We were expecting our second child I was not ready to spend money on another crib. Instead, we transitioned him into a big kid bed that he still sleeps in nine years later. (gasp!) If you are curious about transitioning from crib to bed, child safety, sleep disruptions, and floor beds, this post is for you. From a mom of three kids, here is everything you need to know to transition toddlers from crib to bed.
RELATED: Activities for kids are also my jam. Here is a list of 50 play ideas for kid activities.
When should you transition your toddler from crib to bed?
Most families make the crib-to-bed transition somewhere between 2 and 3 years old. However, every family is different. And if you have multiple children, you know every child is different. (mom of three kids here) So just because you transitioned one child early may not work for your other kids. Younger siblings are notorious for showing us parents everything will not be the same.
When writing this post, I touched base with Dr. Moon, a pediatrician from the AAP. She recommends that families keep the child in the crib for as long as possible. She continued to share that if the child is trying to climb out of the crib, that’s a sign that it’s time to transition to a bed. Head to her article about when to switch from a crib to learn more.
Timing is key! Ensuring your home and family dynamics are stable is important to making this transition from crib to bed a SUCCESS!
Daily routines, especially bedtime routines, are essential to your child’s development, emotional regulation, and independence. If possible, try not to make this big change during a period of recent or upcoming changes to your regular routine, such as:
- Family life or loss
- New schedule
- New school
Signs your toddler may be ready for a bed
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that a good marker for knowing when to transition from crib to bed is when the top of the crib rail measures below your toddler’s chest.
Look out for these other tell-tale signs that your toddler might be ready for a big kid bed:
- Your child has already climbed out of their crib.
- Your child is trying to climb out of their crib.
- Your child is getting too big to be in a toddler-sized crib.
- Your child jumps in their crib.
- Your child shows interest in having a big kid bed.
Allowing the transition from crib to bed happens in stages is an important part of letting this phase happen organically. Too much too soon can wreak havoc. And when it comes to bedtime and sleep, we never want to disrupt a routine already working.
Keeping all the best handy bedtime routine tips and tricks (i.e., like the “tuck-in ticket“) will help to set boundaries and enhance good night sleeps so that everyone has smoother mornings and positive breakfast routines.
How to transition toddlers from crib to bed
Allow your child’s transition to happen naturally. Since you know your child best, you can set the length of time your child needs within each of these ideas to make the transition smooth. Try these tips to help ease the transition from crib to bed:
9 tips for transitioning toddlers from crib to bed
- Review bed options for your child.
- Begin talking about the bed before it happens.
- Read books to facilitate conversations.
- Allow your toddler to pick out the sheets.
- Start with a sheet only on the bed.
- Childproof the bedroom for safety.
- Set up the room for success.
- Prepare for (some) sleep disruption.
- Be patient with your toddler (and yourself).
1. Toddler bed options
We went with a traditional double bed when moving my oldest into a bed. This option kept him off the ground, and it took longer for him to realize he could get out himself. Admittingly, this is where I needed to be because I had just had a newborn.
If you chose a standard bed size, remember that the CPSC cautions against bed rails because of the risk of entrapment. But don’t worry! There are other options in this post, including a floor bed. – and if you follow the Montessori method, you may even prefer this!
What is a floor bed?
A floor bed is a bed that is designed to be placed and used on the floor. The purpose of a floor bed is to offer independence for your child to get in and out. (for better or worse!) However, children surprise us and show more responsibility with new ideas when given structured opportunities.
PRO TIP: Be proactive with a plan your child can follow upon waking. Do they call your name? Do they read books? Is there a light that turns green? Make a plan and stick with it to build a routine.
Here is an article about the best Montessori bed floor beds, and I have my favorite below.
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Casita House Twin Floor Bed
I love the simplicity of this floor bed. The reviews share that it is also easy to assemble.
Camdon Floor Bed
I adore this floor bed! It also has a cover over the top if your child prefers a little nook to sleep in.
2. Begin talking about the bed before it happens
Begin talking about the upcoming transition from crib to bed with your toddler before it happens. The more you can prepare them through conversation, books, or pretend play, the smoother the transition.
When my toddler moved from a crib to a bed, he also changed bedrooms so the crib could stay in place for the new baby.
If your child is moving bedrooms, start moving clothes into the new room and get dressed in the new room before the bed arrives.
PRO TIP: Puppets are a great way to communicate with a child. Use the puppet to start the conversation as it whispers into your ear.
3. Read books to facilitate conversations
Books are an incredible resource for kids and a tool for parents to navigate new situations like this! (We also use books to help us prepare for our first Disney Trip)
I Sleep in a BIG BED
This is a sweet book about how a little boy feels about his big kid’s bed and how he tucks himself back in after waking up at night. A simple, easy read to encourage the crib to bed transition.
A Big Kid Bed is Coming
Join Louie the Elephant on his journey from a crib to a big kid’s bed. A rhyming book that encourages the transition.
The Napping House
The Napping House is a silly book that gets children laughing about bedtime. It is a fun read that many ages (including adults!) enjoy.
4. Allow your child to pick out the sheets
The fun part! Kids get so excited to pick out their very own bedding. Take your child to the store and let them choose their own sheets with their favorite character or color (even if it makes you cringe, it will make them so happy). This can help them feel excited about bedtime in their new big kid bed.
PRO TIP: If you want to keep the sheets to your liking, only show the child options you like!
5. Start with sheet only on the bed
If your child has been in a crib up until now, they likely have been sleeping in a sleep sack with no blankets.
