When and How to Transition From Crib to Toddler Bed

Transitioning your toddler to a big kid bed

When to transition your toddler from crib to bed will involve several factors you need to consider. This post will help you decide when is the right time and give you tips on how to do it.

When To Transition From Crib to Toddler Bed

First, let’s talk about when to transition your toddler from crib to bed. There’s no right or wrong answer. The ages for making this transition vary from family to family. With 15+ years of experience working with families, I recommend you try to wait until between 3 and 4 years old to transition from crib to bed.

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 sometimes the feelings of security. And, that can cause problems.

First, your toddler might take advantage of their 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!

The other thing we see a lot is that your toddler might be going to sleep just fine in their crib but now in a regular bed wants you to stay in the room. They no longer appear to have the “protection” of the crib. They sometimes lose a sense of security.

So don’t rush into making this switch. If your toddler is doing fine in a crib, then don’t rush the transition. If you can wait to make the transition until your toddler is older than 2 years old, then it’ll probably be easier on everyone. (Emphasis on the probably — we’re not making any promises!)

What If The Crib Isn’t Working Anymore?

However, if the crib just isn’t working anymore, it may be time to make the switch. For instance, if your toddler is climbing out of the crib, that can be dangerous. In this case, consider transitioning to a bed (particularly if your toddler is past 2 years old).

Or, maybe your toddler is just plain too big for his crib. If that’s the case, then it might be time to switch to a toddler bed.

Of course, your desire to make the transition may have more to do with you, and not your toddler. 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 you can consider making the switch. If not, or you want to be cautious, consider getting two cribs or use a bassinet or SNOO for the new baby.

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 of my boys transitioned from crib to bed around two years old. 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 young, consider transitioning to a toddler bed with rails. This is a smaller-sized bed that uses a crib mattress instead of a twin-sized mattress. A toddler can feel cozier and more secure in a toddler bed than 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 of my 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 moving to a bed 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. Although you could start using a toddler blanket or comforter set, consider keeping a big-kid sleep sack for a bit longer. Not all children will keep a blanket on all night just yet.
  • Consider leaving the crib in the room for a bit, too. This may or may not work for every situation. 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, loving, and 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? Join The Baby Sleep Site®‘s VIP Members Area TODAY! You’ll get unlimited access to our toddler e-book, The 5-Step System To Better Toddler Sleep. It includes a wealth of tips on how to tackle your toddler’s sleep issues. Plus, enjoy several audio courses on common toddler sleep problems, two toddler case studies, and lots more!

We’re here to help you make the crib to toddler bed transition as seamless as possible!

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59 thoughts on “When and How to Transition From Crib to Toddler Bed”

  1. My daughter will be 2 in January and is very small, only 24lbs, so she can’t climb out of her crib. We are due with baby #2 when she will be 28 months. We also move when she’s 25 months ????? Should I do the transition after the move, wait till baby is here, or wait until she’s trying to get out of the crib? We are also planning on potty training around 25mo so I’m assuming switch at that time? She’s just so small I font know how to tell when she’s ready. Any advice is appreciated.

    • Hi @Kiersten – Thank you for writing to us, and congrats on the upcoming arrival of baby #2! Our general recommendations are to wait on the transition as long as you are able to, and as long as the crib is still safe of course! If you are able to get another crib for baby #2, they can both be in cribs and there’s nothing wrong with waiting – assuming that your daughter is sleeping well in her crib! If you are potty training at night and during the day, a bed will certainly be easier to accommodate late-night potty runs, but you may work on daytime potty training first and nights won’t be an issue yet? I hope that things with the move and with the new sibling go well! if you find that you’d like any help with any of sleep speedbumps at any time, please contact us! We’re here to help!

    • Danke fürs Schreiben! Wir freuen uns, dass unsere Informationen hilfreich sind! Weiter lesen!

    • Thanks for your comment and for visiting The Baby Sleep Site! I’m so glad to hear the article was helpful for you!

  2. Just transitioned my daughter from the crib to the bed (by taking the bars off the side). She’s a bit of an accidental gymnast and doesn’t seem to have any fear of heights, which precipitated the change.

    We tried once before but had to put the bars back on when she would stand at the baby gate at the top of the stairs and stare at us eating in the kitchen, making incoherent comments, presumably about our food.

    First night has gone ok. Very much hoping it stays that way as her baby sister is 2 months old and we’re not getting much sleep anyway.

  3. Thanks for sharing really helpful tips. Its really taught to move baby crib to bed. Mom has to worried about it. This tips must help mom.

    • Hi Marria,
      Thank you for visiting The Baby Sleep Site! We’re so happy you enjoyed these tips. Visit again soon!

