Let's start with the first thing pediatricians recommend: no pillows in the crib under the age of 2. Although some may say it's ok earlier, this is usually a case-by-case situation so be sure to always check with your own doctor first.
The next thing to know about choosing the correct size pillow for a toddler is that size most definitely does matter! Pediatricians do not want toddlers with an adult size pillow. They recommend one sized for their small necks and bodies, which is why A Little Pillow Company's Toddler Pillow at 13" x 19" was made to fit the needs of the toddler first and foremost. Pillows that are too big can cause neck and back pain and sleeplessness.
The "size" we are talking about here is primarily the loft, i.e. height of the pillow. Although there are low-loft adult pillows which you may think would be better because the dimension is larger (in an attempt to counteract the nighttime tossings and turnings of your child), 1) they are very hard to find and 2) can also be too soft, curving up around a toddlers face. So this brings us back to choosing a properly sized Toddler Pillow. However, by no means are all toddler pillow made alike!
For one, the rapid growth rate of children can cause all sorts of struggle with the loft. It depends on where the stuffing level begins. Do you size it for the smaller 2 year old only to have the loft become too low as they grow, or do you size it for the 4 year old, only to have it then too high for the younger 'toddler'? At A Little Pillow Company our Goldilocks Standard (i.e. not too low, not too high) is the most practical, recommended and beneficial - and after 9 years, continues to be the most trusted toddler pillow!
UPDATE: This year we went one step further and solved the problem for good! We now have a Custom Loft option which allows YOU the parent to adjust the loft of the pillow directly for your child, taking out fill to make it lower for a younger toddler and adding more as the child grows and needs more. (Purchase our Regular and Custom Loft Toddler Pillows on our website or Amazon.)
In addition to the physiological reason behind a small profile pillow, another benefit is how it can encourage a restless child to move less during the night. Many, many parents are surprised, but pleased, at finding that their toddlers are more stationary as they learn to stay on our pillow while sleeping. Please remember though, as every child is different they will adjust at different rates to a new pillow. At 13 inches x 19 inches our pillows are the appropriate size and loft for 2 - 4 year old children.
Some parents have expressed concern that a toddler pillow looks too small since it doesn't fit fully across a toddler bed -- then again, neither does one adult pillow fit across an adult bed. Just because a bedding company supplies standard size pillow cases with your crib, toddler or twin sheet set does not mean that a standard size pillow is right for a young child. Many of these companies simply are not interested in putting in the effort to provide toddler cases or toddler pillows. If you like the way the standard size looks on the bed, by all means use one for the decor but remove it during the night and give your child the appropriate size pillow for sleeping.
You should also let your child "tell" you when they are ready to go up to a larger Youth Pillow. Some may reach this stage earlier than others, especially those children who are at the upper end of their growth rates. Having said this, we have adults who actually use our youth pillow (and some even our toddler pillow) as their complete nighttime pillow so open-mindedness here too is helpful.
For those of you who don't have a toddler just yet and are wondering when is the correct age to give your baby a pillow, check out this Post.
If you are interested in other baby and toddler related products, check out the Parent Guide, where you will find a large assortment of items and good reviews.