When you bring your little bundle of joy home to the nursery, it’s hard to believe that one day you’ll be talking about moving him into a toddler bed. Time flies, though, and here you are. Now you may be wondering just how to navigate the transition from crib to toddler bed.
What We'll Cover
- How to Transition from Crib to Toddler Bed
- Introduce the New Bed Ahead of the Actual Move
- Let Your Toddler Choose
- Start with a Nap and Don’t Look Back
- Keep Up the Routine
- Limit Distractions Initially
- Address Safety Issues
- Stay the Course
- Celebrate Success
- When Should You Transition to a Toddler Bed?
- How to Choose the Right Toddler Bed
- Final Thoughts
Transitioning a child to a toddler bed starts with recognizing the signs that the child is ready to leave the crib. Generate excitement by talking about the move and setting up the new bed before the big day. Be patient and understanding as the child adapts to this change in his life.
Transitioning into a toddler bed is a big step for your child, and as a parent, you want it to go seamlessly. Read on for some valuable tips on making the switch as smooth as a baby’s…well, you know.
How to Transition from Crib to Toddler Bed
We all know that your child will move from a crib to a “big kid” bed at some point. It’s guaranteed that he won’t be in a crib when he’s ten. So, making that transition as smooth and fun as possible will make everyone’s lives easier.
If you want some pointers on how to keep it fun and exciting for your toddler and not a frustrating battle for you, check out these suggestions from real parents who survived the big bed milestone.
Introduce the New Bed Ahead of the Actual Move
Whether you’re converting the nursery to a big kid room or your child is switching to a new room, go ahead and set up the bed a couple of weeks before you actually want to make the move. Your child can explore the new digs and get excited about using his new bed.
If the move is due to the impending arrival of another baby, it is especially important that you start the process well ahead of the due date. Allow at least two weeks, and maybe three to four if possible, for your firstborn to make the transition and not feel like he’s getting kicked out because of the new baby.
The presence of the bed definitely signifies things are changing, so it’s a good idea to go a step further to address any concerns or fears your toddler may have:
- Talk about how big kids sleep in big kid beds. This helps him understand that it’s a natural progression of getting older.
- Listen to what your child is saying. Let them express fear and uncertainty without downplaying it or telling them to grow up. Their feelings are valid and deserve your attention.
- Read age-appropriate books on the subject of leaving behind the crib. Sometimes seeing pictures and hearing from someone other than mom or dad can allay unspoken fears.
Let Your Toddler Choose
Involve your little one in decisions surrounding the new bed; whether you look online or actually go to a store, your child will be thrilled to pick out new sheets and a comforter. Caveat: You have to be willing to give up control and let your child’s choice stand, even if you don’t like it.
Some children have trouble deciding when faced with too many options so consider offering them three different bedding choices to pick from.
Start with a Nap and Don’t Look Back
For the first sleep in the new bed, try naptime. Everything looks scarier in the dark, especially from a bed without “walls.” In the afternoon, the room won’t be as dark, so being able to look around may keep your toddler from becoming too upset.
Once you move to the big kid bed for that first nap, don’t go back to the crib. This will only confuse your child and prolong the transition process.
Keep Up the Routine
Now is not the time to mix up or alter the usual bedtime routine. It’s best to keep doing what you’ve always done—take a bath, read a story, sing a song, etc. Your child will find comfort in the routine and won’t feel like his whole world is falling apart.
Be prepared to offer a bit of extra TLC and grace as they get used to their new surroundings.
Limit Distractions Initially
Until your little one gets accustomed to sleeping in the new bed, try to keep distractions in the room to a minimum. Sure, you should let her have her favorite stuffed loveys to sleep with and a small stack of books to read. But refrain from filling the room with every toy she owns right at first.
With this newfound freedom to climb out of bed and move about the room, your child may have difficulty settling down when there are many toys within reach.
Hopefully, in a week or so, she’ll be sleeping as she did in the crib, and you can begin to repopulate the space with the fun things.
Address Safety Issues
Now is a good time to evaluate how child-proof your home is. Your toddler isn’t contained in a crib anymore, so she could potentially wander into dangerous situations. Take a look around.
Start with the bedroom and examine it from a toddler’s perspective to see what might catch his eye. Move on to other parts of the house to locate additional areas that need attention:
- Do you need to put a gate up to block any stairs?
- Can he reach the locks to open the exterior doors and escape outdoors?
- Are all the windows locked?
- Are there child-proof locks on the bathroom and kitchen cabinets?
- Are the electrical outlets in the bedroom covered?
- Attach heavy furniture like dressers or chests to the wall, especially if your child is a known climber.
- Be sure the cords of your window blinds are out of reach.
Stay the Course
Closing the door those first few times and hearing the tears and cries for mommy or daddy can break a parent’s heart. Be realistic, expect it, and remind yourself, “this too shall pass.”
We all know that’s way easier said than done, though. Here are a few things you can do to help you both through this process:
- Before you leave the room, remind your child that he can read quietly for a bit, but then he needs to lay down and rest.
- Reassure him that you’ll come back and get him in a little while.
- Don’t go back in or let him get up until sleeping time is over.
- Don’t worry if he doesn’t fall asleep the first few times. You can always move bedtime a few minutes earlier to account for his lack of sleep.
- Accept that your toddler may wind up asleep on the floor, under the bed, or on top of the covers. The good news is they actually went to sleep!
What if the Move Was Too Soon?
Before you give in to the cries and pleads to bring back the crib, you’ve got to figure out if your child really shouldn’t have moved right now or if this is just an initial reaction that will soon pass.
