“I want out!” That’s the message your toddler will send – one way or another – when they’re ready to say goodbye to the crib and hello to a big-kid bed. Your child might verbalize their displeasure or more likely, simply climb out of the crib. So, what needs to be done?

Timing the Move:

First, resist the temptation to move them too early. Most experts recommend making the switch around age 3. Unless your child is climbing out of their crib or needs more space – their body is growing at an astounding rate – it’s better to keep them in the crib, which allows them to feel safe. This way, your child can feel comfortable taking giant developmental leaps during the day but still regress to the security of their old crib at night.

Moreover, until age 3, toddlers are very impulsive. Their difficulty in understanding and following directions or rules (like staying in bed all night) will make sleeping in a bed a real challenge. If you transition to a bed before age 3, you can plan on waking up to a little visitor next to your bed pretty much every night.

Steps for a Smooth Transition:

When the time comes, you need to help your child transition smoothly to sleeping in a bed. Follow these steps to ensure a smooth transition:

  1. Create a Safe Environment: Safety-proof your child’s room and any adjacent areas they may visit in the middle of the night. Secure windows, tops of stairs, and any step stools that can be tripped over. Installing a safety gate at your child’s door can help. A small night-light in their room can also help them orient themselves and avoid injuries.
  2. Pick the Mattress: Go to the mattress store – or any store that sells mattresses – and let your child help choose the mattress or bed. With safety in mind, all you need is a twin-size mattress and box spring and some safety rails for the side. Adjust the height of this new bed so it sits low on the floor until your child gets used to it. Get some fun new sheets and special pillowcases, and you’re set to go.
  3. Disassemble the Crib (Together): Once the new bed is home, ask your child to help you take down the crib. This way, your child will feel part of the transition process and will also be able to say goodbye to the crib.
  4. Set Up the Bed: Put the bed in a corner of your child’s room so that the head and side of the bed are flush against the wall for protection. Add a safety rail to the exposed side of the bed. Your child will feel safe this way, just as they did in their crib.
  5. Explain the Rules of Bedtime: Before the first night of sleeping in the bed, go over the rules of bedtime with your child if they are verbal. Tell them that they are a big kid now who needs to understand that when we go to sleep, we only wake up when the sun is nice and bright.
  6. Do Your Bedtime Routine: During the first few nights your child is sleeping in their new bed, take an extra 10 minutes of reading time together to make them feel comfortable in their new environment. The idea here is to make your child feel safe. If your child seems excited about the new bed from the very start, you’re one of those lucky people who have made this transition easily.

Making the move from a crib to a big-kid bed is a significant milestone for both parents and children. With careful planning and a little patience, you can ensure that this transition is a positive and exciting experience for your child.