The Best Pillows for Kids to Keep Them Asleep All Night

Getting the right pillow for your child is critical for how well they sleep.

By Sheryl Grassie

From that first toddler pillow to a full-sized adult version, children depend on their pillow to make them comfortable and help stay relaxed and asleep. But, children aren’t adults, and their proportions are different. You might just assume they can transition from a crib with no pillow to a bed with an adult pillow, but there are cautions about doing that. The biggest concern is misalignment of the shoulders, neck, and head that can result in poor sleep and poor posture as they are still growing.

The best pillows help keep our spines aligned while we sleep and thus our blood flow even, our breathing regulated, and our spinal nerves free from pinching. For this to be the case with little ones, the pillow needs to be proportionate.

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John N Tree cotton baby pillow

Best for Infants: John N Tree – Cloud Lamb, Organic Cotton Baby Protective Pillow 

  • Price: $18.95 (price varies for other animal types)
  • Size: 15” x 8”
  • Rating: 4.2 out of 5 stars, 1,139 reviews

Most parents won’t be buying a pillow for their infant, but some will need it to prevent flat head syndrome. A great organic option for your infant is the Cloud Lamb, a stuffed animal that is also a pillow.

Perfect for sleep and also for baby to cuddle, this sweet lamb carries the GOTS – Global Organic Textile Standard certification, a world-wide recognition of organic standards in textiles. Safe for next to baby’s skin, there are no harmful fumes to inhale while they sleep. It also comes in other animal types including a dog, an elephant, and a horse. Machine wash to clean.

 PROS

  • Stuffed animal and pillow in one
  • Certified organic 
  • Hypoallergenic

CONS

  • High maintenance: Hand wash and flat dry recommended
  • Not recommended for infants older than 1 year

Best Organic: Beans72 Organic Buckwheat Pillow – Child Size

  • Price: $34.99
  • Size: 15” x 8”
  • Rating: 4.2 out of 5 stars, 1,139 reviews

At a slightly higher price point from other pillow materials, buckwheat hulls are a unique fill with an individual feel. Many people love this ancient Japanese pillow that is organic and natural. Keep your child healthy with 100% organic buckwheat hulls and a 100% natural unbleached cotton cover. This protective cover is removable for washing, buckwheat hulls can be dried in the sun to refresh.

Buckwheat hull pillows can relieve headaches, neck pain, stress and tension. They support in a unique way and can improve sleep. They hold their shape and you can add or subtract hulls for a custom fit. Imagine your little one cuddled on this organic pillow with its naturally good airflow and its cool, sleep aiding temperature.

PROS

  •     Organic buckwheat hull interior and 100% natural cotton cover
  •     Cover can be removed for easy washing while interior can be set in the sun to refresh
  •     Can relieve tension 

CONS

  •     Heavy, weights 10-12 pounds 
  •     Pricey
My Little North Organic toddler pillow

Best for Toddlers: My Little North Star Toddler Pillow

  • Price: $18.99
  • Size: 18” x 13”
  • Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars, 749 reviews

The My First Organic Toddler Pillow, has a 100% organic cotton cover. The filling is made from shredded polyester, but it is hypoallergenic and free of all toxic chemicals including flame retardants, mold and mildew chemicals, herbicides, pesticides, or fungicides.

If there is ever a time to get a non-toxic pillow, it is when your child is young to help keep them healthy. This pillow does a wonderful job of eliminating all the chemicals commonly used in pillows.

The My Little North Star is recommended for 2 to 5-year-olds, is very soft and supportive, and recommended by chiropractors. It is easy to take for overnights or on extended travel. Machine wash and dry.

 PROS

  • Hypoallergenic
  • Mold, mildew, and dust mite resistant
  • Organic cotton cover

CONS

  • Not recommended for children under 2 years of age
  • Polyester filling isn’t organic
RestCloud toddler pillow

Best Memory Foam: RestCloud Toddler Pillow – Memory Foam

  • Price: $22.99
  • Size: 15.4” x 10.3”
  • Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars, 133 reviews

The perfect size memory foam pillow for your 2 -to 7-year-old. This pillow is certified by both ROHS and Reach 100% safe for kids to be free of harmful chemicals. Both these regulatory entities were founded in Europe and have strict guidelines on chemical safety.

This convenient travel size pillow comes in two colors, blue and pink, has a travel case, and a removable cotton blend cover for easy washing. The cover is antimicrobial and hypoallergenic.  It retains its shape for optimal spinal support and a great night’s sleep.

PROS

  • Certified free of harmful chemicals
  • Comes with travel case
  • Removable antimicrobial and hypoallergenic cotton blend cover for easy washing

CONS

  • Not recommended for children under 2 years of age
  • Memory foam may sleep hot 

Why Do Kids Need a Good Pillow?

As your child grows, there will come a time when they will need a pillow to remain comfortable through the night. Finding the right pillow will ensure both your little one — and you — sleep well through the night. 

The best pillows for kids should be soft enough to be comfortable yet firm enough to provide optimal support for your little one’s developing body, says Kim West, a.k.a. The Sleep Lady, and author of Good Night, Sleep Tight.

Do size and support really matter? Absolutely. A regular size pillow is designed to support the head and neck of adults. Children’s bodies are proportioned differently. Sleeping with a regular pillow may put unnecessary strain on their necks and shoulders, disrupting their sleep and leading to discomfort and poor posture when they’re awake. Smaller pillows also help young children learn to toss and turn less at night in order to keep their heads on the pillow. 

The bottom line — a comfortable pillow is key to your child getting a good night’s sleep, so they wake refreshed for the day ahead. 

When Should Kids Start Sleeping with a Pillow? 

