Your toddler isn’t a baby anymore. You may be wondering when you should move her to a bed from her crib. The quick answer: Don’t rush the process. For several reasons, you want to make this move when your child is ready. You want to make the move in a way that helps her to move more easily into a “big-kid bed.” Helping her to be a big kid when she isn’t ready won’t make nighttime any easier for you—or her.
Also, you need to remember that, when she has no more crib rails limiting her range of movement, she’s going to take full advantage of that. She’ll also unleash her curiosity, putting herself into some potentially dangerous situations.
Some Age Range Suggestions
This seems to be the question of the day. When do I move my child from her crib to a bed? Not far behind that question: How do I accomplish this? Let’s tackle the “when” first.
Some child experts will suggest that you make the switch as early as 1 1/2 years of age to 3 1/2 years. Since some toddlers are tall for their age, then an earlier transition will be necessary—just for their comfort. If your child is within this range, and she is taller than other toddlers her age, then you may want to begin her transition from her crib to a bed fairly soon. If her head is touching one end of the crib and her feet are close to doing so, she will need a regular twin bed.
On the other hand, if she’s petite, but she still shows signs that she’s ready to transition to a bed, then a toddler bed may still fit her, size-wise.
Other experts suggest that toddlers between the age of 18 months and four years can be ready for this move. Still, you may want to wait until you see other signs of readiness. Is she climbing out of her crib? Are you about to have another baby? Is your child potty training?
If she is starting to climb out of the crib, this is potentially dangerous. Lower the mattress’ height as far as you can, making it as hard as possible for her to get out of the crib.
If she’s potty training, she needs to be able to get out of bed quickly so she can run to the bathroom. Her little bladder can’t hold on for the time it takes her to climb out of the crib.
If you are getting ready to have another child, obviously, you’ll need the crib! If your child still isn’t ready to move to a big-kid bed, you’ll need to either buy a second crib, put the new baby into a bassinet or consider co-sleeping the new baby.
If you’ve decided to have just one crib, then you’ll need to begin the planning fairly early. Switch your toddler to a regular bed about six to eight weeks before the newest little one is due. Why? Possession. Your toddler will still feel like the crib is “hers,” even though she’s sleeping in a regular bed now. Giving her time to make the mental transition will make your lives that much easier.
Not only will your toddler be adjusting to the presence of a tiny new life that seems to need you 24/7—that new little life is now taking over “her” bed! And she may not be very pleased. What if your toddler is younger than 18 months to two years? And you’re expecting another baby? If that baby will be born before your older toddler’s second birthday, go ahead and buy a bassinet or second crib. Because your older child won’t be developmentally ready to give up her crib.
Making the Transition Easier
Hopefully, your toddler’s room is large enough to hold the crib and a regular bed. This can help her to make the transition a little more easily.
If not, make sure to put the new bed in the same spot where her crib stood. The mental connection and transition will be easier for her. Also, don’t tuck the flat sheet and blanket in right away. Because, when she slept in her crib, you put a blanket over her and her feet sometimes poked out at the bottom of the blanket. For this reason, sheets that are tucked in will feel too restrictive. So, just put the sheets and blanket on, but leave them untucked for a while.
Another transition suggestion that’s more safety-based: Add a short guardrail to the side of her bed. While that bed is larger than what she slept in before, she can still roll right over and fall out of bed. That’ll scare her and make her a little sour on a “big-kid” bed. The guardrail will make her feel a little more secure.
Get your little one invested in “her big-kid” bed. Take her shopping with you for the new sheets. Show her several patterns in little-girl themes, such as unicorns, character bedding, such as Elsa or Annie from “Frozen.” Minnie Mouse is a perennially popular character for little girls, especially if you’ve taken your toddler to Disneyland. Once she’s picked out the sheets she likes best, she’ll feel a little more invested in her new bed. She’ll be more likely to sleep in it.
Let your toddler know the change is coming soon. Talk to her a few weeks before you plan to have her make the big switch. Young children like and need routine. They don’t like big surprises, such as “where’s my crib?”
Once she’s spent the night in her new bed, don’t expect every night to be the same. Maybe she accepted the change at first. She’s going to have misgivings. For the first two or three weeks, expect a little upheaval surrounding the switch. Some nights will be easy. Other nights. . . won’t. Just stick to your decision because she can’t sleep in a crib forever.
If you have the resources (and time), why not mark this special occasion by having a “big-kid switch” party? Let your toddler get involved in the planning. Make a cake and have some generic party favors. Invite family and a few friends over.
Allow your child to tell family and friends about the big move. This is a big move for her! And she has every right to feel proud (if not also a little bit scared). By being able to tell friends and family, she’s getting used to this new idea.
Now that your toddler is now sleeping in her own bed (or trying to, anyway. Your toddler is likely to get up and scream in fright for you. Or she’ll want to sleep with you and your partner.
Remember the suggestion to leave the crib in your toddler’s room for a few weeks? She may have a few fearful moments as she transitions. Change is hard for a toddler. She’s used to sleeping in a crib enclosed with four sets of rails. After all, that’s been what she knew for her whole life. So, the change go a rail-less bed may be scary. Yes, she may want to sleep in the crib occasionally while she deals with her fears. Let her have this choice—this way, she feels like she has a little more control.
Good Mattresses and Bedding for Toddler Beds
As you think about buying a bed for your toddler, don’t forget about a good mattress set. Should you buy a regular box spring mattress? A latex mattress? Will she breathe in harmful fumes on this mattress? Or should you go all-out and buy an organic mattress?
Buy what fits your situation best. Your toddler will be sleeping on this mattress for eight to 10 years. You have plenty of choices on which mattress to buy, the most important thing is finding a mattress that your child will be most comfortable on. There are also mattresses out there that allows children with allergies to sleep more easily. The latex is hypoallergenic and breathable.
Thinking of bedding, do you want regular sheets or organic? You will pay more for organic, but it’s the better option for our child. Your choices here include the plain and patterned sheet sets (including two pillowcases).
A Few Precautions
Let’s say your toddler loves the change to a big-kid bed. All the freedom! This means she’s going to be able to jump out of bed when she wants to. This is the “jack-in-the-box” effect. You put her to bed. “Mommy, I’m thirsty.” “I want another story.” I’m not sleepy.” Be ready for this to happen. It will be much likely to happen than not.
Childproof her bedroom! That sense of freedom will lead her into potentially dangerous situations. Is her chest of drawers secure? If she stands on an opened drawer, will it fall forward onto her? If so, secure it to the wall with braces. Do the same with bookcases or other heavy furniture.
Cover the outlets with safety covers, if you haven’t done so by this time. This is a huge danger.
You already know about outfitting the bed with safety rails. You don’t want her to decide that her new bed is too scary to sleep in.
Finally, if you live in a two-story home, you may need to put two safety gates up. Install them at the top and bottom of the stairs so your child can’t try to go up or down without taking a potentially dangerous fall.