When and How to Transition From Crib to Toddler Bed

Transitioning your toddler to a big kid bed

When to transition your toddler from crib to bed will involve several factors you need to consider. This post will help you decide when is the right time and give you tips on how to do it.

When To Transition From Crib to Toddler Bed

First, let’s talk about when to transition your toddler from crib to bed. There’s no right or wrong answer. The ages for making this transition vary from family to family. With 15+ years of experience working with families, I recommend you try to wait until between 3 and 4 years old to transition from crib to bed.

Typically, we here at The Baby Sleep Site® recommend that you don’t rush into making this transition. Why? Because once you remove those crib bars, you remove your little one’s bedtime boundaries and sometimes the feelings of security. And, that can cause problems.

First, your toddler might take advantage of their newfound freedom, and play the “jack-in-the-box” game with you, popping out of bed every time you turn your back. That can be exhausting!

The other thing we see a lot is that your toddler might be going to sleep just fine in their crib but now in a regular bed wants you to stay in the room. They no longer appear to have the “protection” of the crib. They sometimes lose a sense of security.

So don’t rush into making this switch. If your toddler is doing fine in a crib, then don’t rush the transition. If you can wait to make the transition until your toddler is older than 2 years old, then it’ll probably be easier on everyone. (Emphasis on the probably — we’re not making any promises!)

What If The Crib Isn’t Working Anymore?

However, if the crib just isn’t working anymore, it may be time to make the switch. For instance, if your toddler is climbing out of the crib, that can be dangerous. In this case, consider transitioning to a bed (particularly if your toddler is past 2 years old).

Or, maybe your toddler is just plain too big for his crib. If that’s the case, then it might be time to switch to a toddler bed.

Of course, your desire to make the transition may have more to do with you, and not your toddler. If you’re expecting a new baby, you may need to transition your toddler out of the crib so that you have it free for the new baby. Again, if your toddler is past 2 years old, then you can consider making the switch. If not, or you want to be cautious, consider getting two cribs or use a bassinet or SNOO for the new baby.

The biggest issue here… IF your toddler understands he is supposed to stay in bed, he may lack the impulse control to actually do it. We all know adults who lack impulse control, too, but that’s for another day. 🙂 Both of my boys transitioned from crib to bed around two years old. It certainly helped to have solidified our sleep habits, first. I talk to some families where the loss of boundaries can majorly affect a toddler’s feeling of security. So make sure she’s ready before making the switch.

What Kind of Bed Should You Transition Your Toddler To?

If your toddler is young, consider transitioning to a toddler bed with rails. This is a smaller-sized bed that uses a crib mattress instead of a twin-sized mattress. A toddler can feel cozier and more secure in a toddler bed than in a twin bed, and that may make the transition easier for some toddlers.

Of course, if your toddler is outgrowing the crib, then switching to a toddler bed won’t work (since it’s essentially the same size as the crib.) In this case, you’ll want to transition your toddler to a twin-sized (or larger) bed.

Both of my boys transitioned to toddler beds, which may or may not have helped, but that only lasted about 6 months. So, if money is tight or you think your toddler will transition well, skip the toddler bed. We went from toddler bed to full-size bed, so we wouldn’t need to buy yet another bed once they got bigger (and frankly, it’s more comfortable for us to cuddle at bedtime, too!).

How To Transition Your Toddler From Crib to Bed

There’s no script to follow when you’re helping your toddler switch from a crib to a bed. There are, however, some tips to keep in mind:

  • Before you do anything else, safety-proof! Once you remove those crib bars, your toddler is going to have unhindered access to his room. So, take some time to carefully toddler-proof that room! If you’re transitioning to a big bed, you’ll also want to invest in some safety bed rails, to prevent any falls.
  • Talk to your toddler about the switch ahead of time. Few toddlers will react well to entering their room and suddenly seeing their old bed replaced with a new one. Remember — toddlers like routine and predictability! So let your toddler know what’s coming. Talk about it, and maybe read a book about moving to a bed together.
  • Make the big bed welcoming. Pile on your toddler’s favorite toys or stuffed animals. Layer on any favorite blankets or bedding. Consider taking your toddler shopping for new “big kid” sheets, and let her pick them out. Although you could start using a toddler blanket or comforter set, consider keeping a big-kid sleep sack for a bit longer. Not all children will keep a blanket on all night just yet.
  • Consider leaving the crib in the room for a bit, too. This may or may not work for every situation. For some kids, having the crib there proves to be a huge distraction, and only makes the switch harder. For others, though, it makes the switch easier. Toddlers love choices! To start, if you give your toddler the choice to sleep in the crib or the big bed, it can help your toddler feel more in control of the transition.
  • Prepare yourself for the “jack-in-the-box.” Your toddler WILL try to get out of his new bed. And that’s understandable — the sudden freedom is bound to go right to his head! So be prepared for it. When your toddler (inevitably) wanders out of bed, quickly put him right back into it. It’s a good idea to make it an emotionless interaction. Too much positive or negative reaction on your part will likely serve to make the jack-in-the-box behavior worse. But if your toddler can’t get a rise out of you, he’s likely to quit the behavior faster.
  • Don’t expect the transition to happen overnight. It’ll probably be 2-3 weeks before this transition is done, and the new bed feels normal for your toddler. And yes, there will be a handful of rough nights in there. Stick with it, though. Be firm, loving, and consistent. And before you know it, your little one’s new bed will feel just like home.

We’re here to help you make the crib to toddler bed transition as seamless as possible!

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