Is it Time for a Big Kid Bed?
Making the move from the crib to a big bed can be a little intimidating for some. You want to ensure that your child is ready for the move as switching them too early can cause sleep challenges.
Wait for the right time
There is no "right" age to transition a little one into a big bed. Some children can transition as early as a year, while others as late as 3+ years old. Typically the best time is between 2.5 and 3 years as they are old enough to really understand the rules of sleeping in a big bed. When contemplating making the change, it is also important to factor in your child’s temperament or if they're stubbornly hooked on exercising their crib jumping skills. If your child is easy going and settles well, an earlier transition shouldn’t be an issue. If your child is feisty, you may want to hold off on making the move too early. The important piece in this is making sure your child has well established sleep habits.
If your child struggles to fall asleep, making the change to a bed too early will then allow them the opportunity to easily and continuously get out of said bed. It may cause more challenges than when they were in the crib. If you are planning on working on teaching your child to learn how to fall asleep independently, we suggest tackling that before making the switch to a big bed. The transition is often a lot easier with a child who already has that skill.
It is not ideal to make this transition right at the same time as a major life change such as a move, major change in routine, a transition to daycare, a new sibling etc.
If you are expecting a baby, moving the new baby into the crib very close to the time that you have made the transition to a big bed with the toddler can make the toddler feel like they are being replaced or that the baby is taking over their space. Instead, create an adjustment period. Make the change a couple of months before the baby arrives or a couple of months after if the newborn will be in the same room as you for awhile. If you choose to make the transition after the baby is born, dismantle the crib for a month or so before setting it back up for the baby.
Prepare them by involving them in the fun
If you spend some time preparing your child for the upcoming changes, it will give them the opportunity to become excited about the transition. Having conversations about the new bed, reading books about other children and characters making the change can help them relate to the character in the book. You can also psych them up by talking to them about kids they know who sleep in big beds (older siblings, cousins, friends, etc.) Taking them with you to shop for some new fun bed accessories such as sheets, a pillowcase, wall decals, a new stuffed animal that they can sleep with will also help prepare them. Another fun suggestion, if you bought a new bed, is to let them "help" you put it together to make them feel more involved in the process.
Taking the plunge
You can gradually get them used to their new bed by starting with naps and then moving into overnights. When you are ready to fully make the change, it is best to completely remove the crib so that your child can become comfortable in their big bed without the temptation of the crib nearby.
Make sure that you transfer anything of attachment that they may have had in their crib over to their bed such as a blanket or lovey.
A few safety tips
- Put guard rails or a pool noodle under the bed sheet to prevent them from rolling out.
- Make sure that you set up the room so that if they get out of bed, they cannot harm themselves on anything that surrounds them.
- Place their bed away from blinds and curtains.
- Cover up all electrical outlets.
- Anchor all dressers and bookshelves to the wall.
- Make sure that you have a gate up by the stairs or on their door in case your toddler decides to wander in the night.
- Make sure anywhere that they can access in the house is child-proofed (doors to the cleaning products, medications, hang a bell on the main door.).
- Place some pillows or blankets on the floor in case they roll out.
- We also suggest putting the toys away or removing them from the room to discourage playing at sleep times
Please be mindful that it can take your child some time to adjust regardless of how great a sleeper they used to be. Giving them a little extra support, a few extra minutes of snuggles and continuing to be consistent with the routine and schedule will ease the transition into this next big milestone.
*Originally published May 16, 2016