There comes a time in every child’s life when they move from the crib to a big kid bed! Parents have all sorts of mixed emotions about this transition. Such as… ‘I’m so sad the baby phase is over to I am fearful of the freedom he will have!’

Some children like my son, decided to climb out of his crib at 18 months which made the transition much earlier than I anticipated. Then there are other children, like a mom I was just working with, who has a 3.5 year old who is completely content in his crib, but now the baby needs it! Most children transition between 2-3 years old.

Whether you decide to use a toddler bed or move to a regular mattress, the choice is yours. There are some things to consider when the time is right.

  1. Are they climbing out?
  2. Are they over 3’ tall?
  3. Do you need the crib for a baby?
  4. Are they asking for a big bed?

Any one of these reasons may mean it is time to transition. There are a few things you can do to make it go as smoothly as possible.

  1. Get your child involved in picking out the sheets and comforter.
  2. Place the bed against the wall and have a bed rail to prevent rolling out.
  3. Place it low to the ground. Maybe forget the frame and put the box spring and mattress on the floor for a time.
  4. Practice napping in the bed for a week or so.
  5. Keep the bedtime routine the same as before.
  6. Prepare a social story for your child about what it will be like to sleep in the big bed, what to do if he wakes in the night and how you will come get him when he wakes in the morning.
  7. Keep toys out of the room so he is not tempted to get up and play.
  8. Double-check the room for hazards now that your child has freedom – cords, blinds, dressers that could be climbed on – consider bolting to the wall.
  9. Consider using an ‘OK to wake clock’ that can help them know when it is morning and when they can come out of bed.
  10. Have confidence that your child will sleep well in the new bed! Don’t share your anxiety with them!

Your child may really enjoy this new freedom and find it a little difficult to resist climbing out of bed as soon as you leave. If your child continues to pop out of bed to come for water or a hug or just to see what they are missing, quietly escort them back to bed saying only, “it is time to sleep, I will see you in the morning.”  Don’t engage in negotiations or lectures or anything, but be as matter-of-fact as possible.

For the first few nights, you may want to stay right outside their door so you can stop them before they make it too far in the house. This will quickly teach them that after the final good night snuggles, they have to stay in their bed and go to sleep.

Praise them in the morning for staying in their bed and sleeping all night. Let them know how happy and well-rested they look and what a fun day they will have!

This is a big step for parents and children and most kids make it smoothly. Parents just need to remember their role when it comes to sleep. It is the parent’s job to set the time, the peaceful environment, and a calming routine that allows their child to look forward to bedtime and restful sleep! Falling asleep and staying asleep is your child’s job.

I wish you a peaceful transition!