Written by: Alison Deshong
Updated March 17, 2021
Research indicates that by around 3 years of age, most toddlers (1) sleep in a bed. There’s also evidence suggesting that children get better sleep when in a crib compared with a bed, according to reports from caregivers. The switch from crib to toddler bed is an unavoidable step in a child’s development, though. Each kid is different, and many parents struggle to decide exactly when to transition their child from a crib to a toddler bed. We’ll explore some factors to consider when determining whether your toddler is ready to move from a crib to a bed and how to make the transition as smooth as possible.
Your Toddler Can Climb Out of the Crib
Once your child is big enough that they can climb over the rails of their crib, they may be ready to transition to a toddler bed. Climbing over the crib rails and jumping to the ground is a potential safety hazard (2) To prevent this, a good rule of thumb is that the rails of the crib should be at or higher than your toddler’s chest. You can try lowering the crib mattress to make it more difficult for your little one to escape.
It’s not always easy to know when your toddler is ready. Some children are particularly agile and will figure out a way up and out of their crib when they’re still quite small. Others won’t show interest in climbing out of their crib until they’re a bit older. If you aren’t sure about the safest sleeping arrangement for your child, it can help to work with their pediatrician for individualized guidance.
You Have Another Baby on the Way
Many parents hope to make the switch from a crib to bed when they have another baby on the way. If your child is starting to outgrow their crib, pregnancy can be a good time to ease your toddler into a real bed while preparing them for a new sibling.
You’ll want to give your toddler plenty of time to warm up to the idea of a big kid bed. It’s best to start early so that your child is used to their new bed before the new baby arrives.
Moving your toddler to a new bed can be a convenient way to free up their crib for the newborn, but it’s important to consider whether your toddler seems ready. In the long run, it might be better to buy a second crib than to place more stress on your older child during an already turbulent time.
How to Make a Smooth Transition
Bedtime can be a contentious time for many parents and their young children. That’s why it’s crucial to approach any changes to your toddler’s sleep routine with a solid game plan. Below are ideas for how you can make the transition from crib to bed as smooth as possible.
Take it Slow
Moving from a crib to a bed is a big change. Take it slow and start with small steps. If you have the space, set up your toddler’s new bed while keeping their crib assembled. Next, have them take naps in their new bed. This will help them get them comfortable with the new bed before it becomes their primary sleep space.
New Bed, Same Routine
Once you’ve assembled the new bed, and your toddler is comfortable napping on the new sleep surface, they can start spending the night. It could help to avoid introducing any other big changes to your child’s nighttime routine.
Keep the same sleep schedule, and go through your normal activities at night such as taking a bath or storytime. The only difference should be the new bed. A regular bedtime routine has many benefits (3) including improved sleep quality, language development, emotional regulation, and parent-child bonding.
There are few other tricks to make sure bedtime feels familiar, even with a new bed. Move your toddler’s new bed to the same spot as their old crib. Keep their crib blankets and other bedding and use them with the new bed. Even if the crib bedding is too small, it can provide a much needed source of soothing comfort for the first few nights or weeks.
Give Your Toddler a Say
Allowing your toddler to give input when it comes to choosing a new bed and sleep accessories may also help with their transition. Toddlers aren’t the savviest shoppers, so do some research first, then let them make the final choice between two or three bed models and bedding sets. Letting your toddler make the final choice can give them a sense of autonomy and control and may help them get excited to make the switch.
Moving from a crib to a bed represents a huge milestone for toddlers as well as their parents. Like potty training, this transition can be a long process. But with a bit of patience and care, your toddler will become just as comfortable with sleeping in their big kid bed.
- https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30529772/ Accessed March 17, 2021.
- https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-home/Pages/Make-Babys-Room-Safe.aspx Accessed March 17, 2021.
- https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29195725/ Accessed March 17, 2021.