Gently encourage him to keep trying out the new bed for a week or so. However, if he seems to be regressing, isn’t sleeping at all, or throwing extraordinary fits, then maybe it really was too soon. If this is the case, it’s okay to return to the crib. Just be sure not to chastise your little one or make them think they “failed” at being a big kid.
More on the best time to transition to a toddler bed below!
This move is a big deal. Celebrate it! Praise your child and tell them what a big kid they are for sleeping in the new bed.
For kids who need a little more encouragement to embrace the change, incentivize their effort. Create a sticker chart, giving out stickers for going to bed without a fuss or not getting out of bed or leaving the room. Getting a certain number of stickers earns a small reward.
When Should You Transition to a Toddler Bed?
Moving from a crib to a bed means your baby is growing up, marking a new milestone of accomplishment. Just like every other aspect of child development, choosing the right time to go into a bed is different for every child.
There is no set age when a child is ready to leave the confines of the crib behind. Most children, though, make the move somewhere between 18 months and three years. Around the age of two is when many parents begin to think about introducing the idea of a toddler bed to their toddler.
However, just because all your friends’ children are ditching their cribs doesn’t mean your child is behind if she’s still in a crib. You are the expert on your toddler. It’s perfectly okay to wait until you and your child are ready for the big move.
Is Your Child Ready for a Toddler Bed?
You may be wondering how to tell if your child is ready to give up the crib for a “big kid” bed, AKA toddler bed. There are some pretty clear signs indicating the time has come. Let Operation Toddler Bed begin if any of these things are happening at your house:
They’ve Outgrown the Crib
Really, this one is a no-brainer. If your toddler stretches from end to end, bumping head or feet against the sides of the crib, it’s time to upgrade to a bigger bed.
They Are Asking to Move
While you may not get a specific verbal request from an 18-month-old, a 2 ½ to 3-year-old is often quite capable of making his wishes known. If your child has begun to express displeasure about being in a crib, then he is probably ready for a toddler bed.
Your child may be ready, but you’re not. If that’s the case, you may be able to put him off a little while longer. But when the requests are repeated frequently and adamantly, ready or not, you should begin the transition process.
They Can Climb Out of the Crib
Some kids are climbers, while others are content to stay in the crib until you pick them up. If your little one has climbed out or you’ve caught him in an attempted jailbreak, it is definitely time to move him to a bed.
Trying to climb out of a crib is the most common reason for a child to fall during the toddler years. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you move a child out of a crib once they are 35 inches (89 cm) tall or when the height of the side rail is about nipple height. At this point, the crib is a safety hazard because your child is likely to fall while trying to climb out.
A New Baby Is on the Way
Having a new baby on the way is one of the main reasons parents start thinking about a toddler bed for the current crib resident. You’ll need the crib for the newest little, so it’s a good time for your toddler to make the switch.
However, if your child is less than 18 months old, most experts say it’s still too early to consider a toddler bed. You will frustrate them and yourself if the switch comes too soon. To ease the transition and not make your toddler feel like the baby is booting them out of the nursery, start the process two to three months before the second baby is expected to arrive.
They Are Potty Training
The whole idea behind potty training is free access to the potty whenever it’s needed. Napping and sleeping in a crib make this concept difficult to implement. To ensure that nature’s call can be answered at a moment’s notice, consider moving the potty trainee to a toddler bed.
How to Choose the Right Toddler Bed
Toddler beds are widely available on the market today. In fact, many cribs are designed to convert into a toddler bed and then into a full or twin-size bed as your child grows. If your current crib is the convertible kind, and you don’t need it for a second baby, you’re all set.
But if you’ve got to get a new bed, there are basically two main options: a true toddler bed or a regular twin-size bed.
- A toddler bed sits low to the ground with guard rails on both sides and uses a standard crib mattress. Often these come in fun shapes and themes like race cars or castles.
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Regardless of which bed you prefer, consider the following factors when choosing a bed for your growing toddler:
Low to the Ground
With a typical height of 20-22 inches off the floor, a toddler bed lets your child climb in and out of bed without help. If he does fall, it’s not far, and the chance of injury is minimal.
Ever seen a toddler sleep? If you have, you’ll know that the bed needs to be sturdy and solidly built. With so much wriggling, squirming, jumping, and every other movement a toddler can make, it’s important that the bed holds together and doesn’t squeak or shift.
Weight ratings on most toddler beds run about fifty pounds. While this means it’s not safe for you to join your toddler in bed for snuggle time, it does mean that the average 25-30 pound toddler may be able to stay in bed for two to three years.
A true toddler bed comes with safety rails at the head of the bed. You’ll find that some rails are built as part of the frame, while others can be added or removed as needed. If the guard rails are detachable, make sure that they do attach securely without working loose over time.
Clean, Simple Design
Look for a toddler or twin bed with clean, simple lines with rounded corners and no sharp edges or pointed finials. There shouldn’t be any hardware or design elements sticking out from the frame or headboard/footboard ends—nothing that your little one could bump his head on.
A smooth, splinter-less finish is preferable. And, particularly when you are offered an old twin bed from Great-Great Aunt Hazel, be sure to test the paint for lead and other harmful chemicals before accepting.
Seal of Approval
Whether purchasing or borrowing a toddler bed or guard rails, look for a certification sticker from the JPMA (Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association) showing that the bed meets its stringent safety standards.
Note: The JPMA only certifies toddler beds. It does not certify regular twin-size beds.
You are the undeniable expert on your child, so you’ll know when it’s time for them to make the transition from crib to toddler bed. Understand that this is a huge deal for their little minds and emotions to wrap around.
With a bit of planning, a lot of patience, and some time, your youngster will accept this exciting milestone and be sawing plenty of zzz’s in no time.