Have you suddenly realized that your toddler may be getting too big for the crib or are they starting to crawl out? It may be time to change their bed, but how do you know when is the right time to transition to a toddler bed?
This a unique situation for every family but there are a few pointers that you should think about when making the change.
When to Transition to Toddler Bed
There’s no specific rule as to when to transition your toddler to a bed and make the change from your baby’s nursery to a full-blown big kid room. Some parents need to make the transition as early as 18 months old due to safety concerns and some children may make it to age 4 still in their crib.
The decision typically weighs heavily on safety with some components of age and readiness.
However there are a few ways to decide if your child is ready or if it’s time to make the switch. In my experience, the following events can be the deciding factor:
- Your toddler is starting to climb out. They may be starting to put their feet on the poles or pull themselves up and over the railing. If they get very upset while they’re in the crib, the next step may be climbing out as they get extra courage from their fear or anger. Of course this is a safety issue because they may fall and get seriously injured by climbing over the crib railing.
- They have outgrown the crib. If you have a child who is big for their age, you may feel that they just need more space to move around. The size issue may also play a factor into whether they can climb out. Even if you don’t see them actively scaling the crib railings, they may be tall enough to do it one day when you’re not paying attention.
- Your child is close to or around 3 years old. Even if he doesn’t crawl out of the crib, this may a good time to make the transition if you notice a growth in their maturity and understanding of potential risks, safety, and things they want. However, age does not have to be a determining factor.
- They don’t want to be considered a baby anymore and see the crib as a baby accessory.
When to NOT transition to a toddler bed
While transitioning to a toddler bed is generally a milestone for children, there can be situations where it might not be the best time to make the switch. Here are some reasons why you might choose not to transition to a toddler bed, along with explanations:
If your child is particularly active or prone to climbing out of the crib, transitioning to a toddler bed might pose safety risks. In such cases, it may be safer to keep them in a crib until they are developmentally ready to handle the freedom and potential hazards of a toddler bed.
Recent Major Life Changes
If your child has recently experienced significant life changes, such as moving to a new home, starting a new school, or welcoming a new sibling, it might be best to postpone the transition. Children thrive on stability and familiarity, and introducing a new sleeping arrangement during a time of adjustment could cause additional stress and anxiety.
Sleep Regression or Disruptions
If your child is going through a phase of sleep regression or experiencing disruptions in their sleep patterns, it might not be an ideal time to transition to a toddler bed. It’s important to prioritize their sleep quality and ensure they are well-rested before introducing a new sleep environment.
Attachment to the Crib
If your child has a strong emotional attachment to their crib and feels secure and comfortable in it, forcing a transition to a toddler bed could lead to sleep disturbances and resistance. It’s essential to respect their attachment and readiness for the change.
Age and Developmental Readiness
Every child develops at their own pace, and some may not be developmentally ready for a toddler bed at the typical age range. If your child shows signs of not being ready, such as an inability to understand or follow bedtime routines, it may be best to wait until they are more prepared for the transition.
Limited Space or Room Layout
If you have space constraints in your child’s bedroom or the layout doesn’t accommodate a toddler bed comfortably, it might be more practical to continue using a crib or explore alternative sleeping arrangements that suit your specific circumstances.
Transitioning to a toddler bed often involves purchasing a new bed frame, mattress, and bedding. If financial constraints make it difficult to invest in these items at the moment, it’s understandable to postpone the transition until you are better equipped to afford the necessary purchases.
Personal Family Dynamics
Each family has its unique dynamics and routines. If transitioning to a toddler bed conflicts with your family’s sleep patterns or preferences, it’s okay to wait until it aligns better with your circumstances.
Crib to Toddler Bed Transition Tips
Now that you know when to make the transition to the toddler bed, you can get started! The crib-to-toddler bed transition isn’t always an easy change, but if you follow these 21 tips, the crib to toddler bed transition should be as smooth as possible.
1. New Bed Options: Convertible bed, Toddler Bed, or Twin/Full-Size Bed
First, you should figure out which bed would be the most appropriate for your child. There are a few different options.
The toddler bed is a go-to option for most parents when switching their child out of the crib. These beds should have the same size mattress as a crib so they won’t feel like there is too much room to move around, plus they have safety guardrails on one opening so they can’t fall out easily.
If you previously purchased a crib that converts into a toddler bed, that may be your easiest option. Simply remove one of the railings and your child will barely notice the change because it’s still their crib but with one side removed. There are a few low profile versatile cribs here that are convertible into toddler beds.
