Inside: The absolute best products to help kids with deployment, tested by real military families and proven to provide the support they need to overcome this difficult time.
The first military support item I ever bought my son was a bear.
I bought it while we were at Lackland for his graduation. He hadn’t even met his daddy yet, but he already had a daddy bear.
Looking back it wasn’t the greatest bear. It had these hard plastic combat boots that were not cuddly, and it wasn’t all that soft. It sits on his dresser and isn’t really used much. Our son was only a baby when his daddy was away, but this year will be different. When my husband leaves for his first deployment, my son will absolutely miss his daddy.
I honestly can’t even imagine the nightmare that will be the “bedtime” routine, when daddy isn’t there to play and give kisses.
I reached out to my fellow military spouses to find out what works for their family. Here are the absolute best tips that will –hopefully– make deployment a little easier for you and your family.
Related Article: How to rock your kids bedtime during deployment
One of my favorite ideas was suggested by Sarah from Servant Mama, to create videos before daddy leaves of him and the kids reading bedtime stories together. Kristen from If The Saddle Fits agreed that watching videos of daddy reading bedtime stories along with recordable storybooks (this one is my favorite) was by far her sons favorite thing during deployment.
Our friend Amanda shared that she is really excited about a book she just purchased from Daddy’s Deployed that is actually customizable with your children’s names (for up to four children). The site also has books for mommy’s deployment as well.
Another fantastic idea is to have a recordable teddy bear. Kim from She is Fierce says that all her kids have had Build-A-Bear recordable teddy bears. They are customizable and can be dressed in camouflage outfits. However, what her kids really love is the recording that her husband would do before he left. She does advise to have a spare recording since they do wear out over time (especially since your kids will probably listen to it a hundred times a day!)
Lizann from The Seasoned Spouse agrees with having a recordable teddy bear. She likes the company BeaRegards, which is a veteran owned company and has similar recordable stuffed animals but at a more budget-friendly price. (You can also buy them on amazon)
Several companies sell variations of dolls for children, all having unique features that can benefit your child.
Michelle from NextGen MilSpouse swears by Daddy Dolls. She states, “My daughters love their Daddy Dolls. Anytime they are missing him, they squeeze it. They have cried into their Daddy Dolls when they are upset. They have had their Daddy Dolls play Barbies when they are missing him. It truly is the BEST product to soothe my children during deployment, TDYs and times of separation.“
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Troop on the Stoop is also one of our favorite variations of deployment dolls. Find out more about why I love them at the bottom of this post!
Lizann also shares that her kids loved their daddy quilts provided by the ASYMCA. She states, “The baby slept with hers draped over the crib so she could see Daddy’s picture. She liked to kiss him goodnight.” You can read her article about her daddy quilts here.
Daddy quilts are made by volunteers and are provided at no cost to families of deployed service members through Operation Kid Comfort.
Related Article: 10 Simple Actions To Make Deployment Easier For Kids
Sometimes it’s not a product that provides comfort, but a small act that helps a child feel closer to their deployed loved one.
Military Kids Life
This is an amazing tool for older military kids! Janine from Military Kids’ Life states, “We think Military Kids’ Life is a great tool to help kids through deployments. Kids share their stories of times they’ve been through deployments and what has helped them… We’ve had many kids write to us with their stories and have published them in the magazine for other kids to read (and gain strength and community from)… the power of story is important for our older military kids who have outgrown many of the things that have been designed for coping with deployments (although my 10 year old still sleeps with his Daddy Doll!!!).”
Brat Town Bugle
This is a program developed by our friend Benita from Operation We Are Here. It allows children to create personalized newspapers to send to their deployed parent. You can learn more and download these coloring pages for free here.
Tessa from Humans on the Homefront said that in addition to the daddy dolls, her kids (ages 4 and 6) really loved having a Hershey kiss countdown. She states, “We did “a kiss from daddy” every night before bed. It was the perfect reminder he missed them without overwhelming them.”
This is a wonderful idea because not only is it budget-friendly but if deployment gets extended, it’s easy to slip a few extra kisses in without kids noticing (hopefully!).
Troop on the Stoop
We absolutely love Troop on the Stoop because it is essentially a combination of all of our favorite things at one affordable price.
Troop on the Stoop was created by a combat veteran who was working at a children’s hospital after he was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army. He got the idea for this product while watching many children have to deal with the separation of their deployed loved one.
Troop on the Stoop comes with a plush toy soldier for your kids to hold, hug, and kiss, and is available in a variety of skin colors. Also included is a book and a picture frame. I love this idea because not only can you videotape your children and their daddy reading the book together, but you can also help your kids pick out their favorite picture of daddy to have with them during bedtime.