Sleep – Moving Up: The Toddler Bed Transition

Moving Up: The Toddler Bed Transition

Moving your toddler out of her crib is a sure sign that your child is no longer a baby. Before taking this big step parents often ask when the best time is for this change to take place. However, sometimes it is your child who decides when they are ready. Sometimes children as young as 18 months can climb or flip out of their cribs, so parents may find themselves having to deal with this issue before they expected to. Although there are nets that can effectively keep a child in a crib, most young toddlers can manage a big bed. If you are the parent of an acrobatic toddler you must be prepared to make some changes to prevent bloody noses, lips or even broken bones. Toddler beds are great but are not a necessity. If you are worried that your child will fall out of a higher bed, start by putting your crib mattress on the floor and then slowly graduate into a real bed. Parents who are “forced” into this decision may not understand the dilemma that parents face who have a child who simply loves his crib. It may seem to these parents that their child will be studying for their SAT’s before graduating to the big bed. By the time a child is three you may have to take steps to help with this transition. While each situation is unique there are some things that can make this process go more smoothly.

  • Let your child pick out special sheets and covers as you prepare him for the idea of sleeping in a big bed. Instead of going cold turkey, you can have both the crib and big bed in the room at the same time. Children will often nap in their new bed and save nighttime sleep for their crib. Most children will quickly move full time into the bed with little resistance.
  • Once your child is through with the crib, let him watch as you dismantle it so it does not seem to suddenly “disappear”. Unlike the current reality shows where there is an exciting “reveal “of remodeled homes, a toddler will likely not appreciate the surprise of a newly decorated room which contains a brand new bed and no crib. Your child can and should participate in this process.

A new sibling in the family presents its own set of challenges: If your children will be less than two years apart, you may want to consider buying or borrowing another crib. It is inevitable that your older child will feel somewhat displaced by his new sibling so, if possible, let him retain the rights to his own crib. If you plan on moving your older child to a bed, try and have this accomplished at least two months before the baby is due. Your child may display some sleep disturbances when he transitions from crib to bed. Children realize they have a new type of freedom and may experiment by leaving their room (often over and over again). For safety reasons, make sure that all stairways are gated and that there are nightlights in the halls. However, you can prevent your child from roaming if you think of his room as a “giant crib”. By putting a gate at the bedroom door, he can enjoy the same type of freedom he enjoyed in his crib. In other words, he can play or talk to his favorite stuff toy before he finds his way to sleep. Just don’t be surprised if at first you find your child asleep on the floor and not in his bed!

–Susan Glaser is an Early Childhood Consultant and was the Director of Early Childhood Services for the Jewish Community Center of Cleveland for over 15 years. She currently does consultations and assessments for early childhood centers, parent coaching and travels around the country presenting