Total Genius: Good Night Grab Bag


Airplane shooter “Incentivizing” Your Kid to Sleep Through the Night in His Big Boy Bed

The mom’s battle with sleep begins during pregnancy, no?  Crazy dreams, frequent trips to pee, hot flashes and thumping babies prep us for the marathon of newborn night waking and sleep deprivation we’re in for.  If we’re lucky, the babe’s sleep starts to normalize around 4-6 months (or—bummer—much later for some), but once your toddler starts sleeping through the night, you have a home-free (!) feeling of accomplishment.  Until, that is, you find yourself living in a post-big-kid-bed world. . .  For some, the transition from crib to bed goes seamlessly.  For the rest of us, the ones who’ve tried everything else, the ones who’ve thought about actually reading Go the F**k to Sleep out loud to their kids, even the ones who object to bribing incentivizing their children, I submit the Goodnight Grab Bag as a possible miracle solution to your wakeful woes.

 I cannot say enough about having a wealth of mom resources to draw upon in the moments of utter exhaustion and confusion that are an inevitable part of motherhood.  Ain’t No Mom Jeans BFF and sometime contributor, Jayme, has been just such an invaluable resource.  She’s the best kind of mom friend to have: ever faithful, non-judgmental, and she is the genius behind the Good Night Grab Bag.  Jayme discovered the Good Night Grab Bag during a desperate sweep of preschooler sleep message boards when her beloved bairn, formerly a rock star sleeper, exercised her newfound big girl bed freedom by visiting her ‘rents around 2:30 each morning.     

 Accustomed to her sleep, Jayme calmly explained the rules of the game to her super-savvy wee one.  The concept is pure genius in its simplicity, so it’s easy for any three-year-old to understand: if you sleep all night long in your own bed, you’ll win one of these fabulous prizes, placed here, just out of your reach, in the Good Night Grab Bag.  Jayme tried the grab bag out with a wealth of dollar store items.  And it worked.  She cautiously told me the results, but I couldn’t believe it.  Each morning, bright eyed and bushy tailed, her sweet girl woke up, thrilled to pluck her prize from the grab bag, after a night spent in her very own bed.  I checked in the next week, and it was still working.  Ditto the next. 

 So. . . in consideration of the following points:

– I am 15 weeks pregnant and still insanely first-trimester (?) tired;

– My 21-month-old regularly hops out of his crib and stealthily roams the upper floor of our house;

– Since birth, our 3-1/2-year-old has almost never slept through the night in his own room (especially since switching to a big boy bed);

– My brain has become apparently addled by sleep deprivation;

– And considering that in just 6 short months I’ll be dealing with a wild card baby and thrice (if not more) nightly wakings;

I thought it might be worth giving the Good Night Grab Bag a try.   

 And it worked.  Not just the first night but also the following six.  I had stocked the bag with cheap dollar store items I would never usually give my 3-1/2 year old: Silly String, a glow-in-the-dark wand, a cheap scoop ball set, a pool Frisbee, one of those weird put-it-in-water-and-it-grows to 600x its size things, funny glasses from a birthday party gift bag, and dinosaur “fossils,” and he LOVED it.  And it has continued to work, even passing the ultimate test of sleeping at my parents’ notoriously bright mountain house, where he usually wakes up two to three times per night. 

 Um, sold.  In spite of the fact that I have always been opposed to bribing incentivizing my kiddos.  And, while I’m sure that, like all things of this nature, the Good Night Grab Bag will fizzle out, it has been so valuable to my mental health, that if I have to spend $7 a week on cheap dollar store toys until young Huck goes off to college, I surely will. 

 I should add that both Jayme and I have had the new issue of early (6 AM?) grab bag anticipatory waking.  I’m planning on adding a new component to the goodnight grab bag concept by putting a timer on a light in his room and setting it for 7 AM.  The new rules will stipulate that to receive a grab bag prize, he must stay in his room all night, and until the light turns on.

 Wish me luck, Mamas!  I know I’m going to need all I can get as my hands are now outnumbered by my offspring!

– M.


Here’s a sample Good Night Grab Bag shopping list.  These items are a lot more expensive on Amazon, but I found them all either at the dollar store or at Target for $1 or less, or for free from birthday party grab bags:


Good Night Grab Bag

Dinosaur Skeletons

Silly String

Airplane Shooter

Chuggington Puzzle

Slinky Pop Tube

Wonder Pets Stickers

Disney Princess Bands

Paddle Ball

Scoop Ball


  1. Freakin’ AWESOME. And yeah – with your two & their sleeping habits, you’re definitely going to be insanely first-trimester tired! So awesome that you found a solution, and so happy to have this in my back pocket!

  2. Thanks for sharing this idea! My oldest is still in a crib, but I know a big-kid bed is on the horizon!
    Because it literally changed my life and I want to share with all you other sleepy moms, I have to recommend The Sleep Lady’s book “Good Night, Sleep Tight.” Her method falls between Cry It Out and Co-Sleeping, and has worked like magic for my girls. They (get ready to be jealous) not only sleep 110-12 hours straight through every night, but take a 1-2 hour nap AT THE SAME TIME every day.

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