Tips to transition from a crib to a bed. Find out the best age, if a toddler or twin bed is best, and tips for success!
The idea of moving from the crib to the bed is a pretty scary one. Will your toddler stay in bed at night? What will happen to nap time? Will all sleep be ruined once you move?
Despite the worry, this is a major milestone you cannot ignore!
For many Babywise moms, the transition from a crib to a bed is much easier than they anticipate.
That is how it was for us with Brayden. Brayden is our oldest child and we were worried about what would happen to sleep once he moved to a twin bed from the crib.
We moved Brayden from the crib to a twin-size bed when he was 21 months old (but close to 22 months old). At the same time, he also moved to a new room.
It was shortly before Kaitlyn was born, and I wanted him to be fully adjusted before Kaitlyn came along to sleep in the crib.
I was nervous. I didn’t want him to get out of his bed and play instead of sleep.
We moved him over, and things went smoothly. We had no problems. A Babywise child typically has little difficulty (relatively speaking) with this transition because he is trained to obedience.
He is required to obey mommy all day, so why should night be any different?
Best Age to Move From Crib to Bed
There is a lot of debate about the best age to move a toddler or preschooler from the crib to the bed.
I would say the ideal age for making this move is 18-24 months old.
Some moms love to do this transition even earlier. They like to make the move before the child is really into the boundary testing phase so that it is just normal to stay in bed when it is nap time or bedtime.
Other moms like to push it to 3 years old or older. They like to wait until they are sure their child will listen to instructions to stay in bed.
Before you start potty training, you probably want to move your child to a big-kid bed. You want your child to be able to get to the potty when toilet training.
Moving to a bed is a freedom. Be sure your child is ready for that freedom. If your child won’t listen during the day, she isn’t more likely to listen when she is in her bed alone.
Here are the ages we moved at our house:
- Brayden moved around 20 months old. I wanted him to have time to get used to the change before Kaitlyn was born. We needed the crib for Kaitlyn. Brayden moved to a twin bed.
- Kaitlyn moved around 21 months old. Again, I had a baby coming and I wanted her to get used to sleeping in the new bed before the baby came. She moved into a toddler bed because of space constraints. You can read about Kaitlyn’s transition here.
- McKenna moved around 2.5 years old. We didn’t have a baby close to coming, but it seemed like the right time. She moved to a twin bed. You can read about McKenna’s transition here.
- Brinley moved at 33 month old. She is our youngest and we didn’t have need to move her out of the crib. The timing seemed right. She moved to a twin bed. You can read about Brinley’s transition here.
Tips to Transition from Crib to Bed Smoothly
Here are some tips to help you have a smooth transition.
Have Rules and Expectations
Once your child is no longer in the crib, the only thing that holds your child in bed to sleep is your word.
There are no longer physical boundaries.
Your word needs to be obeyed in the day if you want it to be obeyed at night.
Do not allow your child to get out of bed without your permission. Teach them to call to you when they want to get up.
Whatever your rules will be for staying in bed, decide on them before you move your child over so you are ready if you are faced with your child getting out on his own.
Give lots of praise for obedience! Kids love positive reinforcement.
Make the Move Exciting
You can really hype up the move to a big-kid bed. A countdown can help make the move exciting. This gives you time to talk it up and it gives your child time to process the change.
You can include your child in purchasing the new bed and the sheets etc. (although we didn’t do this; we already had it all).
The child can help set up the bed and make the bed.
Show a lot of excitement over the transition. I know I was emotional, but I didn’t show that to Brayden. Do not sit and cry about the transition in front of your child.
Time the Move Wisely
Make the move on a night when Mom and Dad can both be there in the morning to make a big deal out of the transition.
It is also wise to make the move on a night when you won’t be stressing about your toddler or child getting out of bed. You need to be as patient as possible.
Keep Things Familiar
Be sure your child has something familiar to carry over to the new bed. You want to be clear that this new bed is where your child now sleeps.
Brayden had a few stuffed animals that he slept with in his crib. He also had his blankie. I put those on his bed with him to sleep just like he had in his crib.
NOTE: I have said it before, but if you read stories, I recommend not reading them in the bed. We used to do that. Bedtime ended up being dragged out forever. Kids are very good at lengthening out the time of the bedtime routine. We changed it so we read stories in a recliner. We also had a predetermined number of stories that would be read.
Keep your naptime and bedtime routine. Singing a song, reading a story, etc. Whatever your routine is, it will help signal your child that it is now time for sleep.
Toddler Bed vs. Twin Bed
What type of bed you get can be a tough call. In the end, I think you need to make the decision that is most convenient for your family.
Here is some criteria to consider:
With Brayden, we moved to a twin bed.
We already owned a twin bed. I considered buying a toddler bed for Brayden, but in the end decided to go with what we had.
We would have had to buy the toddler bed and the mattress since we were using the crib mattress we had for the crib for our next baby. We also would have had to store our twin bed somewhere while using the toddler bed.
