Explaining Dreaming to a Toddler

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Two nights ago, Gavin woke up from a dream very upset. He dreamt that Curious George bit his toe. Not just Curious George from the tv show, but his little stuffed Curious George that he has cuddled with at nighttime since he was 9 months old. He kept crying “No, George!” and asked me to put him away. I tried to comfort him as best I could while attempting to explain that it was just a dream. In my sleepy confusion at 3:30am, I was making the problem worse because I didn’t remember that Gavin didn’t know what a dream was. I kept telling him that it wasn’t real, that George really didn’t bite his toe, but to Gavin it was as real as could be. Finally, I put poor George away and was able to calm Gavin back to sleep.

The next morning, I naively thought that he would forget everything that happened and all would go back to normal. I was wrong. George surfaced from underneath his covers where I had stashed him, and Gavin immediately got upset. He wouldn’t even stay in the same room with him. I again tried to explain that dreams were something that we imagined while we were sleeping, but they didn’t really happen. I hit another brick wall. A 2 ½ year old doesn’t know what imagine means! By that night, George was out and Mickey Mouse was in. George isn’t allowed anywhere near his room, and Gavin has a new toy to snuggle with at night.

 This morning, I tried again to explain dreams, but I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t find the words to use they he understood to express the idea of a dream. I tried to do some research on toddlers and dreams and didn’t find much except that it’s a normal part of development. WebMd actually says that conflicts that happen during the day can lead to nightmares. Ironically, Gavin bit another child at daycare that day and did not get dessert after dinner as a result.  A UC of Berkley study says that dreaming is a type of overnight therapy that help to soothe bad things that happened during the day.  I guess really wouldn’t that cookie after dinner.

Google didn’t tell me much except that dreams are normal and common at this age. I couldn’t find anything on when a child understands the difference between dreams and reality or any tips on explaining dreams to toddler. I guess dreaming is just to advanced of an idea for a 2-year-old to understand. Hopefully, Mickey Mouse will be a good replacement and Gavin will only have happy dreams about him; otherwise, a trip to Disney World will never happen. For now, George will have to find a new place to sleep at night.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Mom on March 28, 2012 at 7:16 pm

    I wonder if George biting Gavin’s toe was his way of being punished because he knew he shouldn’t have bit the other kid at school.


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