A thump from down the hall. The patter of tiny feet. Your toddler’s proud face next to your bedside while you’re still trying to muster the energy to open your eyes. What’s going on?!
Your little one’s learned to climb out of their crib! They’ve hit another of those wonderful, bittersweet milestones. Your baby’s no longer a baby. They’re growing into a child and developing their own sense of independence.
It may be time to transition to a ‘big kid bed’. But working out when and how to switch it up can be tricky. Here’s how to make the big kid bed transition easier for both you and your toddler.
When Is A Toddler Ready To Transition To Big Kid Bed?
It depends on your child and your family. You may need to tailor your crib-to-bed transition according to your toddler’s development.
There’s no set timeline, but the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends moving your toddler to another bed when they are 35 inches (89 cm) tall, or when the height of the side rail is less than three-quarters of their height.
These guidelines are to keep your child safe as the most common falls occur when your baby tries to climb out of their crib.
Most kids start trying to climb out of their crib around the age of three, which is ideal developmentally. Before the age of three, it’ll be beyond the cognitive ability of many little ones to understand why they need to stay in their own bed, according to the Pediatric Sleep Council. Plus, it’s far more likely that they’ll roll out of bed.
Research shows that sleeping in a crib up until the age of three significantly benefits children’s sleep. The practice sets foundations for consistent early bedtimes, longer stretches of sleep and cooperation with the bedtime routine!
However, some little explorers adventure out of their cribs well before three years. If you have a little monkey who isn’t ready to ‘graduate’ to a big kid bed yet, move the crib mattress to the lowest setting. You could even put it on the floor.
Alternatively, pop your toddler into an appropriately sized sleep sack so they can’t hoist their leg over the crib rail. We love the cozy, fleecy Halo range.
How To Transition To A Big Kid Bed
Your toddler will no doubt be super-excited about sleeping in their big kid bed. Even if they can fall asleep by themself, it may take them some time to get used to their new sleep spot. The transition could even cause sleep regressions.
It’ll also make it a lot easier for them to seek comfort from you, making bedtime much more challenging. Nighttime wakings may become more frequent, too.
Focus On A Consistent Bedtime Routine
Whether your child needs you to help them drop off or not, a consistent bedtime routine is key. This is the best way to lay the foundations for your child to go to sleep independently.
Bedtime will be a pleasure not a chore, the transition from crib to bed will go more smoothly and your toddler will find it easier to soothe themself when they wake at night.
Make bedtime simple with these five steps:
- Take a warm bath, get into cozy PJs and brush teeth.
- Make a final trip to the bathroom.
- Read a bedtime story.
- Put them down in their crib with their favorite lovey, and have one last cuddle and kiss with mom or dad.
- Leave a soft night light on and tell them they can play with their cuddly toy until they feel they want to go to sleep.
If your little one needs you there while they nod off, try working your way out of their nursery in stages over time.
Don’t Make Transition To Big Kid Bed During Big Life Changes
Graduating to a bed is a big moment for your child. It can also cause a lot of upheaval to family life as they get used to the new sleeping arrangements.
Wait until things are relatively uneventful at home before you begin the transition to big kid bed. Weaning, potty training, starting day care, having people to stay or moving house may be overwhelming for your child.
What Kind Of Big Kid Bed Do We Need?
At first, you just want to get your toddler used to sleeping in a bed instead of their crib. Here are some options to make the process more gradual.
Create A Cozy Nest
Try a Stokke Sleepi Bed V3. This crib can be used from newborn up to five years. Once your toddler reaches the curious climbing stage, you can remove one side of the bed to create a super-cozy enclosed nest with easy access.
Keep A Low Profile
Try a low bed frame. The Micuna Micussori Tipi House Toddler Bed Frame means their mattress stays on the floor, so no worries about falling out of bed. Designed in the shape of a house, it also makes bedtime fun!
Take Baby Steps
You can make the transition to big kid bed in stages so the bed height gradually increases as your child gets used to sleeping in a bed.
Consider starting with the crib mattress on the floor, before transitioning to a twin mattress. Next, you could add a bed frame. Finally, go for a box spring, like this Second Story Home Uma Toddler Bed. The low-profile open frame makes it easy for your little person to get in and out.
Leave Bunk Beds And Loft Beds For Later
Children love sleeping up high but bunks and loft beds are not recommended for children under the age of six.
Do I Need To Do Any Child Proofing?
Now they’re in a big kid bed, your little one is free and easy. They’ll have access to everything in their room. Make sure the surroundings are safe for your little adventurer.
- Ensure your windows have guards or stops.
- Cut and secure any long blind cords.
- Make sure your toddler can’t climb on to any furniture to reach a window.
- Remove any heavy items on top of furniture and bookcases.
- Install drawer stops so your toddler can’t pull them out and climb up or tip over furniture.
- Smooth over sharp corners with bumpers.
- Use a night light so both you and your little one can see where you’re going in the dark.
- Make sure table lamps can’t be pulled off surfaces.
- Little fingers like exploring: block access to electrical outlets with covers.
- Secure any electrical wires.
- Don’t use electric blankets.
- Block off radiators.
How Do I Get My Toddler To Stay In Their Bed?!
Make Your Toddler Feel Secure
Once your little one has made the transition to big kid bed, requests for one more story, one more cuddle and one more kiss usually become a lot more frequent. If your little one is up and down like a yo-yo, follow these guidelines:
A big kid bed is far more open than their crib so do understand that this transition may be tough for your little one.
Create a cozy nest.
Place their new bed in the corner of their room so it feels more secure. If the new bed is in another room, let them get to know their new room while sleeping in their crib first. Once they’re happy with the new room, try the big kid bed.
It may be frustrating at first. Expect to spend a few evenings repeatedly putting your toddler back in bed until they get used to it.
- Calmly walk them back to bed.
- Keep chit-chat to a minimum.
- Tuck them back in, give them a kiss and tell them it’s OK to play quietly with their toy or look at their book.
Try the ‘bedtime ticket’ technique.
Once the bedtime routine is done and dusted, give them a ‘bedtime ticket’. This could be a sticker, sticky note or just a piece of paper or card. Tell your child they can use this ticket for one brief request, and then leave the room.
When your toddler calls out their request, go back in, grant the request and take the ticket. If they make another request, remind them that they’ve used up their ticket and must now stay in bed.
This technique teaches kids that parents will grant one request but not all night long. Parents will learn that granting too many requests essentially rewards kids for staying awake!
Wait before removing the crib.
If your toddler’s struggling to sleep in their new bed, go back to crib sleeping for a while. Try again when they’ve improved their self-soothing skills.
Transitioning to a toddler bed is a big step for both of you. But patience, consistency and plenty of positive time and exercise during the day will help you and your child successfully adjust to the new sleep environment.