Moving your child from a crib to a big kid bed is a big transition.
Some kids make the switch easily, while others may struggle with the change. You can help your child adjust to their new bed by following our tips below.
When to Transition to a Big Kid Bed
The best time to move your toddler to a big kid bed really depends on your child.
Cribs provide a safe space for a young child to sleep—until your child has gotten too big or has developed a knack of climbing out. As your child grows, you can drop the crib’s mattress down lower so that the top rail is at least to their chest when standing. But once your crib is at its lowest setting and your child’s chest is higher than the rail, it’s no longer safe and time to switch.
It’s important to introduce a big kid bed when there are no other big changes happening to make it easier for your child to adjust. Don’t make the change around moving, potty training, traveling, or other big changes in your household.
Some families switch to a big kid bed when another baby is on the way. But if your toddler is not yet ready, it may be better to purchase or borrow another crib until your toddler is old enough for a big kid bed. If you decide to transition your toddler to free up the crib, make sure introduce the big kid bed a couple months before the baby’s arrival.
Keep in mind it may take time for your child to transition, which may mean more interrupted sleep for both you and your child. They may take more time to fall asleep, begin waking in the middle of the night, or wake up earlier. So, pick a time where you can be flexible and weather a bit of sleep deprivation and be patient during this process.
Preparing Your Child
Before you switch out your child’s bed, give them some time to prepare and know what to expect.
Talk to your child about what will happen in advance to let them process the idea. There are some great kids books about moving to a big kid bed. You can read these with your child in advance and help them understand what to expect.
Let them choose the bedding and even the bed. This will help them feel like they have some control and will get them excited about the change. Just narrow down the choices to a few parent-approved options before letting them choose.
You don’t have to jump to a twin or full sized bed at first. Many families use a toddler bed first since they are lower and smaller. If you have a convertible crib that can switch into a toddler bed, you may find the transition easier since your child is already accustomed to that bed.
Setting Up the Big Kid Bed
Toddlers love routine and consistency, so when making the transition, minimize what you change in your child’s room. Try to place the bed in the same place as the crib, and don’t do a lot of room rearranging.
Your child may find comfort in keeping the same blankets on the bed for now, as well as any special lovies or stuffed animals.
Install safety rails on both sides of the bed because small children can get stuck between the wall and bed.
If you’re worried about your child’s safety at night now that they can wander, take some extra precautions to make sure their room is a safe space. Double check your childproofing in the room, including making sure your furniture is secured to the wall with anti-tipping devices. Check electric outlets are covered and make sure your child can’t access electrical wires. If you’re worried about them wandering outside their room at night, set up a safety gate in their doorway or put a child safety knob on the door.
The Bedtime Routine
Your child is likely to struggle on their first few nights (or weeks) in their big kid bed. Changes can be challenging for toddlers. You may find your child has some big emotions, whether they are sad, scared, or excited about their new bed.
If you don’t want to introduce a new bed at bedtime, set up the bed early in the day so your child can take a nap on it before trying it out at night.
Being consistent, and loving but firm, at bedtime will help your child with the transition to a big kid bed.
At night, keep your bedtime routine the same as before. When you tuck your child into bed, remind them that they must stay in their bed. If your child gets out of bed, keep your interactions to a minimum and calmly lead them back to bed and remind them to stay in bed. Repeat as many times as necessary until your child is asleep.
Your child may be sleeping well within days of making the switch. Or, your child may struggle for a few weeks, but you should see an improvement over time.
Contact Pediatrics West
If you have concerns about switching your child over to a big kid bed or are struggling with the transitions, you can reach out to your provider at Pediatrics West at (720) 284-3700.