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Is My Toddler Ready to Transition to a Big Kid Bed?

The switch from a crib to a bed is an important milestone for your child. When you see the signs your toddler is ready, use these tips to make a smooth crib-to-bed transition.

Toddler sleeping in a bedIt’s difficult to know exactly when the right time is to move your child out of the crib and into their very own bed. “Children typically make the move between the ages of 18 months and three years. Most children make the change by age 2,” says Dr. Daniel Pelzer, a pediatrician with The Iowa Clinic in West Des Moines.

Some children do just fine staying in cribs up to 3 years of age. However, the longer they are in the crib, the harder it may be to transition to their own bed. “Exactly when you make the transition depends on your child’s own readiness,” Dr. Pelzer says.

When to Say Bye-Bye to the Crib

The No. 1 reason to introduce a bid kids’ bed is safety.

“When toddlers reach about 35 inches tall — usually between 24 and 36 months of age — they may be able to climb over the crib rail, which can be dangerous. You should introduce a big kid bed before your toddler can put a leg on or over the top rail, or when the distance between the mattress and the top rail is less than three-quarters of the child’s height,” Dr. Pelzer says.

Another important reason to make the move is if you’re expecting a baby. In this case, it’s important that your toddler doesn’t feel displaced by the new baby. Begin the transition two or three months before the baby’s due date so, by the time Baby arrives, your toddler no longer thinks of the crib as ‘mine.’

If your toddler isn’t yet 18 months old, use a bassinet for the new baby, borrow a second crib or slowly transition your toddler to a toddler bed, which uses a crib mattress but looks more like a regular bed. Some toddler beds are designed to look like race cars, airplanes, princess beds or Disney motifs that may make them more appealing.

Dr. Pelzer adds, “If you use a regular bed for your toddler, consider adding side rails and fit the child snuggly against the mattress to prevent falls.”

Assuming there are no other major changes going on in your child’s life — like giving up a pacifier, potty training or adapting to a new daycare — your child may be ready for the next milestone. If your toddler expresses a desire for a big kid bed and shows the ability to understand that they must stay inside the bed’s imaginary boundaries, you can start the crib-to-bed transition.

How to Transition Your Toddler to a New Bed

Most kids need to be eased into dramatic changes such as a new bed and room. Some tips:

  • Let your child choose the bed. Because kids are more apt to use things they pick out, involve them in selecting the bed and bedding. “Offer the child two options, both of which are agreeable
  • Ease them into the big kid bed. To get your child used to the new bed, start slowly. Use the bed as a place for your child to put Teddy to sleep, take naps and read bedtime stories together.
  • Help your child develop healthy attitudes about sleep. When you do expect your child to spend the night in the bed, sit on or next to the bed, snuggle and read a bedtime story until they are nearly asleep. Once your toddler is used to falling asleep there, you can start to expect them to go to sleep without your presence.
  • Gradually decrease your presence. Even when used to going to sleep in the new bed, your child may not want you to leave the room. Try this: Make an excuse to leave the room, step out for approximately 10 seconds and then come back and sit back down. Each night, lengthen the amount of time you’re gone. Eventually, she’ll fall asleep before you return.

Some toddlers don’t make the transition easily. Some will throw tantrums. Some simply won’t be able to fall asleep right away. This is okay and even expected, per Dr. Pelzer. “Stick to a short bedtime routine (30 minutes or less). Be firm and consistent. Even the most reluctant children will be sleeping well in their big kid bed after a few days.”

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