If your child is old enough, you can also switch them right to a twin or full-size bed so you won’t need to change them again for a long time. When we made the transition with my 3-year-old, we used a full size bed which gave her plenty of room and she can use it until her teenage years!
I was worried that it would be too big for her, but she loves it and we’ve never been concerned about her falling out. Also, the mattress and bed is pretty low-profile so it’s not high off the ground. You can purchase separate guard rails if you are worried about them falling out or make sure that they are on a low-profile mattress that is closer to the floor.
2. Make the Change When Everything is Normal
Timing is everything. If you get it wrong, your child will end up being insecure, unhappy and fussy with the switch.
The best time to make the transition to a toddler bed is when there is not a lot happening within your home and family. If your toddler is dealing with potty training, just started a new school, you’ve just relocated or welcomed a new baby, or any other significant impact on his or her life, you should wait before you make the transition.
Switching their bed is something completely unfamiliar to them, so you don’t want to do it when they’re going through other changes, as well.
3. Do What’s Necessary to Eliminate Insecurities
Managing insecurities is a big part of the transition to toddler bed. Do your best to decrease or eliminate any fears or rough transitions with some of these tips:
- Don’t change their room yet, just the bed. What to switch rooms until they’re comfortable with the new bed.
- Give them lots of stuffed animals or blankets to sleep with so they don’t feel alone in their new bed.
- Stay in their room longer during bedtime routine: read an extra book, give them extra kisses, sing more songs, or even lay with them in the beginning.
- Keep some extra night lights on or use an OK to Wake clock
- Read a book about transitioning to a big kid bed.
After some time the insecurities should go away, but if not, keep trying different strategies to make them comfortable.
4. More Childproofing
You might already have done some level of child-proofing, but after the transition, you need to be extra careful. Now, your toddler is mobile and can go places in his room where he previously wouldn’t.
I was fearful of my toddler getting out of bed in the middle of the night, but that has never happened. However, she does tend to get out before she falls asleep or right when she wakes up. At these times, she can get into a lot of things that could be dangerous or messy
Once they are in a toddler or full-size bed, they are free to roam which can bring added dangers, be sure to follow these tips with child-proofing their room and the areas around where they sleep:
- Keep windows closed and locked whenever you are not around, especially during the night.
- If their bedroom is upstairs, install a locking gate at the top of the stairs and keep it closed during the night.
- Always make sure that the doors leading to the outside are closed and locked.
- Keep your baby monitor on to keep track of your kid’s activities without any hassle.
- Close all doors to other rooms that you don’t want them venturing in.
- Secure all heavy furniture to the wall so they can’t pull it down.
- Declutter their room and rooms surrounding it so there are less items for them to dump and make messes with.
- Remove any furniture or items that could be a hazard.
5. Let Them Choose New Bedding
The feeling of independence can motivate any toddler. Your baby isn’t a baby anymore. and at this age, they are fully capable of making their own decisions.
A great way to ease the transition is to consult with your child about their new bed. Show them pictures of the new bed before buying it, ask him what color bed sheets and comforter they want and tell them that they will get new pillows and stuffed animals to go along with the new bed.
If they have favorite characters, shows, or colors, it’s best to choose those when opting for new bedding because this may make them the most excited and comfortable.
6. Celebrate the Occasion
When it’s time to switch the bed, don’t keep it bland and just like the other days. Find ways to celebrate it and let your kid know that it’s a happy occasion.
Get some balloons, decorate the room, put on some funky lights, and give them a gift. Let them know that they have a big surprise coming.
7. Comfort Them and Be Patient About Night Time Struggles
You can’t expect the transition from cot to bed to be super simple, can you? If you do, you may be setting yourself up for failure.
Don’t have high expectations that night one will go smoothly. Most kids will cry, fuss, or scream. They could be scared, worried, or just anxious. They may climb right out and take hours to fall asleep. However, it will get better!
Be patient and return them to the bed without scolding or saying anything. After a few attempts, your child will get used to it.
For the first few days, stay close to the room until they actually fall asleep. Let them know you will be close by to ease their worries.
8. Provide Praise for Good Habits
Rewards and praise will be very helpful if your child is having a tough time transitioning from cot to bed. Use a reward or routine chart to have them earn point, stickers, or check marks to redeem for a prize.
Use whatever your child loves, whether it’s treats, toys or extra screen time. Tell them that if they stay in bed, they will earn a token or treat.
