Here’s a common toddler-related question we hear often:
“When should I transition my toddler from his crib to a ‘big kid’ bed? And how exactly am I supposed to do it?!”
Is that a question that’s been on your mind lately? If so, never fear — it’s the question we’re answering in today’s article!
When To Transition Your Toddler From Crib to Bed
First, let’s tackle the “when” of making the crib-to-bed transition. There’s no easy answer to this one — ages for making this transition vary from family to family. However, it’s interesting to note that the average age for making the switch from crib to bed is between 3 and 4 years.
Typically, we here at The Baby Sleep Site® recommend that you don’t rush into making this transition. Why? Because once you remove those crib bars, you remove your little one’s bedtime boundaries. And that can cause problems. Your little one may take advantage of her newfound freedom, and play the “jack-in-the-box” game with you, popping out of bed every time you turn your back. That can be exhausting.
So don’t rush into making this switch; if your little one is doing fine in her crib, then leave her there. If you can wait to make the transition until your toddler is older than 2, then it’ll probably be easier on everyone. (Emphasis on the probably — we’re not making any promises!)
However, if the crib just isn’t working anymore, it may be time to make the switch. For instance, if your toddler is routinely climbing out of her crib, and you feel that her monkey-like antics are starting to become dangerous, consider switching her to a big bed (particularly if she’s past 2 years old).
Or maybe your toddler is just plain too big for his crib. If that’s the case, then it may be time to switch to a big kid bed (again, particularly if he’s past 2 years old.)
Of course, your desire to make the transition may have more to do with you — if you’re expecting a new baby, you may need to transition your toddler out of the crib so that you have it free for the new baby. Again, if your toddler is past 2 years old, then make the switch; if not, then consider getting 2 cribs. We did that in my house for a bit — my oldest son was 19 months old when my second son was born. We used 2 cribs for 6 or 7 months, until my oldest was ready for a bed.
“The biggest issue here is that even IF your toddler understands he is supposed to stay in bed, he may lack the impulse control to actually do it. We all know adults who lack impulse control, too, but that’s for another day. Both our boys transitioned around two years old, but it certainly helped to have solidified our sleep habits, first. I do talk to some families where the loss of boundaries can majorly affect a toddler’s feeling of security, so make sure she’s ready before making the switch.”
What Kind of Bed Should You Transition Your Toddler To?
If your toddler is small, consider transitioning him to a toddler bed. This is a smaller-sized bed that uses a crib mattress instead of a twin-sized mattress. A toddler can feel cozier in a toddler bed than she would in a twin bed, and that may make the transition easier for some toddlers.
Of course, if your toddler is outgrowing the crib, then switching to a toddler bed won’t work (since it’s essentially the same size as the crib.) In this case, you’ll want to transition your toddler to a twin-sized (or larger) bed.
“Both our boys transitioned to toddler beds, which may or may not have helped, but that only lasted about 6 months, so if money is tight or you think your toddler will transition well, skip the toddler bed. We went from toddler bed to full size bed, so we wouldn’t need to buy yet another bed once they got bigger (and frankly, it’s more comfortable for us to cuddle at bedtime, too!).”
How To Transition Your Toddler From Crib to Bed
There’s no script to follow when you’re helping your toddler switch from a crib to a bed. There are, however, some tips to keep in mind:
- Before you do anything else, safety-proof! Once you remove those crib bars, your toddler is going to have unhindered access to his room. So take some time to carefully toddler-proof that room! If you’re transitioning to a big bed, you’ll also want to invest in some safety bed rails, to prevent any falls.
- Talk to your toddler about the switch ahead of time. Few toddlers will react well to entering their room and suddenly seeing their old bed replaced with a new one. Remember — toddlers like routine and predictability! So let your toddler know what’s coming. Talk about it, and maybe read a book about it (like this one) together.
- Make the big bed welcoming. Pile on your toddler’s favorite toys or stuffed animals. Layer on any favorite blankets or bedding. Consider taking your toddler shopping for new “big kid” sheets, and let her pick them out.
- Consider leaving the crib in the room for a bit. This may or may not work. For some kids, having the crib there proves to be a huge distraction, and only makes the switch harder. For others, though, it makes the switch easier. Toddlers love choices, after all, so if (for a few weeks) you give your toddler the choice to sleep in the crib or the big bed, it can help your toddler feel more in control of the transition.
- Prepare yourself for the “jack-in-the-box.” Your toddler WILL try to get out of his new bed. And that’s understandable — the sudden freedom is bound to go right to his head! So be prepared for it. When your toddler (inevitably) wanders out of bed, quickly put him right back into it. It’s a good idea to make it an emotionless interaction — too much positive or negative reaction on your part will likely serve to make the jack-in-the-box behavior worse. But if your toddler can’t get a rise out of you, he’s likely to quit the behavior faster.
- Don’t expect the transition to happen overnight. It’ll probably be 2-3 weeks before this transition is done, and the new bed feels normal for your toddler. And yes, there will be a handful of rough nights in there. Stick with it, though — be firm, and be consistent. And before you know it, your little one’s new bed will feel just like home.
Want more guidance on how to make the transition from crib to bed an easy one for your toddler? Or maybe you just want to get your wide-awake toddler sleeping and napping better? Check out our e-book, The 5 Step System to Better Toddler Sleep, for tips on how to tackle your toddler’s sleep issues.
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