I’ll never forget this client. ⬇️
She was expecting her second baby and didn’t want to purchase a new crib.
So she and her partner did what a lot of new parents do: they moved their 2.5-year-old to a toddler bed.
Big mistake. Huge.
This mom came to me in tears, because her once sleep-trained toddler was now getting out of bed multiple times at bedtime and at night. She was pregnant, exhausted, and at her wit’s end.
Unfortunately, I see this all the time as a pediatric sleep consultant. And more often than not, these parents opt to move their little one back to the crib after a week or so.
Many of you are asking about transitioning your toddler from a crib to a bed, so today I’m sharing the basics: why, when, and how to make this big transition. Keep reading to learn more!
Why (Not) to Make the Crib-to-Bed Transition
Most parents decide to make the transition to a toddler bed because they need a crib for a new baby or because their little one begins to climb out of the crib at bedtime or during naps.
But unfortunately, these are not good reasons to make this big transition.
So when should you make the crib-to-bed transition?
When to Transition from a Crib to a Bed
It might surprise you, but I recommend holding off on this transition for as long as possible.
Because most toddlers have zero impulse control, which makes it nearly impossible for them to stay in bed. They’d much rather explore their rooms or hang out with their parents.
Not being confined to those four crib walls is a recipe for disaster!
Here’s what to do instead:
- If you need a crib for a new baby and don’t want to fork over the cash, consider borrowing one from a friend or scouring Craig’s List, Facebook Marketplace, or yard sales for a good deal.
- Got a climber? Make sure the crib mattress is as low as it can go, and turn the crib around so that the shortest side is facing the wall.
- Use a sleep sack, which will keep them from getting their leg over the railing. (If you’re worried about them unzipping it, put it on backward.)
- Install a video monitor with a talk-back function, so you can say “no!” if you catch them trying to climb out.
So when should you transition? Between 3-4 is a developmentally appropriate age to introduce a big kid bed, but you know your child best.
Just make sure your little one understands directions (Stay in bed until morning) and consequences (If you can’t stay in bed, you won’t get enough rest, and then we can’t go on our playdate tomorrow.)
How to Make the Crib to Bed Transition
Once you decide to commit to the crib-to-bed transition, look for mattresses.
I recommend skipping the toddler bed and purchasing a twin mattress instead.
Next, involve your little one in the process. Let them pick out the bed, bedding, pillows, etc. This will give them ownership of their experience and help the transition go more smoothly.
Also, don’t forget to toddler-proof their room!
- Install bed rails,
- Make sure dressers and other heavy pieces of furniture are anchored to the wall,
- Cover outlets, and
- Remove anything–including toys– you wouldn’t want them playing with without supervision
Once the room is set up, explain the new bedtime rules to your little one. Tell your child after they’ve been tucked in, they shouldn’t get out of their bed until morning (unless they need to use the restroom–if potty trained. But be careful, here, as bathroom visits can be a stalling tactic!)
If the transition proves difficult and your child has a hard time staying in their bed, silently walk them back and leave. The goal is to make the process boring; leaving their bed should be unrewarding.
Pro tip? Consider implementing a reward chart for good bedtime behavior!
To Sum It Up
Many parents introduce a bed to their toddler way too soon; holding off on this transition is a wise move!
But when you do decide to make this transition, remember:
- Baby-proof your child’s room
- Involved them in the process
- Set clear rules and expectations
- Consider implementing a reward chart
If, after a few weeks, you’re still having trouble, reach out! I’ve helped many families transition their toddlers and preschoolers to beds!