, the power of creative thinking. Here's how Alma made "the rules" fun for her toddler:

While transitioning my 2 year old from her beloved crib to a "big girl" bed. I wanted to emphasize that she needed to stay in her bed and sleep in her bed, so I told her we were going to make sure her stuffed animals knew the rules. She'd pick an animal and hand it to me, and I'd say, "Panda, this is a big girl bed. Do you know the rules? Rule number one: stay in bed! Rule number two? Go to sleep!"

By the time I'd said the rules to a couple of animals, my daughter started chiming in with "Rule number one! Rule number two!" Over the next couple of days, she'd ask me to go upstairs with her to "tell my animals the magic rules."

And best of all, my daughter is following the rules!


  1. Bob says

    Nice hack! We’ve done some teaching with our son’s animals — sometimes he gets it and sometimes not but I’ve been rather apprehensive about his move to a big bed. He’s such a great sleeper now and I don’t want to upset the peace. I think you trick might make it much easier for him. Thanks!

  2. Brian says

    Stuffed animals and toys are a great way to reinforce almost anything like this. We have had to warn certain ‘toys’ that if they they don’t stop fighting they will get a timeout (where we take the toy away). There is a balance to this, as it can lead to more of the ‘its not my fault’ thinking, but it seems to work if you do it from time to time. I think it is because it isn’t quite as confrontational.

  3. Dr. Pugawug says

    Also useful for reinforcing potty training, and for taking medicine. Our daughter was prescribed an inhaler with a face mask spacer following a RSV infection. We medicated her favorite stuffed animal first, then she took the inhaler without any apprehension! Next time we need to administer meds, we’ll start with the stuffed animal and then move on to the kid.

  4. none says

    We do this with my four year old every night we tell Brownie the bear the rules Help DD to have good dreams help her not to hear any loud scary noises help her to get up to go potty help her to stay in her own bed until 6am ect. then we ask the bear “can you do that?” dd helps bear nod yes. this works much better than telling dd to do things on her own.

  5. emjaybee says

    That is the cutest thing I ever heard. Seriously. I can’t wait till my son is old enough to try it.

    When I was a babysitter, I once hit on the brilliant hack of telling kids that we had to be quiet at bedtime “because the birds were sleeping outside your window and you’ll wake them up.” Their eyes would get big, and they’d say “they ARE?” and that would distract them from begging to stay up.

  6. Jill in Atlanta says

    I can get my 3yo to do almost anything when his strong willed personality rebels by invoking either a stuffed animal or a book character. “Let’s go upstairs to get your pj’s on” “NO!”, vs “Let’s go to our cave to hibernate, Baby Bear” “Yeah!” or “Put your head on your pillow” (sits up) vs “Teddy wants you to lie next to her” (head down). I’m just lucky I discovered it early with him!

  7. Abel says

    Nice hack! It’s cool, when you talk to the panda about the rules, the child picks up too. Far better than talking directly to the child. When you involve your child with some “responsibility” and make things fun, it always works. I use this trick to ask my daughter to put away toys. It works wonder.

  8. meta-dad says

    This is a great idea! Thanks a bunch. We’e getting ready to transition our oldest out the crib and upgrade the younger from the co-sleeper to the crib so hopefully this will help us a bit.