Toddler Dreams: Baby’s First Dream Log

by Melanie on August 8, 2013

Toddler Dreams

We’ve had issues with our Internet provider this past week, but I promise a complete account of our queen theme is coming real soon!

For now, I want to share something else that’s been fresh on my mind: toddler dreams.

Rocket is now beginning to form sentences and with this skill comes the next level of communication between him and the world around him.

This includes simple descriptions of the dreams he’s been having at night. I’ve always wondered what goes on in that precious mind of his and it makes me giddy with delight now that he’s able to tell me!

It was on November 29, 2012 that I posted this status update on my Facebook page:

“I love watching my baby sleep. I always wonder, as I gaze at him in his peaceful slumber, what dreams are playing out in his head. I think about how I can’t wait for him to gain the vocabulary to describe them to me. Well, I’m still going to have to wait for a more in-depth picture, but I did catch my first glimpse last night! I heard him utter his first sleep-talking word. With a slight smile on his face, he said, “Dada.” It was just as clear and playful as his waking speech. It filled my heart with joy to see that my son’s good times with his dad even trickled into and sweetened his dreams. I rested so well last night knowing that.”

At 21 months old, it happened! He described his first dream to me.

And ever since then, I’ve implemented a fun new tradition to start our mornings. The first question I ask him as he rubs those eyes and transitions to wakefulness is whether or not he had any dreams last night.

I love hearing his excitement as he describes them to me! It also gives me great perspective on what is at the forefront of his thoughts.

Later on, I write them down in a dream journal I’ve created just for him. I plan on passing it on to him to take over after he’s develops the writing skills. Read more about this in the Toddler Dreams Q & A below.

I highly recommend every parent write down those sweet toddler dreams. There are so many advantages of keeping a dream log early on for your toddler and it will double as a unique memento for those early years that offers a deeper glimpse into your child’s subconscious than any ordinary baby book will.

Toddler Dreams Q & A

Toddler Dreams 2

1. How can you be sure your toddler understands an abstract concept like a “dream”?

In order to strike up a conversation about dreams in the morning, your toddler first has to understand what a dream is. It was only very recently, after my son turned 21 months old, when I first felt sure that he understood what a dream is.

For us, that light bulb clicked only after we were able to talk about his dreams in the moment. And by that, I mean that there were two occasions when he woke up in the middle of the night with a nightmare.

The first time, he woke up crying out for his stool and his toothbrush. It was very obvious by how random and unexpected his request was that he had been dreaming.

I took the opportunity to explain to him that he’d had a dream about brushing his teeth. It didn’t actually happen, it was just something that he dreamed about while he was sleeping.

“Dream?” He asked.

“Yes, a dream.” I assured him as he drifted back to sleep.

This happened a second time on a different night before he expressed on his own that he understood what a dream is. He’d woken up in the middle of the night calling out for fruit snacks and Daddy. I repeated the same process, making sure to tell him then and there that he’d had a dream.

The morning following that second dream, he described to me in further detail what he’d dreamed about. He had hurt his foot and Daddy had promised to give him some fruit snacks to make it feel better.

“Does your foot hurt now?” I asked.


“Did your foot hurt in the dream?”

“Yes.” I asked these questions to ensure that he understood the difference between the dream and reality.

(This story gets crazier! Later that day after I’d completely forgotten about his dream, he dropped a water bottle on his foot, cried out that it hurt, and my husband offered him some fruit snacks. I watched the first dream he described to me play out in front of my eyes that very evening!)

Without “catching him in the act” of dreaming, I’m not sure how easy it would be to explain this early, because dreams are a pretty abstract concept for a young toddler to grasp.

If your young child ever wakes up with nightmares, I highly encourage you to turn it into a learning opportunity by talking to them about dreams and helping them understand what’s happening.

2. How should you handle toddler dreams, especially when they are nightmares?

Talk to your tots!

Don’t rush them back to sleep upon the waking of a terrible nightmare, just for the sake of your own sleeping schedule. I know it can be inconvenient when our children wake up in the middle of the night, but nightmares are a very emotional ride for someone who doesn’t even yet understand what they are. In fact, they’re an emotional ride for us grown-ups! I won’t even get into the zombie dream I had last week.

In that moment, your toddlers need nothing more than your love, support, and comfort.

If your toddlers are not yet very vocal, you talk to them about their dreams. Explain what they are, the best way you know how, and in as comforting a tone as you can. Your words mean the world to them and will help them rest more peacefully.

If your toddlers are more on the vocal side, encourage them to talk about their own dreams and to tell you what happened. It helps them to process the dreams and to deal with the emotions that come with them.

3. What are the advantages of keeping a dream log for toddlers?

I’m a big believer in keeping journals.

Writing in journals, both standard journals and dream journals, has for me personally been a therapeutic act throughout my life. I began doing this at a very young age and even remember the name of my first diary! Yes, she had a name.

Having a creative medium such as writing to express myself helps me to gain clarity, focus, self-awareness, and as a result of all that, it helps me to formulate solutions for my problems. For me, this type of self-reflection is easier to achieve by putting my thoughts into words.

Even if it doesn’t solve my problems, it at the very least relieves some of my stress and helps me to better understand myself.

A dream log is no different. Even though dreams aren’t “real”, they feel very real and can be quite unsettling. The challenges that creep up in dreams are often reflections of our real world situations and the emotions we experience from dreams are in every way real.

By keeping a dream log of Rocket’s early toddler dreams, I hope to set a foundation for a life of self-expression through writing. My long-term goal is to build on the character attributes of creativity and introspection.

In addition to that, what a neat record it will be to have a compilation of his first dreams! I’d have loved it if my parents had done the same for me!

4. What should you write in a journal of dreams for toddlers?

I write down his dreams, in his words.

You could add more personal notes about your conversations with your toddlers if you’d like. But I prefer to keep it simple.

I try to keep my opinion out of it and stick with the actual dream. I do note the mood that comes with the dream. As he describes them to me, he is sometimes overjoyed and other times distressed, depending on the subject matter.

I like to write down his emotional state because it gives a deeper indication of what type of dream he had.

5. What should you NOT write down in a dream journal?

In writing down toddler dreams, I refrain from putting too much of the mushy mama stuff! It gets tempting, but I think he will enjoy the dream log better in the future if I keep with the facts and events of the dreams rather than inserting too many of my feelings about them.

This dream journal, after all, is for him, not Mom. I have my own!

I also don’t think it’s necessary to write down every single dream, if it’s mundane or vague, especially if your child is a daily dreamer. I adopt this rule in my own personal dream journal as well.

The reason I say this is because the process should be beneficial and therapeutic, not obsessive-compulsive to the point where you beat yourself up if you miss one. I’ve learned this through my own experiences with journal-keeping.

The ultimate goal is to pass the writing torch to my son and I want to focus on honing the right skills by setting an example in my own structure.

 —End of Toddler Dreams Q & A—

Keeping a dream log for your young tots will hopefully encourage them to keep journals themselves as they are learning to write. This will give them great writing practice and help them develop the important and tricky-to-teach skills of creativity and introspection.

The log will also be a beautiful record of their early toddler dreams that required you to take the time to engage in active, bonding conversations with your tots in order to extract!

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Michelle August 9, 2013 at 4:12 pm

What a great idea!! I’m sure he’ll really appreciate that when he’s older.


timccray September 28, 2013 at 11:12 pm

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