baby laying on a toki mat on the floor of a nursery

When and How to Transition Your Toddler Into A Bed

October 30, 2023

A lot of changes happen in your child’s first few years of life, and one of those major milestones is making the switch from their crib to a big kid bed. Watching your little one grow up is one of the greatest joys in life, and while it’s exciting to see them become more independent, leaving the crib is one milestone that shouldn’t be rushed. Even if your little one voices their excitement over a big kid bed, it’s actually best to keep them in their crib until they can no longer stay in it. Making the switch before they’re really, truly ready can cause more sleep problems instead of fixing them. Young children lack the impulse control to stay in their bed, so taking them out of the crib gives them the freedom to roam about instead of sleeping. Bedtime can become a seemingly never ending game of walking your child back into their bed, just to have them come out of their room over and over again. If possible, it’s recommended to keep your little one in their crib until they’re 3 years old. However, there are circumstances in which your little one may be ready for a regular bed before then. Here are some signs that your child is ready to make the switch:

  • They’ve maxed out the height/weight limits of their crib: If your little one is over the maximum height or weight recommended by their crib manufacturer, staying in the crib becomes a hazard. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends transitioning your child to their bed once they reach 35 inches in height. After that point, the crib may feel cramped and your child may be more tempted to climb out, which can lead to falling.
  • They try to climb out: Children are natural climbers, and as they grow bigger and more agile, they’ll likely begin making escape attempts from their crib. Make sure the crib mattress is in the lowest position, and you can also consider turning the crib around if the back side is higher than the front side to deter your little one from climbing out and potentially getting injured. If this still doesn’t work on your mini Houdini, the crib is no longer safe and it’s time to make the switch.

Now that you’ve decided to move your little one into a big kid bed, here’s how to make the transition as smooth as possible:

toddler laying on a toki mat play mat on the floor

Prepare the room

When you give your toddler the freedom of being able to roam about, you have to  prepare their room with the expectation that they will do so. If you haven’t already thoroughly baby proofed their room, it’s time to do so. Make sure tall furniture is securely anchored to the wall, all electric outlets are covered, corded blinds are removed and replaced without dangling cords, and hazards are not accessible. If your child can unlock and open doors, you may want to consider putting a door alarm that will alert you if they leave their room. 

Let your child pick out their bed

While some children may find the switch from crib to bed no big deal, others may struggle with the change. Allowing your little one to be involved in the transition will help them adapt and get excited over their bed. Make a list of beds that your child can choose from, and also let them have a say in what color sheets or comforter go on the bed. If they’re a fan of a particular movie or character, printed bedding can also make this new stage exciting for them.

Prepare for them to fall out

It’s very normal for young children to move around a lot in their sleep. You’ve likely found your toddler in all sorts of positions in their crib throughout the night, and when they suddenly don’t have guard rails to keep them on the mattress, they may fall out of the bed. Some kids may cry, some kids may get back into their bed, and others are perfectly content to stay on the floor. Even if their room is carpeted, consider putting a thick, soft play mat or cushion on the floor by their bed to pad any falls. If they decide to stay on the floor, it will be a far more comfortable surface than the carpet or hardwood.

toddler laying on a toki mat on the floor

Communicate expectations

Although toddlers are known for pushback behavior, children thrive on structure and consistency. Before you ditch the crib, explain the change to your child and help them understand that they’ll be sleeping in a big kid bed. Let them know that the bed is for sleep, and that they’ll be expected to stay there at night. If you don’t allow your child to sleep in your bed, communicate to them that if they come into your room, you’ll be walking them back into bed and that you’ll get them out of bed when it’s morning.

Establish a bedtime routine

If you already have a consistent bedtime routine that your child does well with, stick to it after making the move to a big kid bed. Consistency is important to help your little one with big changes, and going through their same bedtime routine every night will help them adjust to their bed quicker. If you don’t have a bedtime routine, start one in the weeks before the switch, and stick to it! Bath, pajamas, book, lights off, and lullaby in the same order every night make a great bedtime routine.

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When and How to Transition Your Toddler Into A Bed

About the Author: Alice

Alice Mendoza is a copywriter and blog writer based in Los Angeles. She began writing for a baby brand while on maternity leave, and realized she had found her niche. Today, she writes exclusively within the baby space, using her BFA in Creative Writing and her own experience as a mother to guide her. When she’s not working, you can find her chasing down her toddler, going on walks around the neighborhood, or watching reality TV.

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