In the end, it just logically made more sense to use the bed we already owned.
Convertible cribs are easy to simply remove the crib rail and turn it into a toddler bed. If you have one of those, it will make financial sense to go in that direction.
If you will have another child while your toddler is using the toddler bed, then you will have to buy another mattress. If not, you already have the mattress and the sheets for a toddler bed.
Is this your last child? Are there other children in your future? Will you have other children who will get use out of the toddler bed?
How long would you anticipate using the toddler bed before buying a twin?
One determining factor for me was that Brayden would be moved to a twin bed in a couple of years anyway. I decided it was better to just stick with buying stuff for one bed rather than two.
If you have future children, however, they could use the toddler bed when the older child moves to twin.
A toddler bed is a lot smaller than a twin bed. If you have limited space right now, you might want to go with the toddler bed instead of the twin.
When Kaitlyn, our second child, moved out of the crib, she was in a very small room. The best use of the space in that room was to get her a twin bed.
At that time, the crib was moving to soon-to-be-born McKenna and Brayden already had the only twin bed we had. We had to buy an entire bed for Kaitlyn anyway, so with the space of the room, a toddler bed made the most sense.
We parents can really stress out about how safe things are for our kids, but the reality is a twin bed and a toddler bed are both safe options. Risk of injury is low for both.
The fall from a toddler bed is a shorter distance than from a twin bed. But you can take measures against falling.
A toddler bed is easier for a toddler to get in and out of (for better or worse). Brayden had a step stool next to his bed to help him get in and out (it was pretty high).
In the end, one bed isn’t fundamentally safer than the other. Do what is best for your family’s situation and your child.
If you go with a twin bed, buy a side rail for the bed for your child’s safety.
This helped me feel much better about Brayden’s safety in the night. I also put a pillow at the foot of his bed, and a pillow between the side rail and the pillow at the foot of the bed just to help have a boundary.
If you put the bed against a wall, you might need to roll up some blankets or towels to put between the mattress and the wall if there is a gap.
Here is what our kids did:
- Brayden moved to a twin bed. We owned it already.
- Kaitlyn moved to a toddler bed. It worked best for the space.
- McKenna moved to a twin bed. We had to buy it and we had a toddler bed in storage. However, I prefer moving to a twin bed over a toddler bed.
- Brinley moved to a twin bed.
Helping Your Child Stay in Bed
This is the heart of concerns of parents when moving your child to the bed.
You don’t want your child getting out of bed! You love the sleep you have worked so hard to get. You don’t want your child getting out of bed over and over again.
The day will probably come when your child test this boundary no matter the age of your child when you move over.
If your child gets out of bed after you instruct him not to, evaluate yourself and see if there are parenting gaps you need to correct. You might be allowing your child to not listen to you here and there. Make sure you require obedience during the day.
When your child calls out to you, respond. You want to reward him for listening to the rule to stay in bed. I can see some kids calling out after a few minutes and declaring the nap over. Respond and inform him that naptime is not over yet, that he needs to sleep, etc.
If this becomes a persistent problem, purchase a clock for your child to read to know when nap is over. There are a lot of clocks made specifically for this age group to make it easy for them to know when to wake up.
Toddlerwise says to initially instruct your child to not get out of bed until you come get him. So how long is initially? Toddlerwise doesn’t say.
This really will depend on the child.
You will have to decide when your child is ready. Of course you want the day to come when your child gets up on his own. He needs to be completely ready to take a nap, then get up. Not lay for a while then get up and play.
Again, this is a time when the sleep clock can be helpful.
I remember when Brayden was almost three, and I still didn’t allow him to get out of bed until I went to get him.
I knew Brayden and knew that sleep is absolutely last on his list of priorities.
If I allowed him to get out of bed on his own, I think he would have gotten up and play with his toys instead of sleeping.
What do you do if they get out?
Brayden went about a year without ever getting out of his bed without permission.
I went in and told him he needed to get in his bed. I then told him he needed to stay there until Mommy or Daddy came to get him.
I then put him in his bed and left the room for a few minutes.
I went back in and he was in his bed. I praised him for obeying and being a good boy and got him out (it was the end of his nap).
Some parents like to use a baby gate, a child safety door knob cover, or lock the door to ensure their child will stay in bed. This helps ensure the safety of your child. You can have sleepless nights worrying about if your child will get out of bed in the night and you not know it.
I do have an entire post with how to handle this: What To Do When Your Toddler/Child is Getting Out of Bed
These tips will help make the transition from the crib to the bed much smoother for you and your kiddo.
On Becoming Toddlerwise talks about this transition starting on page 135, so that is a great reasource if you have more questions.
- In Action: Moving to a Toddler Bed
- What To Do When Your Toddler/Child is Getting Out of Bed
- One Nap Schedules Perfect for Your Toddler
This post originally appeared on this blog May 2008