The transition from a crib to a big kid (or toddler) bed is a milestone for your child. This transition is more than a symbol of him growing up though; it can also disrupt good sleep patterns or become a safety issue. Crib boundaries keep your toddler safe and secure, and give you peace of mind. Once these boundaries are removed and your toddler can roam free, the opportunities for mischief are endless! We’ve answered parents’ top questions about the best approach for transitioning from crib to a toddler or big kid bed.
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Toddler Bed Versus Big Kid (Twin) Bed.
What’s the Difference?
First, let’s clarify your options. A toddler bed fits a crib mattress and is low to the ground. They are often themed (car, princess, Mickey Mouse, etc..) Some cribs have the option to convert to a toddler bed. Toddler beds have built-in side rails and take up less space, an advantage for small bedrooms. If your toddler is outgrowing his crib or you prefer a long-term bed option, then it’s best to skip the toddler bed.
A big kid bed fits a twin mattress and is higher off the ground. You can add side rails to keep your toddler from falling out. A big kid bed can last long-term because your child isn’t likely to outgrow it, until the teen years or later.
When Can I Transition my Toddler from Crib to Bed?
- You’re starting nighttime potty training
- Your child tells you he wants a big kid bed (AND is at least 3 years old)
- There are repeated episodes of climbing out (this becomes a safety risk)
[Important Note] If a new sibling is on the way & will need a crib… BUY ANOTHER ONE!
This will save you so much stress & headache, trust me.
Keep both children “contained” for sleep as long as possible.
When Should I Avoid Making the Transition?
- If your toddler is younger than 2.5 years. Children this young sleep much better with physical boundaries.
- If your toddler is going through a change. (New house, starting daycare, weaning off the pacifier, potty training, new baby on the way…)
Work on one transition at a time. It’s best to not overwhelm your toddler with too many changes at the same time.
How Can I Transition my Toddler from Crib to Bed?
- Communicate. Start talking about the transition one week before you plan to implement it. Remind him of all his friends and cousins that sleep in big kid beds. Do your best to win him over to the idea.
- Involve him. If possible, take your toddler to the store and have him pick out his new bed, sheets, pillow and duvet.
- Do a safety check. “Toddler proof” his room by securing all the furniture, locking the windows, and removing exposed electricity wires and choking hazards. He’ll be spending time in his room unsupervised, so do your best to keep it safe.
- Keep everything else familiar. Put the new bed in the same spot where the crib was. Same stuffed animals, bedtime routine, and familiar sleep associations like a sleep sack.
- Provide extra time to adjust. Start the bedtime routine 30 minutes earlier than usual for a few nights. This provides a cushion of extra time if your toddler has trouble falling asleep in his new bed.
- Install side rails. Toddlers and preschoolers are known for their active sleep patterns. Make sure to add side rails (if your bed doesn’t have them) so your toddler doesn’t roll onto the floor.
- Provide a cushion. Despite your best attempts, some toddlers still find a way to roll off the bed! Place a soft blanket or pillows where he may land.
- Plug in. Consider getting a video monitor so you can keep tabs on his wandering.
If you’re looking for a complete program for your toddler or child, check out my new Big Kid Sleep Made Simple program; it addresses sleep disturbances that occur in children ages 2-6 years of age and offers step-by-step instructions and guides that offer solutions to all your big kid sleep training issues.
Video Monitors that Moms Love
My Toddler Won’t Stay in Bed at Night! What Do I Do?
Although it’s frustrating having to deal with a nighttime wanderer, it’s completely normal toddler behavior. You’ve removed his boundaries and security, so his natural inclination is to explore.
- During your bedtime routine each night remind him that nighttime is for sleeping and remind him what will happen in the night if he wakes. (See how to create a bedtime routine here)
- When he wanders out of bed to find you, keep a calm face and walk him right back to bed. It’s best to be very boring and repeat a phrase like “It’s time for sleeping.” Tuck him in and leave the room. Too much attention, even negative attention, could motivate him to keep hopping out of bed. So don’t make a big deal of it.
- Some parents find that having a baby gate at the bedroom doorway eases their worries about a toddler roaming the hallway unsupervised. This is especially important if your house has stairs. If your toddler calls out for you at night from the baby gate, calmly tuck him back in bed.
- Consider getting a toddler clock that lights up each morning, telling your toddler it’s ok to get out of bed.
- Whether you use a sticker chart or another
briberyreinforcement tool, make sure to congratulate your child on his achievements each morning. Sometimes all you need is eye contact, a hug and kiss to reward and encourage certain behaviors.
The transition to a big kid bed can take several weeks. As with most everything related to parenting, consistency is your best ally. Remember to stay calm (& boring) when your toddler wakes you at night. Once he realizes there’s no party he’s missing out on, he should go back to sleeping all night.
Check out my new Big Kid Sleep Made Simple program; it addresses sleep disturbances that occur in children ages 2-6 years of age and offers step-by-step instructions and guides to get your toddler sleeping (and staying) in their own bed without needing any assistance from you! There’s a DIY option or the option to add support.
Got any toddler transition tips to share? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!