Mattress Types for Kids

Mattress Types for Kids


Before weighing other factors when mattress shopping for kids, a parent needs to know about the basic mattress support types and different comfort levels. The support type refers to the basic construction of the mattress, whether it is filled with springs, foam, or other materials. The comfort level refers to the initial feel of the mattress and different manufacturer’s ratings for the feel of the mattress.


Support Types

There are many kinds of mattress technologies, from waterbeds to mattresses with air chambers that can be adjusted for firmness. However, these are uncommon for use in a child’s bedroom. Waterbeds, for example, can be punctured, and parents usually want something that can stand up to wear and tear for several years. Air mattresses are more commonly used for adults or senior citizens who need relief from pressure points created by other mattresses. The following are the most common mattress support types for children.

Innerspring Open Coil

The basic innerspring matress is the traditional choice for a budget-friendly mattress that will last for a few years. Although it is not as durable as other mattress types, the basic open coil mattress is not likely to wear out quickly from just the weight of a small child.

Innerspring Pocket Coil

The pocket coil or wrapped coil mattress is more expensive than an open coil mattress because each coil, or spring, is individually wrapped in fabric. This construction means that the coils do not share their load and that they can contour better to the body.


Memory Foam

Memory foam was developed by NASA in response to a need for a foam material that could mold to a person’s body and then spring back to its normal shape. High-density memory foam responds to body heat and takes a few minutes to mold to the body. Low-density memory foam reacts to pressure and molds and springs back faster than high-density foam. Some concerns about the chemical properties of memory foam are discussed below.

Latex Foam

Another foam mattress alternative that has been around for much longer is latex rubber foam. Natural latex rubber foam mattresses can be very expensive, but there are many synthetic latex rubbers that are also used to make mattresses. There are even hybrid mattresses with a mix of natural and latex rubbers. While synthetic materials pose some risks detailed below, latex foam mattresses in general are comfortable and provide good support for growing children.


Futon mattresses originated in Japan, but today’s futon mattresses are usually much thicker than the traditional Japanese futon which is thin enough to roll up during the day. However, they earn the name "futon" because they are filled with natural fibers like cotton.


Mattress Comfort Levels

Mattresses range from very soft (or plush) to very firm. Manufacturers have a number of ways to achieve different levels of comfort that are somewhere on the spectrum from Ultra Plush to Extra Firm. Note that a plush mattress can support the spine just as well as a firm mattress. The comfort level refers to the amount of cushioning in the mattress on top of the support structure, which determines the firmness of the mattress. The table below shows the range of comfort levels from the most firm to the softest.

Comfort Level


Extra Firm

These have a compressed coil system and very little cushioning upholstery and are preferred by a small minority of people (usually back sleepers).


Firm mattresses are traditionally considered the "healthiest" for the back. However, new research shows that a little more padding is best to achieve a contoured fit and a straight spine.

Plush Firm, Cushion Firm, Luxury Firm

Terms used a little differently by different manufacturers. Mattresses with these ratings fall somewhere between plush and firm. They are the most versatile choice, since they are good for back, side, and stomach sleepers.


Best for side sleepers, these mattresses have several layers of foam and cushioning on top of the coil system or foam core.

Euro Top, Box Top, Pillow Top

There are three different ways that manufacturers include a maximum amount of cushioning without making the mattress extremely thick or bulky. Still, check mattress height because they do tend to be thicker than other mattress levels.

This table is a good reference when mattress shopping in order to choose a comfort level based on a child’s preferred sleeping position.

Important Considerations When Shopping for Mattresses for Kids

While choosing a comfortable mattress may seem like a fairly easy task, a closer look reveals that modern mattress technologies make these choices a little more complicated than they used to be. Here are the issues that parents should consider when buying a mattress for a child.


Traditional wisdom holds that firm mattresses are better for the back and cure back pain. However, new research is showing that a contoured sleeping surface maintains the spine in a straight line because the body is naturally curvy. For this reason, a little padding can definitely help a young one fall into a restful and deep sleep. Parents of preschoolers may worry about plush mattresses when their little ones are transitioning into twin beds from a crib or toddler bed, but these worries are unfounded. While babies and infants need firm sleeping surfaces in order to lessen the risk of SIDS or other infant health risks, young children will be perfectly fine in a soft bed. Their weight is unlikely to cause the bed to sag enough to cause a curvature of the spine. Plush-firm mattresses are an excellent choice for children because they have a good mixture of support for the body and padding for comfortable sleep in any position.

