How to Transition to a Toddler Bed

Being ready to transition from the crib to the bed is a big step for a toddler. It’s a step towards more independence and it’s an important part of your child’s development. It’s an exciting and new milestone, but that doesn’t mean it will always be an easy transition. Even children who are excited about having their own “big kid bed” and the newfound independence from Mom and Dad, will have some reluctance when the transition actually takes place.So now that you think it’s time to make the move, how do you transition your child to a toddler bed? How should you handle some of the possible difficulties to come? How can you make it easier for your child to embrace the changes? In the following blog we will answer these questions and guide you during this big step in your child’s life.

When to Switch Your Child to a Toddler Bed

Some parents are unsure of when exactly they should transition their child to a toddler bed. There are signs to watch out for that indicate your toddler is ready though, and by picking up on these signs it will be easier for you to determine when that right time is.

Your Child is Climbing Out of the Crib

If you find your child is climbing out of the crib after you put them down, then this could be a sign that he or she is ready to graduate to a toddler bed. However, the decision to move your toddler to a bed should not be based solely on this sign alone and you should be looking out for other signs along with this before making the final decision.

The biggest issue with this particular behavior is, of course, safety. Having your toddler climbing out of the crib can create a dangerous situation for obvious reasons. If this is the only sign you’re seeing from your child, then taking precautions with the crib is probably a better bet than making the transition to a toddler bed. A few things you can try in order to prevent this behavior is to:

  • lower the mattress to its lowest setting
  • remove crib bumpers (as these can be used as a sort of step for your child to climb out)
  • or use a sleep sack, which will make it more difficult for your child to lift their leg high enough to get out of the crib.

Your Child Starts Asking About Their Own “Big Boy” or “Big Girl” Bed

Eventually, your toddler may begin to ask you when it’s time for them to get a “big boy” or “big girl” bed of their own. If your child is to the point where they are able to convey to you the idea of having their own bed, it’s probably a good sign that they’re ready for the transition and the independence that comes with it. It also could be a sign that they would be capable of grasping the concept of “imaginary boundaries” which is our next indicator that your toddler is ready for the transition.

Your Child Understands the “Imaginary Boundaries” of a Toddler Bed

If your child is truly ready for a toddler bed, they should understand this idea of the “imaginary boundaries” that come with it. If you find that your child is consistently getting out of bed once you put him or her down, then chances are they don’t fully understand this concept and may not be ready for the change from crib to bed. Constantly getting out of bed can disrupt both your child’s sleep patterns, as well as your own.

This is where talking to your child about what to expect with a transition to a toddler bed can be helpful and is a necessary step in ensuring a successful transition.

How to Transition from Crib to Toddler Bed

Some children are fully ready to embrace the idea of having their own beds; some children need some convincing to accept the change. In either case, it’s important to prepare them for the transition, maintaining a positive message about the whole process and encouraging them throughout.

Prepare Your Child for the Move

When talking to your child about transitioning from crib to bed, make sure to encourage them. Emphasize how they’ll now be sleeping in a “big kid” bed and how they’ll be just like Mom and Dad. Empowering your child and creating this encouraging environment surrounding such a big change will make it that much easier when the time comes.

The preparation process may also come with some rules you have for bedtime. This could include staying in bed until Mom and Dad come to wake them up, or staying in bed until it’s daytime.

Involve Them in the Details

It could be a fun idea to include your toddler in the whole process of shopping for a bed. Allowing them to pick out their new bed, along with their sheets and pillows, will give them a sense of ownership with the new sleeping arrangement and help to really emphasize the whole “big kid” idea. What better way to help your child embrace the idea of growing up than to show them some of the perks of doing so?

Maintain Your Bedtime Routine

Changing from crib to bed is a big enough change on its own, so it’s important to maintain that same routine you were using before, keeping some familiarity in the process. Consider putting your toddler’s new bed in the same spot as you had the crib previously. Also, if you did certain things before bed, such as reading a book to your child or giving your child a bath, then keep that routine in place. Having it in place will maintain those same expectations when it’s your toddler’s bedtime.

Child Proof Your Toddler’s New Bed and Environment

Having a toddler bed comes with a new sort of freedom for your child. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that your child will get up and wander at night – in fact, it’s a probability. This means that you should take the time to re-evaluate the childproofing in your home and make sure you have all of your bases covered. It would be a good idea to block any stairs with baby gates, make sure any windows and doors leading outside are locked, child-proofing any cabinets that hold cleaning products or medicines, etc. It may even be a good idea to get a toddler rail to prevent them from falling out of their bed at night.

Be Patient and Empathetic

When you’re considering how to transition to a toddler bed, it’s important to understand that this process isn’t an easy one for your child. It’s a big change and can sometimes be scary for a toddler. Being patient with the process and empathetic when your child exhibits some hesitation and anxiousness will go a long way in ensuring a successful transition.

It’s almost inevitable that your toddler will find his or her way to your bed at night. It’s important to be patient with this, but also consistent with returning your child back to his or her bed each time this happens. Ensure that you’re taking the time to ease any concerns that your child may have had to make them want to come to your bed. Chances are that eventually this process of being brought back to bed will stick with your child and the instances of coming to your bed at night will decrease. During the whole transition period, be sure to point out how proud you are of them for going through with such a big change and of any progress you’re seeing.

What should I do if my child is having trouble sleeping?

If you’re still finding that your child is having difficulty with the change and sleeping routine after a while, even with the consistent use of the strategies above, it may be a good idea to seek an evaluation. Scottsdale Children’s Institute and Scottsdale Pediatric Behavioral Services have access to Doctorate and Master’s level expertise and have the resources necessary to assist you in finding a solution. An evaluation at SPBS could be a good idea for you and your child as well as talking with our team at SCI. Both SCI and SPBS are here to promote the improvements in your child’s development.