How to Transition your Toddler From a Crib to a Bed
A child's life has many milestones. One of the biggest is the transition from sleeping in a crib to a toddler (or twin) bed. While the child may be excited about getting a more grown-up bed, parents are keen to navigate a smooth transition. After all, sleep deprivation is something most parents are keen to avoid!
Deciding when the best time to "graduate" your child to a bed can feel complicated, as can managing the transition, but it doesn't have to be scary. Here are some things to consider:
Timing is Everything
The general rule of thumb is that it's best to transition when your child starts climbing out of the crib. Toddlers can hurt themselves climbing out. In the worst-case scenario, they may end up on the floor with the crib on top of them.
However, many people move their children too early. It's generally best not to make the move before your child is two years old and, in some cases, closer to three. Around one year of age you should put the mattress all the way down and not leave anything in the crib, such as bumpers, that would assist them in an escape.
If you have a new baby on the way, it's best not to move the older sibling as soon as the new baby arrives. The toddler might see the baby get their old crib and become jealous, which can set the stage for sibling rivalry later on.
Consider a second crib if your children are close together in age. Otherwise, move the toddler before you give birth, ideally by a month or two.
Childproofing is Vital
Once your toddler is in a bed, there is a likely chance they will climb out in the middle of the night. A good place to start is placing a baby gate at the entrance to their room and ensuring it's properly secured. You should then:
- Anchor any furniture that might be climbable so that it can't tip.
- Cover all electrical outlets in your child's room.
- Install window guards.
- Pull up window-blind cords so they can't reach them.
- Remove any toys they might ask to play with, anything that is too tempting, and, for your sanity, anything that makes noise.
- Remove items that could be knocked or pulled over.
They will get out of bed, and they will play, possibly in the middle of the night. The trick is to make it as safe as possible when this happens.
Give Them Agency
Toddler beds take crib size mattresses. Some people feel it is easier and more economical to go straight to a twin bed. Either way, give your child some choice and agency about their new bed—nothing will build enthusiasm faster!
Let them help select bedding, even if they're still young. By this age, your child will probably be starting to show a preference toward certain colors. If they want bright primaries, give them bright primaries, it is their bed after all!
Include their favorite stuffed animals. You could even add a new stuffed animal that they're more excited about. Either way, let them have some feeling of control over their new bed and being a "big kid."
Start at Nap Time
One of the biggest mistakes parents make is taking a tired, cranky toddler, sticking them in their new bed, and expecting them to sleep.
A more gradual adjustment helps, and the best way to do that is to start by using the new bed for nap time. Talk to your child and explain to them that they are moving to a big kid bed now. You could also let them use their bed for quiet playtime, especially if your child is not the best napper.
Help your child feel at ease in their new bed by adding their comfort toys and bringing their favorite baby blanket—toddlers especially love playing with the satin edging on our Minky Baby Blankets.
Create Bedtime and Wake Up Routines
Keep your child's bedtime routine as close as possible to what it was when they were still in a crib. If you have been using a nightlight, lullabies or white noise machine, keep them the same as much as possible. The only thing that should change is the substitution of a crib for a bed.
Since your child can get out of bed to get your attention, they probably will. Some parents like to leave a sippy cup of water in the room so if your child wakes up thirsty, they can get themselves a drink. However, this may not work with all children.
Consider reading bedtime stories that are literally about beds or going to sleep. There are several books out there designed to help with the transition. You can start reading them before the switch and then continue for a while after. Make sure to go over the routine of what you do when you go to bed.
As for waking up, a toddler alarm clock is an excellent idea. The easiest ones have colors, so when the clock is on green, your toddler will know they're allowed to get up. If you can't find one of those, then you can teach them the number six or seven and tell them they can't get out of bed before then. They may not get the message right away, but if you gently return them to bed, you can minimize your sleepless nights. If your child is potty training or potty trained, consider leaving a toddler potty in the room so they don't have to wake you up to go to the toilet.
As you navigate the transition from crib to bed for your toddler, another important consideration is when to introduce blankets for their comfort and warmth. Our article on When Can Babies Sleep with a Blanket provides essential guidance on the right time to start using blankets for your little one. Understanding the appropriate age and safety measures for introducing blankets will ensure your child's sleep environment is not only comfortable but also safe. This is especially crucial as they move to a more open sleeping arrangement in a toddler bed.
Even adults can find it hard to sleep in a new bed, let alone toddlers. Going from a crib to a bed is a big transition, even if you keep everything else the same.
Moving your toddler to a bed is a significant milestone. It is important to accept that there might be a few sleepless nights—leaving quiet toys in the room can reduce the risk of them waking you up as well. Check out our article on Gentle Ways to Calm Your Baby for more information on ways you can soothe a restless infant.
It may also be a great time to upgrade your toddler’s bedding. Take a look at our wonderful collection of baby and toddler blankets for your little one.
Transitioning your toddler from a crib to a bed is just one of the many exciting milestones in your child's early years. To capture these special moments, explore our creative ideas in 16 Creative Ways to Celebrate Monthly Baby Milestones. This article is filled with imaginative and fun suggestions for documenting your child's growth and achievements.
Sewn with love,