The Crib to Bed Transition
Is your child ready?
There is no right time when toddlers should make the transition from a crib to a bed. Most children make the transition anywhere between one and a half to three and a half years of age, but experts recommend waiting until a child is around three years old, if possible. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that if a child can stand in the crib, if the crib rail falls below chest level, or if it can be climbed over, it is definitely time for a bed!
Bedtime in a big kid bed
Do it slowly. If you have decided to transition your toddler from a crib to a bed, you can expect it to take anywhere from one night to a few months for him to get used to the switch. You will likely experience a range of reactions from excitement and eagerness to refusal and fear. Be patient with your child. If he is too upset, it might be too soon and you may have to go back to the crib. He will make the transition at his own pace. Putting the bed in the same place the crib used to be can make things easier, and letting your child use the blankets from his crib, even though they might be too small, may comfort him.
Make it a big deal. Beginning to sleep in a bed is a milestone for both you and your child that marks that she is growing up. If you are picking out a new bed, include your child in the process by taking her to see different beds and letting her ‘try them out’. If your child is inheriting a bed from a sibling, friend, or relative, you can still make it special by explaining to her that she is growing up just like the previous owner. Let your child help make the bed and create fun games that involve the bed, like letting her put her dolls or animals to sleep in it.
Discuss ground rules. Most experts recommend being firm with your child about staying in bed. He is no longer confined by a crib and may test his newfound freedom. If he comes to find you, remind him that it is bedtime and that means that it is time for everyone to be in their own bed. Also set rules for getting out of bed. You probably do not want your child going to the kitchen by himself, or, if he is very young, going down the stairs. This is a good time to childproof your home if you haven’t done so already. See OneToughJob’s tips on childproofing your home. Decide whether he can go to the bathroom by himself or if he needs your help. Let him know if he can come find you when he wakes up, or if he should play with ‘quiet toys’ or look at a book in his room.
Create a routine. Follow the same bedtime rituals with your child every day. This can include activities like taking a bath, putting on pajamas, brushing teeth, reading a story, or exchanging a goodnight hug or kiss. Toddlers need consistent routines, and this will help your child unwind and transition into bedtime. If you notice that your child is prolonging going to sleep by asking for a drink of water or one last story, anticipate her needs and keep some water by her bed, set the number of stories you will read, or explain that you will leave the room after a set amount of time.
Safety first! Your child may be too big for his crib, but might still be too small for a bed. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends starting with a junior bed or any bed that is as low as possible. Many cribs convert to toddler beds. The bed should also have removable side rails to prevent a fall. However, before installing them, make sure they are approved as safe for use and that your child will not get stuck. Make sure there is carpet or a rug below the bed to cushion a fall. Install a nightlight in your child’s room and in the hall, in your bedroom, or in the bathroom if your child wakes up and needs to find you or needs to use the bathroom. You may also continue to use an intercom if you are too far away to hear him.
This information was compiled by Sunindia Bhalla, and reviewed by the Program Staff of the Massachusetts Children’s Trust Fund.