9. Make the Transition Slow
What I mean by this is to not make the transition overnight.
Don’t think you should make this transition overnight. Have a plan beforehand and slowly introduce it to your toddler. Begin talking to them about a “big kid bed” and what that entails. Read them books or have them watch shows that display what will happen.
As stated above, let them pick out the bedding, help you declutter their room and child-proof, and talk about the big celebration that this transition will bring.
You can set up the new bed beside their crib to start. Let them explore it and see what it feels like to be in it. Give them some time to bond with the new bed and get used to it. Perhaps you may want to just start with them napping in it before you try overnights, as well.
10. Maintain the Previous Routine
Avoid anything that can disrupt the previous bedtime routine of your child. It should still be the same as before.
If the bedtime was 7, it should continue to be 7. If you always read three stories, keep it three. If you have a travel schedule, postpone it. Let your child adjust to the new bed and then add new activities.
Maintain the exact same bed time routine right from the bath to switching on the nightlights and the good night kiss.
11. Introduce a Bedtime Routine Chart
Consider using a visual bedtime routine chart that outlines the steps involved in getting ready for bed. This can help your child understand the expectations and provide a sense of structure.
12. Create a Cozy Sleep Environment
Make the toddler bed as cozy and inviting as possible. Use soft, comfortable bedding, and consider adding a favorite stuffed animal or special blanket to help your child feel secure and comfortable.
13. Gradually Increase Independence
Encourage your child’s independence by gradually allowing them to perform small tasks on their own, such as choosing their pajamas or putting away their toys before bedtime. This builds their confidence and sense of responsibility.
14. Address Separation Anxiety
If your child experiences separation anxiety during the transition, reassure them by letting them know you will always be nearby and that they can call for you if they need anything during the night. Consider using a baby monitor to stay connected.
15. Use Positive Reinforcement
Acknowledge and praise your child’s progress and efforts during the transition. Celebrate their milestones, such as staying in bed throughout the night or successfully falling asleep on their own. Positive reinforcement can go a long way in reinforcing good habits.
16. Be Consistent with Boundaries
Set clear boundaries regarding bedtime rules and expectations. Be consistent in enforcing these boundaries, such as staying in bed and not wandering around the house. This consistency helps establish a sense of security and routine for your child.
17. Adjust Lighting
Evaluate the lighting in your child’s room to create a soothing sleep environment. Consider using dimmable lights or a nightlight to provide a gentle and comforting glow that helps them feel secure during the transition.
18. Incorporate Transitional Objects
Introduce a special transitional object, such as a stuffed animal or a small pillow, that your child can associate with their new bed. This object can provide comfort and familiarity during the transition period.
19. Encourage Daytime Naps in the Toddler Bed
Once your child is comfortable with the toddler bed, encourage daytime naps in it as well. This helps them become familiar with sleeping in the new bed and reinforces the idea that it’s a safe and comfortable place for rest.
20. Stay Calm and Patient
Throughout the entire transition process, remain calm and patient. Children pick up on their parent’s emotions, so maintaining a positive and patient attitude will help alleviate any anxiety or resistance your child may feel during the change.
21. Involve Your Child in the Transition Process
Include your child in the decision-making and preparation for the transition from cot to bed. This involvement can help them feel a sense of ownership and excitement about the change.
Take them along when selecting the new bed or bedding, and let them express their preferences. By giving them a voice in the decision-making, you can cultivate a positive attitude toward the transition and increase their enthusiasm.
This involvement can foster a sense of independence and cooperation, making the transition smoother for both of you.
Our Favorite Toddler Beds for the Transition
Remember to consider your child’s preferences, safety features, and the overall style that matches your nursery or bedroom decor when selecting a toddler bed. Reading customer reviews and considering the specific needs of your child can also help you choose the right bed for your family.
This bed is made of durable, non-toxic plastic and features a low height for easy access. It comes in various themes, such as Disney Princess, Mickey Mouse, and Paw Patrol.
This wooden toddler bed has a simple and timeless design. It comes in different finishes and has safety rails on both sides for added security.
Montessori Inspired Bed
This toddler floor bed is designed to provide a semi-enclosed space where children can sleep soundly and parents can feel safe.
Now that you know when to make the transition to the toddler bed, you can get started! Remember, the crib to toddler bed transition isn’t an event to take lightly. You don’t want your child to get very upset. Start slow and be patient. Soon your toddler will be sleeping in their big bed like a champ! Once he gets used to the new bed, he won’t ever want to leave it.