Rather than overwhelming your child with too many new things at bedtime, begin the new bed set up with only a sheet to snuggle with.
Eventually, allow your child to cozy up with a comforter. If introduced too early, they may feel overwhelmed and/or overstimulated by too many new and big items in their new sleeping environment.
6. Childproof the bedroom for safety
Safety is always top of mind when it comes to parenting. (I have learned so much over the years, and this comes with experience) Ensure all outlets are covered and the door can’t be opened to ensure your child can safely be unattended in their room all night.
Securing furniture is non-negotiable. Here is how the AAP suggests how to prevent furniture and TV tip-overs.
Need to cover up the outlets? Here is a pack of 36 to cover your toddler’s bedroom and other outlets throughout your home.
Anti-tip Furniture Straps
Secure furniture of all sizes and weights to the walls in your child’s bedroom with these anti-tip furniture straps.
7. Set the room up for success
Free reign over their room can seem scary to parents. Toys, clothes, stuffed animals, and anything in their room (their curiosity will surprise you) can create bedtime distractions. Ensure you have an effective bedroom storage solution and system to avoid too much sleep delay. (Pin this post on toy cleanup to come back to)
PRO TIP: Give your child a little grace if they leave their bed to bop around their bedroom. They will know where to land once they are ready to fall asleep.
What my boy’s bedrooms looked like
In the early years, my boys’ bedrooms had books, clothes, and a bed to keep the room comfortable for sleeping. (Now that they are older, we could benefit from returning to this!)
We also included a reading tent in our child’s bedroom to read at night. Each night we would gather in the tent to read a few books. (I miss this!)
I have also found it helpful to have a wake-up clock that changes colors when it is okay to come out of the room in the morning.
I have been really happy with my Hatch alarm clock. It allows you to program sounds and lights using the app.
Teepee Tent for Kids
Having a tent in the boy’s bedroom to read at night was one of my favorite memories.
8. Prepare for (some) sleep disruptions
Okay, okay. Before we get too nervous, I will say again that we had SOME sleep disruptions but it went smoother than I had anticipated. Ironically, the chaos didn’t come from the early days of transitioning. It was after the fact that my children become more comfortable and independent in thier bedrooms.
There are a lot of things that can come with change.
Even though transitioning your toddler from a crib to a bed is part of growing up, it can come with some unwelcome changes. Know that middle-of-the-night wake-ups, rolling off the bed, and delays with bedtime are all part of this transition. I have children 5,7, and 9 that still occasionally need me at 2 am.
PRO TIP: Decide what you want to do about bed refusals (I got you with this bedtime routine for kids) and what to do when a child walks into your room at night. Everyone will have their own approach. That way, you and your child have a plan for the new routine. This creates less stress.
9. Be patient with your toddler (and yourself)
The change-up of your toddler’s sleeping arrangements can be exciting for your toddler. But they may not realize how this transition can confuse their feelings, space, and routine. Try to stay calm, patient, and understanding of your child’s emotions and behaviors during this brief period. As always, remember to acknowledge your child’s efforts during this period of change.
Questions to think about before your child transitions:
- How do I feel about toys in the bedroom?
- Is all furniture secured to the wall?
- What will I do when my child doesn’t want to go to bed?
- Will I lay with my child or help them find alternative strategies?
- What will I do when my child walks out and wakes me up at night?
Alternatives we didn’t try but worked for other families.
- Move the toddler mattress onto the floor of the crib. Before moving your child into a brand-new bed, simply lower the crib mattress onto the ground of the crib frame. This can help to introduce the idea of not being elevated in a crib. A great time to do this is if the new mattress is unavailable yet (or has not been delivered because the need to transition happened overnight) and you need a safe solution in the interim.
- Consider a crib that transitions to a toddler bed. If your crib can be turned into a toddler bed, this is a fantastic way to begin transitioning from crib to bed. With these crib/toddler combinations, one wall of the crib simply comes off and is replaced with a toddler conversion side.
- Introduce a stand-alone mattress on the floor. Remove the crib walls and allow your child to sleep on their crib mattress on the floor. You can also bring their new, bigger mattress into their room on the floor. This is an excellent and safe first step to getting your toddler used to not being within the walls of a crib. No crib walls are the beginning of a new world for them since they will now have free reign over their room.
- Introduce a bed frame later. Wait to elevate their mattress into their new bed frame until they feel comfortable with their new mattress. Remember not to rush the process. Otherwise, things may backfire.
Crib to bed transition takeaway thoughts
This transition doesn’t have to be overwhelming.
When your baby can no longer sleep in a crib, it’s a sign that they are indeed growing up. The transition from crib to bed for toddlers can feel overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be. Feeling prepared as a parent is the key to making this transition a success for your toddler.
Use this guide of tips and tools to get you through this transition. Most importantly, remember that every transition is simply a transition. Be patient with yourself and your child. Enjoy the ride, and all the snuggles!
Similar to most things with kids, every child is different. Any time between 18 months to 3 years old is a typical time to transition your child from crib to bed. Signs your toddler is ready to transition might include attempting to climb out of their crib or showing interest in moving into a big kid bed.
Progression is important when introducing a big kid bed to your toddler. Rather than doing too much too soon, take things step by step. You can start the crib to bed transition by simply moving their mattress onto the floor.
Talk to your child before the transition from their crib happens. Get them excited about this change by letting them pick out their sheets with their favorite character or color.