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Transitioning To The Toddler Bed
You have a toddler and are wondering: Should I transition to a big kid bed? How do I even start this process? Do not worry, I am here to answer all your questions about transitioning to a toddler bed!
When do we move on to a toddler bed?
You want to try to keep your child in the crib until at 2 years or longer, if possible. One reason why we want to wait as long as possible is because toddlers can’t developmentally understand the concept of having to stay in bed yet. And that can be really difficult on sleep!
what if my toddler starts climbing out of the crib?
If they start climbing out of the crib before then, you can try to turn the crib around. That way the higher edge of the crib, that many cribs have, is facing the front of the room instead of the wall, what gives them less room to climb on.
For some cribs you can take the springs on the bottom out and lay the mattress right on the ground. Just make sure there are no gaps between the top of the mattress and the bottom of the crib slats.
You also want to make sure there are no crib bumpers or multiple pillows in the crib that could be used for climbing. Never underestimate a toddler’s creativity!
Another thing you can try to prevent them from climbing is a sleep sack. It will restrict their legs from being able to climb.
If your toddler starts climbing out in front of you, do not react to it! Don’t freak out, don’t laugh, don’t encourage it because you think it’s cute or impressive. This will only get them to do it again! Simply tell them no and take them out or put them back in the crib.
Have you tried all those tips and your toddler is still able to climb out of the crib? This means the crib is not safe for sleep anymore and it is time for an upgrade!
Other reasons to ditch the crib
Once your toddler’s chest is higher than the crib railing, it’s also time to move on to a big kid bed.
Sometimes your toddler might voice that they want out of the crib and have a bigger bed (mostly when they see older siblings have one). This might be a sign that they’re ready!
If your toddler is successfully potty trained at night, it might also be easier to just go ahead and transition to a big kid bed.
WHen not to switch to a big kid bed
Don’t transition during a big life change. Planning on starting to potty train? Just had a new baby? Now is not the time for more change! Wait a couple months before/after big events to move your child to the toddler bed.
How can we make this transition?
Once you have determined that it is time to say bye-bye to the crib, how do you do it?
The first, and very important thing is COMMUNICATION. This is critical for making any change in your toddlers life. Tell them what is going on and why. Give them a little heads up so they know what’s coming.
Hype it up
The crib is for babies and they’re a big kid now. This is so exciting!! Make your toddler feel so big and special about this change. Keep talking about it until it’s happening and be so positive about it, make them feel proud of themselves that they are getting a new, big kid bed!
Try to include them in this big step as much as you can. Many cribs can transform to a toddler bed. Let them help you with this! If you decide to buy a new bed, pick out two choices that you can live with and let your child have the last say. Go to the store together to have them pick out sheets. Toddlers love to feel like they can make their own decisions, supporting them in their autonomy will save you a lot of trouble.
If you have the room for it, keep the crib in the room with the new bed for a couple of weeks. This way they can still see their crib, and that can offer a lot of comfort for many toddlers. Their crib has been their safe sleeping spot for so long, this way you can go easy on your toddler and not overwhelm them.
New sibling tip
In case you are transitioning because you need the crib for a new sibling, don’t make your toddler feel like the crib is being “taken away” or blame the baby for it. This will only start sibling rivalry.
We already talked about not making big changes a couple of months before and after big life events, like adding a new sibling to the family. The AAP recommends room-sharing (not to be confused with bed-sharing, we don’t want that!) until at least 6 months of life. So there really is no rush getting the crib moved to the newborns nursery quite yet. Consider using a bedside bassinet or pack and play for the newborn for a few months.
All about toddler bed safety
After you transition to a big kid bed, evaluate their room for safety – view the whole room as a big crib and make sure the furniture is anchored, no cords are in reach, outlets are covered, etc. If your child has a hard time staying in their room you can consider a doorknob or door handle cover so they can’t leave. You can take this off again once they get the concept.
Sleep and toddler beds
First of all, a toddler bed will most likely not solve any sleep issues. I hear a lot of parents thinking about getting their 15 or 18 months old in a toddler bed to see if it’ll help. What usually happens, is, that sleep issues start or even get worse, if they transition too early!
Stay consistent with your bedtime routine. Kids all ages thrive off of routines and predictability. It might not seem like a big deal for you, but getting a new bed is a huge step for your tiny human! Keeping everything else the same is a good way to give them comfort
Leaving the bed
When your toddler gets out of bed, you can quietly walk them back to bed. But don’t interact with them or have it turn into a game!
You can also “practice” staying in bed with stuffed animals during the day. It’ll help your little one to understand that the bed is for sleeping.
Once a child is out of the crib, sleep training gets a whole lot more difficult. But not impossible!
My tip: If your toddler is still in the crib and not sleeping well, tackle sleep training FIRST, then the toddler bed.
Want to get your little one sleeping better so you can transition out of the crib when it’s time? Or they’re already in a big kid bed and now sleep is all messed up? You don’t even know where to start and what to do?
P.S.: This article would have really helped me when my daughter was about 20 months old. Take it from my mistakes: She didn’t show any signs of being ready for a big kid bed and yet we transitioned her – because we wanted the crib for her baby brother! See a few red flags there? I do! I guess in hindsight we are all smarter. We paid the price for it with horrible, terrible sleep issues! On the positive note: It inspired me to become a certified Sleep Consultant and help other moms like me!
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