Transitioning from a crib to a toddler bed can be challenging—for both you and your child. That’s why we’ve gathered our top tips for making the leap as seamless as possible. Read on to learn how to manage all the tricky logistics and emotions around this momentous milestone.
Time it well
A good time to start thinking about switching beds is around 18 months, but there’s no need to rush it—some kids aren’t ready until they’re closer to 3.5 years. If your child can climb out of their crib, or is verbalizing their desire for a big kid bed, it’s a pretty good indicator that they’re ready. Just don’t make the jump at the same time as another big transition, such as potty training, as this can leave your toddler feeling insecure.
Go for a sturdy bed that can stand up to an active toddler’s wiggles, rolls and other acrobatics. In that same vein, you’ll also want a bed with side rails (or the option to add them) and minimal ornamentation. While those fancy cutouts and protrusions might look nice, they’re magnets for bumped heads and jammed fingers, so better to stick with a smooth headboard and frame. Also, be sure to regularly check for any loose hardware or splinters in the wood.
Create a Safe Space
Ideally, place the toddler bed in the same spot as the crib—away from radiators, windows, blind cords, draperies and wall or floor lamps. Ensure the headboard is flush against the wall with ample space on both sides of the bed (or with safety rails on both sides) so your child doesn’t get trapped between the bed and the wall. It’s a good idea to keep the bed low to the ground and surrounded by soft rugs and/or pillows to help cushion those inevitable falls.
Read About It
Before taking the leap, introduce your child to a few books with characters who are going through the same thing. Reading about brave little boys and girls who are just like them will frame the change as positive and exciting, instead of scary and overwhelming, for your toddler.
Oftentimes the arrival of a new sibling is the catalyst for a new bed. If this is the case, try and set up the new bed well before the baby arrives to give your toddler time to get comfortable and avoid feeling displaced. Involve your child by letting them pick out their own kid-friendly bedding. A few familiar items, such as blankets, loveys, stuffed animals and other comfort objects, can also help your little one feel safe and secure, as can a night light.
Keep it Consistent
When picking out the crib, consider one that converts into a toddler bed. Not only is it more economical, but a convertible crib can also make the change feel less dramatic for your toddler. Also, whether it’s a book and bottle or a bath and a massage (or all of the above), make sure to keep your bedtime routine consistent so your child doesn’t feel too thrown off balance.
Your curious toddler will want to explore and enjoy his newfound freedom. Give your home a once-over to make sure all accessible areas are kid safe in case your child decides to roam. Make sure to set limits so your child knows they have to stay in bed during certain designated hours. We’re fans of “sleep training clocks,” which use colors as visual cues to let your child know when it’s okay to get up (which may also buy you some precious extra sleep in the morning).
Help your toddler learn to love his new bed by praising him for good bedtime habits. As he eases into his new situation, for every night that he stays in bed, offer a sticker, an extra bedtime story or another special treat. And remember not to skimp on the verbal praise. Your toddler will be thrilled to have made you happy.
Most importantly, remember there’s no perfect time for moving to a toddler bed. Always stay attuned to your child’s individual needs. With a little patience and empathy, this milestone will be fun and exciting for both you and your toddler.