Inside: Nervous about the transition to toddler bed? Transitioning from crib to bed doesn’t have to be a nightmare! Read my mom-approved complete guide on how to make the toddler bed transition as painless as possible.
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Let me tell you up front. I dreaded switching both my kids out of their cribs.
Cribs are safe. Cribs are dependable.
Cribs keep those crazy kids in one spot in the wee hours of the night.
Big kid beds? Oh, geez. Bring on the worry!
In hindsight though, things look a lot more rosy.
My kids, yes even the strong-willed non-sleeper kid, transitioned like champs to their new beds.
One kid? I’ll give it up to beginners luck.
But two different kids with two different personalities sleeping in their big kid beds like pros?
I think I’m on to something here!
If you’re ready (or think you might be ready!) to transition out of the crib, I hope these tips will help you make it a success!
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When to Switch to Toddler Bed
When is the right time to transition from crib to bed? For many moms, making the switch seems like the end of an era.
“My baby’s not a baby anymore!”
But honestly, there are so many things to love about watching your baby grow up into a toddler.
For our family, we switched the kids over around their second birthday. I would recommend transitioning anywhere from 18 months to three years, depending on your child’s sleep habits and abilities.
Why did we make the toddler bed transition at two years-old?
- By this age both my kids had good sleep habits. They went to sleep on their own without rocking to sleep.
- Two is the age of testing. I may be a glutton for punishment, but I figured, “We’re doing so much teaching about following directions during the day, why can’t we just tackle it all at once at teach nighttime behavior as well?”
- I wanted to be done with cribs before three years old. Kids are creatures of habit, and my thought was to make the toddler bed transition when my children were younger so that the crib habit wasn’t quite so ingrained. (I don’t know if you’re aware, but the testing phase doesn’t stop when your child turns three! I feel like switching on the early side helped ease the transition for my kids.)
- My kids were outgrowing their cribs, fast! Those little munchkins had very little real estate left in their cribs.
Set the Stage: Which Bed to Choose?
So, you think you’re ready. But before you jump in and toss that crib you’ve got some decisions to make.
Whichever bed you choose, make sure that you place it in a safe spot in the room. Away from windows, cords, drapes, and outlets.
Let’s sort through your options when it comes to transitioning from crib to bed.
Option #1: Convert the Crib to a Toddler Bed
If you’ve got a convertible crib, this is the easiest and cheapest option. Just remove one side rail and you’re ready!
Convertible Crib Pros:
- It’s low to the ground and may already come with an attachable guard rail.
- It may be a less dramatic change for your child. They get to keep their bed, it’s just changed a little!
Convertible Crib Cons:
- Your child may feel cramped as he keeps growing.
- You’ll still have to buy a bigger bed in a few years.
Option #2: Buy a Toddler Bed
Your second option is to buy a toddler bed. We went with a toddler bed for my son. His was similar to this wooden toddler bed, and had a built in rail to cover half of the open side. He loved that bed, and it lasted us about two years!
Pros of a Toddler Bed:
- It’s low to the ground. If your toddler falls off they won’t get hurt.
- Many come with built in guard rails.
- It’s small enough that your toddler can easily learn to make his bed in the morning by himself.
- You can purchase a themed toddler bed to get your child super excited about making the switch!
Cons of a Toddler Bed:
- You child may be too big for a toddler bed.
- Your child will outgrow it quickly. You’ll spend more money on a big kid bed in a few years!
Option #3: Buy a Big Kid Bed
Finally, option three for the toddler bed transition is to actually skip the toddler bed altogether! Buy a big kid bed, instead. You could do a twin size bed or even a full or queen if you wanted!
For my daughter we went straight to a twin bed. We bought this pretty white metal bed frame I knew would last her for years. I was worried that first night, but we have had zero safety issues so far!
Pros of a Big Kid Bed:
- This bed will grow with your child. It ends up being cheaper in the end!
- You can buy bedding in any theme to get your child excited and motivated.
Cons of a Big Kid Bed:
- These beds are generally higher off the ground. Although you could buy a twin sized platform bed to keep it at a lower height!
- You’ll have to buy a separate guard rail to use while your toddler is younger.
Timeline: How to Make the Toddler Bed Transition Easy and Painless!
Once you’ve figured out which bed to use, you’ll need a plan to actually make the toddler bed transition. I highly recommend that you avoid springing this on your child at the last minute.
Take the time to plan it out and prepare your child for the new setup. It will make all the difference! Here’s a timeline to walk you through it step by step.
2 Weeks Before:
Order your child’s new bed, or decide on when to convert the crib if necessary.
If your child’s sleep habits need work, I highly recommend The Happy Sleeper book on Amazon Prime. It covers realistic sleep strategies from birth to school age. It’s been a lifesaver for us on more than one occasion! Take these two weeks to teach your child the sleeping skills he’ll need to make a successful transition to a big kid bed.
Also double check that your child’s room is child-proofed. Read this child-proofing checklist to keep up to date!
1 Week Before:
Start talking about your child’s new bed. If possible, let him help shop for new bedding and sheets. Let your child help with the process of preparing for the big kid bed. The more he’s involved, the more he’ll buy in to the whole idea.
Pump up the excitement and make it a big deal! He’s becoming a big kid! Oh! And keep practicing those healthy sleep habits.
2 Days Before:
Get the new bedding washed and ready to go. Prepare any last minute items you need for the new room setup. Make a plan for donating or selling the crib! Keep talking about how awesome this new bed will be.
Read a few books together about big kid beds.
Toddler Bed Day!
Today’s the day! First thing in the morning, put up the new bed or convert the crib to a toddler bed. Get your child involved. Let your child help you put on the sheets and pillowcases. Get excited!
Let your child “practice” sleeping a few times in the morning. Make it a game and keep it positive!
For my kids, I had let them sleep in their new beds for nap time first. It’s lighter, not as scary, and not quite so “new” at nap time.
However, if you have a chronic nap-fighter, I would wait until bedtime to make the transition. Get them outside for plenty of sunshine and exercise so they’re ready for sleep at the end of the day!
At nap time or bedtime do your normal routine. This is why it’s so important to begin two weeks beforehand to work on those healthy toddler sleep habits!
For us this looks like:
- night lights and ocean sounds on
- room lights out
- a song
- hugs and kisses, and good night!
What if My Child Gets Out of Bed?
So what if you go through all this trouble to transition to toddler bed and your child keeps popping up out of bed? Don’t worry. Here’s what you do:
- Stick with your plan. Calmly return your child to bed. No arguing, just state your rule and keep it simple. Keep it boring and keep your boundary.
- Go back to the basics. Re-evaluate your child’s sleep habits. Read The Happy Sleeper for actionable, specific tips!
- Make sure they’re getting enough exercise and outdoor play during the day. Exercise and sunshine will help your child fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly throughout the night!
- Strong-willed child? Stay consistent! In my experience, my strong willed-child obeys direction better when he can see that I’m willing to back up my words with fair, consistent consequences. He senses when I’m wishy-washy about my decisions! Bedtime battles could mean consequences of lost privileges in the morning. Bedtime success could mean a special breakfast or outing!
Are you ready to take the jump and make the transition from crib to bed? When you transition to a toddler bed, remember that it’s just another stage in your child’s life. If it’s hard, it can get better! Just prepare your child ahead of time, get them excited, and follow through with your bedtime boundaries.
What are you planning when you transition to toddler beds? Share your experience below!