In our article about when to make the switch from crib to bed we talked about the timing of this big milestone. But once you’ve decided it’s time, how do you go about it? We gathered expert advice about choosing a bed, making sure your little one’s sleeping area is safe, and preparing him for the big day (actually, night).
Tips for Moving Your Child to a Bed
Choosing a Bed
Here are some pros and cons of different bed options for your toddler:
If you have a convertible crib (one that converts into a bed frame), it’s as simple as buying a mattress to fit the frame. A downside is that these cribs often covert into full-size beds, which may feel big for your toddler after the coziness of his crib.
Toddler beds can be a cozy option, because they’re small. Keep in mind, though, that your child may grow out of it quickly, which means bed (and bedding) shopping again soon.
Twin beds (or larger) give you more mileage because they can accommodate your growing tot. But, as we mentioned above, larger beds may prolong the transition if they feel too large compared to a crib.
Some experts suggest you start by putting your child’s crib mattress on the floor, even in the same place the crib was. This creates a gradual introduction to bed sleeping, because the location and bedding are familiar to your little one. The downside is that crib mattresses are small, so he might roll off.
This is a big one! Because your child will have free-reign in his sleeping area, triple-check for safety, especially covering outlets and securing climbable furniture (like dressers and bookshelves) to the wall. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using guardrails on toddler’s beds to keep them from falling out, but not to restrain them in the bed.
You may also consider putting a safety gate in the doorway to your child’s bedroom, especially in the early days when he may be excited by the idea of being able to roam the house while the rest of the family is asleep.
Preparing Your Child
There are many ways to prepare your little one for sleeping in a bed (and getting him excited about it), including these:
Set ground rules. Although it may take time for him to get the gist, let your child know that after you leave his room he has to stay in bed (unless he needs to use the toilet, feels sick, etc.). Tell him that when it’s time to sleep, it’s not okay to get out of bed and play, or leave his bedroom and walk around the house.
Talk to him ahead of time about what to expect. Tell him the “story” of how he will get ready for bed the same way he always does, but instead of putting him in his crib, you will tuck him into his new, big boy bed.
Read books about graduating to a big kid bed. We love using books to help little ones prepare for big changes.
Let him pick out new bedding. He may not have your design sense, but this is a great way to help him feel ownership of his new sleeping space.
Use play to act out the new routine and rules. Pretend to put your child’s favorite stuffed animal to sleep in a bed, following the same routine you will with him. Talk enthusiastically about how excited the stuffed animal is, and how he follows the bedtime rules.
Keep the bedtime routine the same. If your bedtime routine is brush teeth, put on pajamas, read a book, cuddle, and sing a song, stick with it! The more things that stay the same can help him with the change.
No matter how much you prepare, expect your child to get up and down at first. But also expect it to get easier! Crib-to-bed roadblocks are inevitable, but our article about how to tackle them can help.