Since a good mattress can easily last 10 years, parents should look ahead when buying a mattress for their children. Parents of girls, in particular, should consider a pocketed coil mattress since these allow for a better contoured fit than regular open coil mattresses.

Off-gassing in Kids’ Mattresses

Off-gassing is something that occurs with many synthetic materials, most notably with vinyl and PVC. This is when toxic gases are released from the plastic or material, and they can be felt strongly in the first few days or weeks after purchase. However, off-gassing can continue for years undetected by the nose but with side effects on the body. The issue is even more important with mattresses than with other household items that off-gas (like vinyl shower curtains, for example) because children spend up to 12 hours a day in close contact with the mattress. Off-gassing is a major issue with memory foam mattresses. However, almost all mattresses let off some toxic gases due to flame-retardant chemicals and synthetic materials in their construction. There are a few ways to combat the toxicity of regular mattresses. One common approach is to allow the mattress to off-gas for the first few days in a garage or room which can be easily ventilated. Some people report that jumping on the mattress helps it off-gas faster. They can also be covered with special plastic mattress covers that do not off-gas in order to stop the toxic gases from passing through.

Increased public awareness about the dangers of off-gassing in mattresses has led to a new market for all-natural mattresses. Futon mattresses are one example of a mattress that can be made without any synthetic materials, although they generally do have the flame retardants required by law. Organic matresses have come on the market, claiming to eliminate the risk of off-gassing with the use of only organic materials like cotton. Natural latex foam mattresses are also a wonderful choice but usually command a premium price.

Mattresses and Allergies in Kids

Many children today suffer from allergies, and the causes of the allergies may be nearly impossible to pin down. Some allergies are caused by dust mites and other microscopic animals that can infest sleeping areas. Any mattress can be fitted with hypoallergenic antibacterial mattress cover or mattress protector. However, real latex foam mattresses are naturally repellant to dust mites. Latex rubber is unconducive to the growth of bacteria, making it the ideal choice for anyone who needs a hypoallergenic antibacterial mattress.

Kids’ Mattress Comparison

The following table provides a summary of the pros and cons of the different mattress types as far as their use in a child’s bedroom.

Mattress Type



Open Coil


Less durable than foam mattresses

Wrapped/Pocket Coil

Contours better, durable

High price point

Memory Foam

Very comfortable

Lets off toxic gases for years

Latex Foam

Hypoallergenic, antibacterial, comfortable, no off-gassing, durable

High price point for natural latex


No off-gassing, durable, budget-friendly

Not usually as plush as other mattress types, heavy

As the table shows, latex foam offers significant benefits for children. However, like pocket coil mattresses, latex foam mattresses can be prohibitively expensive. When budget is a concern, both open coil and futon mattresses are good choices. Memory foam is not recommended for children because of its off-gassing properties, and parents who buy memory foam for their kids should be on the lookout for any side effects, such as an allergic reactions or breathing difficulties.



There is more to the issue of choosing a mattress for kids than just five mattress types and a few different comfort levels. While it is crucial to choose the right amount of support and the right amount of padding, there are other factors to take into account. Along with the advances in mattress support technologies come new health risks posed by synthetic materials and chemicals. Mattresses can harbor microscopic organisms that cause allergies in children. Considering that children spend considerably more time sleeping than adults, the mattress they use should be examined carefully in all aspects. The comfort of the mattress is directly related to the ease with with a child can fall into deep sleep, improving their health, memory, and concentration while awake. Growing bones need good posture and support. Innerspring mattresses, foam mattresses, and futons can all provide these for a child, but parents need to know more about each mattress type in order to make an educated choice. A good mattress can be expected to last for 10 years or more, making it one of the most important purchases in furnishing a child’s bedroom, so it is appropriate for parents to give this purchase due consideration.