In the early days of my parenting life – possibly while I was still pregnant – I read a lot about how to help my children to become good sleepers. Despite that research, they were still nine or ten months old before they actually became good sleepers, but still: there were certain suggestions that stuck with me – getting rid of dummies as early as possible; keeping them in cots as long as possible; using sleeping bags to keep them warm at night (and using them for all naps, too, for consistency); and encouraging the babies to form an attachment to a special toy, to comfort them while they drifted off to sleep. So, when Hattie and Joe were three months old, we introduced Betty the Bear (for Hattie) and Larry the Lion (for Joe). And we bought two of each toy, because I’d read dire warnings of the horror that awaits hapless parents whose child loses their beloved toy.
By the time they were four months old, they slept with Larry and Betty every day.
By the time she was five months old, Hattie was finding Betty particularly useful during naps. Trust me, when we first came into the kids’ room and saw her like this we swiftly checked that Betty wasn’t slowly smothering her, but we soon realised that she had air vents under there…
In time, Joe also found some excellent alternative uses for Larry: as a skirt at the playground, when he was two, and as a sun hat, at the kids’ four year old birthday photo shoot:
Over the past four years Hattie has tended to set Betty aside occasionally in favour of different furry bedtime companions, but after a few nights with a penguin or a dragon, Betty always seems to end up being the chosen bear. And Joe has never had a nap, or slept overnight, without Larry.
Larry and Betty have also played a key role in many strategic car naps:
Joe is Larry’s Daddy, there’s no doubt about it. After all, when he was two years old he was pregnant with Larry, and a year later he was baby(lion) wearing.
Larry and Betty have had a lot of outings. Larry, in particular, goes everywhere… cafes, boats, impromptu meetings with Father Christmas…
University, the mall, France…
Unsurprisingly, all of these outings can lead to a very dirty little lion. And this is where the two versions of each toy is hugely helpful: you can swap the dirty toy for a clean one. Because I love my kids’ gorgeous innocence, I have a favourite way of doing that: I have always kept Spare Larry and Spare Betty hidden, so Hattie and Joe don’t know about them. When it’s time for Larry and Betty to have a bath I wait until Tristan’s giving the kids a bath upstairs, and then I take the dirty toys down to the laundry for their ‘bath’. I hide them in the bottom of a dirty linen basket, dig the clean toys out of my knicker drawer, wrap each of them in a hand towel, and leave them waiting in the living room. Hattie and Joe are firmly convinced that Larry and Betty have a bath and get their fur dried in the time it takes Tristan to wash the two of them. It is so cute!
Larry has starred in photo shoots with two year old Joe:
And with three year old Joe:
Larry’s even had a starring role on Joe’s last two birthday cakes:
And although Hattie isn’t quite as attached to Betty, she still gets a lot of love and attention:
In summary, I totally endorse the ‘introduce a favourite sleep toy at the baby stage’ suggestion. And remember to buy (and hide) the spare version!
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