  4. I transitioned my son to a “floor bed” (a mattress on the floor) when he was a year old. I was really nervous about it, but was pregnant again and wanted a big gap between moving my son out of his crib, and his little sister into it. So I took the plunge, on a weekend when we had little going on so could take extra naps and such, and he did perfectly! Never missed a beat. Now, at 19 months, he LOVES his mattress/bed, loves playing on it, and happily sleeps on it without any problems. We do close his bedroom door, so if he gets up and plays before falling asleep, it’s okay.

    • @ Ashley Wright – Yay for the floor bed! I did the same with all three of my children – so much easier, isn’t it? I never worried about them falling out, and they were able to get up and go to bathroom as they needed to, which made our potty training easier, too.

      Thanks for sharing your story, Ashley – much appreciated! 🙂

  5. We transitioned my son (now 5) to a big bed at 14mo. He was getting his leg up on the rail so we wanted to switch before he hurt himself. It was so easy with him. He never got out of his bed until we came to get him. My daughter is so different though. She is almost 19mo and she almost climbed out a few times, but I caught her in the act. I want to switch her because I know there is going to be a time that she climbs out before I catch her, but she is not going to be an easy one. She already hates sleeping. She is a very light sleeper, so we have to close the door the second we lay her down and we were forced to do the cry it out method with her because any movement woke her up no matter how long she had been asleep. She will sleep through the night after about 3 minutes of crying (although there are some nights with no crying). She also gets into EVERYTHING during the day so i know she would love being able to get out of bed easily. My biggest concern though is that my son and daughter have to share a room and my son has a loft bed. I’m afraid she would try to climb up to see her brother. If she fell from that, it would be worse than falling from her crib. I just don’t know what to do. I have a feeling she wouldn’t nap anymore too, she already fights naps no matter how tired she is. Her crib converts to a toddler bed and I’m thinking maybe she would like the big girl bed and maybe there would be no issue, but I feel like it’s just a loose loose situation.

    • @ Megan – I was all set with some advice until I read the part about your son and daughter having to share a room. Yes, that is tough indeed….and I think your concerns about the loft bed make sense. One option would be to carefully toddler-proof the whole room, switch your daughter to a toddler bed, and then get yourself a video monitor to watch and see what happens. This is one case in which a video monitor would be hugely helpful, as you’d be able to see how she’s reacting to the new toddler bed. As for naps…you’ll likely have some hiccups at first, but once the transition is done, and the bed isn’t new anymore, I’d be she’ll return to sleeping like she does now.

      For help with this, and for some of the other sleep issues you mention, I’d suggest you download our free toddler guide: https://www.babysleepsite.com/toddler-sleep-training-secrets-free-ebook/

      Hope this helps, Megan! Good luck to you as you work on this transition!

  6. @ Heather – my thoughts exactly! I always transitioned my kids to big beds right before, or in the early stages of, potty training, for just the reason that you mention. The good news for you is that 3.5 years is a great age to make the transition! Your son should be old enough to handle sleeping in a bed without too much issue. Just be sure to toddler-proof his room first 🙂

    And don’t worry about being behind – you’re not! We’ve worked with families who’ve done the transition closer to 4 years of age, for a variety of reasons, so you’re okay 🙂 Plus, I think it’s normal to feel like you’re “behind” with the first; I’ve always felt that way with my oldest, too.

    Best of luck to you, Heather!

  7. My son is 3.5 years old, still sleeps in a crib. He hasn’t tried to climb out. Should I keep him in the crib or transition? We are also still working on potty training and he wears pull ups to bed. I feel that we can’t really potty train until he is in a big bed so that he can get out at night and go potty if needed. I feel like my kid is so behind on this!

    • My son is about 3.5 also and still sleeps in his crib. We are also working on potty training. He very small for his age and has never attempted to climb out of his crib either, but we are going to start transitioning him to a bed soon. His crib turns into a toddler bed so if it doesn’t work out then we will just put the rails back on. I don’t feel he is behind, I just feel he will be ready when he is ready. I’m in no hurry for him to grow up..lol

  8. My daughter is 15 months and climed out if her crib last night. She’s tall for her age so had no problem getting out. When I tried to put her back in she’d cry and go to climb out again. I decided to avoid many falls (she’s fearless and doesn’t react to pain much) and bought her a twin mattress that I put on floor with guard rails. I put it exactly where her crib was. She cried when I tried to put her in it and leave room for the night so I laid next to the bed on the floor and she was asleep within ten minutes. I’m nervous for how tonight will go. Normally she sleeps through the night but past week waking at 4 am. I’m very nervous with how tonight and the following will pan out. I know she’s young but anyone else have to do it this early? She does take naps on a couch at the sitters so I am hoping that helps.

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