Just like moving out of the crib or toilet training, you can plan the timing of changes in your child’s life or wait and take your cues from them. There is no exact time to introduce a pillow; however, the average age is around 18 months. Babies should not use a pillow; toddlers can go either way, but by the age of 2 or 3 they need one for good sleep.

Related: Best mattress for kids

There are circumstances and preferences that might push your timeline in one direction or another, like needing to prevent flat head syndrome, which could necessitate a crib pillow or noticing your child always bunches something and puts in under their head for sleep. If you have a particularly verbal child, they may tell you directly that they want or don’t want a pillow for sleep.

At whatever age you introduce a pillow, it is good to start thinking about what material is best for your child. Do they want a fluffy down pillow, a cradling memory foam pillow, or a structured cotton pillow? Pillows are generally made from only a few different materials that have their pros and cons. Below is a list of common pillow fillings and things to consider.

Pillow Materials Pros Cons
Feathers & Down
  • Soft and pliable
  • Organic and natural
  • Easy to wash
  • Can be an allergy trigger
  • Too soft for some and not enough support
  • Can be expensive
Buckwheat Hulls
  • Crunchy texture kids really like
  • Good sensory input
  • Holds shape and won’t flatten
  • Natural and organic
  • Good airflow and sleeps cool
  • Can be a choking hazard if pillow breaks open
  • More expensive
  • Not washer friendly
Memory Foam
  • Molds to the shape of your child’s head for great support
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Won’t flatten
  • Long lasting
  • Can be hot
  • Heavy
  • Doesn’t bend easily
  • Toxic off gassing
  • Only spot cleaning
Latex
  • Natural and organic
  • Sustainable crop – rubber trees
  • Long lasting
  • Naturally fire retardant
  • Mold and offers firm support
  • More expensive
Synthetic Fill
  • Lightweight
  • Inexpensive
  • Durable
  • Easy care washing
  • Can get lumpy
  • Short lifespan
  • Not very malleable or supportive
  • Can contain toxic chemicals
Cotton
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Natural and organic
  • Washable
  • Low profile and firm
  • More expensive
  • Can become hard
  • Holds moisture and needs an extended dry time
Wool 
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Cool in summer, warm in winter
  • Organic and natural
  • Good airflow for moisture
  • Flattens over time
  • No natural buoyancy

How to Choose the Best Pillow for Kids

There are several factors to consider when choosing a pillow for your child: 

Material: Pillows are made with a variety of materials including memory foam, synthetic filling, down, latex, cotton, and even buckwheat hulls. Consider the pros and cons from our list to determine the best options for your child.

Safety: Pillows can pose suffocation hazards for toddlers if they are not developmentally ready for one. Be sure your child is at least 2 years of age before you introduce a pillow for sleeping. 

Durability: You’ll want your toddler’s pillow to last. Be sure your toddler’s pillow is made with quality materials that can stand the test of time. 

Easy to clean: Your toddler’s pillow cradles your sweet one’s head, but it is exposed to a bunch of unpleasantness like saliva and sweat. You’ll want to keep your child safe from bacteria and illness-causing germs by regularly washing their pillow. Pillows that are machine washable are much lower maintenance than ones that require hand-washing or other special care. 

Compatibility with sleeping position: Your child may toss and turn a lot, but generally, children fall a specific sleeping position. If they settle in as a side sleeper (as most adults do), a thicker pillow will help keep their spines aligned. Stomach and back sleepers fare better with a flatter pillow. Combination sleepers do best with a pillow they can scrunch into different heights. 

Size: Standard size pillows are designed for adults. But children have different proportions. Toddler pillows are designed especially for little ones. They’re smaller (13” x 18”) and have a lower loft than standard pillows.

Special features: (cooling, hypoallergenic, easy for travel, etc.) Many pillows offer added features for specific needs. For example, some have cooling technology for hot sleepers, hypoallergenic materials for sensitive sleepers, or tension-relieving qualities for those who need extra relaxation at night. 

FAQs

What is the best pillow for a 4-year-old? 

Toddler sized pillows (13” x 18”) are best for children ages 2 and 3. By age 4, your child can transition to a child pillow (16” x 22”), which is slightly larger than a toddler pillow. If you cannot find a child pillow, stick with the toddler pillow.

What is the best pillow for a 5-year-old? 

By age 5, you can begin to transition your child to a youth pillow (18” x 24”), which is slightly smaller than a standard pillow. If you cannot find a youth pillow and are not using a youth pillow, you can size up to a standard pillow (20” x 24”).

What age should a child have a pillow?

The best age to introduce a pillow to your child is between 2 and 3, when they are transitioning from a crib to a “big kid” bed. 

What is the difference between a toddler pillow and a regular pillow? 

Toddler pillows are 13 inches by 18 inches and designed to fit the smaller proportions of a developing toddler’s body. Regular pillows (also called standard pillows) are designed for adults and are 20 inches by 26 inches.

Summary

Compare the best pillows for kids below:

Product Material Best for  Customer Rating
John N Tree – Cloud Lamb, Organic Cotton Baby Protective Pillow 100% Natural Organic Cotton Infants 4.4/5
Beans72 Organic Buckwheat Pillow 100% Organic Buckwheat Hulls with 100% Natural Unbleached Cotton cover Organic 4.2/5
My Little North Star Toddler Pillow 100% Organic Cotton with shredded polyester Toddlers 4.5/5
RestCloud Toddler Pillow Memory Foam Memory Foam/Travel 4.7/5

Pillows are an important part of getting a good night’s sleep. Kids don’t generally start using one until around 18 months and sometimes later. There are numerous materials that pillows are made from, so let your little one help decide what is most comfortable for them. Also consider something with a non-toxic certification to insure a healthy sleep environment for your child.


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