When to Transition to Toddler Bed

To your baby, the transition to toddler bed is a big step. When to transition to toddler bed will depend on a number of factors, but it will usually be necessary by the time the toddler is 3 years old. By that time, your baby is either too active or too big for the crib.

Why Do You Need to Transition Your Baby to Toddler Bed?

The primary reason to transition your baby from a crib to a toddler bed is safety. Once your toddler discovers that he can climb out of the crib, it is time to take action. First, do not panic the first time he walks out of his room after climbing out of the crib. He is probably proud of himself for finding something new he can do! However, the fact that he is climbing out of the crib IS a safety issue. If your crib’s mattress can be lowered in the frame, do that first. Sometimes this will be enough to keep the child in his crib for another few weeks.

For those with older kids, if you are pregnant and know that you will need the crib in another few weeks, it is important to make the switch from crib to a “big girl/ boy bed” about 6-8 weeks before the new baby arrives. This will make the older child less likely to view the newcomer as competition for the crib. If you plan to put the new baby in a bassinet for the first few weeks, the timing for the move of the toddler can be delayed for a while. However, you will want to make the switch early enough that the child does not think the new baby has taken over something that belongs to the toddler.

How to Make the Transition to Toddler Bed Easier

Transition to toddler bed can be very easy – or not. Each child will react differently to this transition and different techniques may have to be tried to ease this move. Unfortunately, this transition often happens at the same time that other major transitions are happening – walking, toilet training, a new baby on the way, etc. First-born children may have more trouble giving up the attachment to the safety of the crib while second and third children may want to move sooner to be like an older sibling. What are some of the tricks that will make this transition easier?

1. Watch for Signs of Readiness

If the toddler is not ready to move out of the crib, your efforts at transition will be met with resistance. One of the main signs that your toddler is ready for the transition is when he begins climbing out of the crib. Another sign is that your toddler may ask to move to a “big boy bed”.

2. Do Not Push

Even if you think it is time for your child to move to a toddler bed, it is important NOT to push the child out of the crib too soon. If the toddler who moves to another bed starts having problems going or staying asleep, it may not be time to make the move. The child has to be able to understand that being in a toddler bed does not mean he can get up in the middle of the night. If your toddler cannot understand this concept yet, you may want to keep him in the crib for a few more weeks. Be sure that the toddler does not see the crib as a punishment!

3. “Borrow” a Toddler Bed

You can either buy or borrow a toddler bed from a relative. These beds come equipped with safety rails and are perfect for your toddler. You can tell your baby that you got the bed from his cousin and now it’s his bed because he is a “big kid” now. Note that even a twin size bed can seem very big to a young child so it is important to pick a toddler bed in the right size.

4. Place the Toddler Bed Where the Crib Used to Be

Often, acceptance of a new bed will be easier if the bed is placed in the same room and in the same spot as the old crib. Be sure to put the same blanket in the new bed with the toddler. The smell of the familiar blanket may help soothe your child.

5. Build the Excitement

Make the toddler excited about moving into a “big girl bed”. Take her with you to buy the bed or sheets so she feels ownership of the new bed. When friends visit, have the child show them her room and her new bed.

6. Throw a Party

Invite friends and family to see the new bed. It may be as simple as having neighbors and grandparents visit for cookies and milk. Make the new bed the focal point for the party and emphasize how great it is for your baby to move to the toddler bed willingly.

7. Get the Toddler Involved

Take the toddler shopping with you! Of course, you will have to limit the choices to those that would be acceptable to you, but let the child make the final decision on the bed and sheets. Have him help you wash the sheets, put the bed together, and make the bed when you get home.

8. Have a Regular Bedtime Routine

If you do not have a bedtime routine, be sure to develop one BEFORE you move the toddler from crib to toddler bed. With a specific routine, your child will understand that it is bedtime and he is supposed to stay in bed and go to sleep. Begin to wind down early in the evening by taking a warm bath, having a favorite snack, reading a favorite book, or telling a soothing story. Have a regular bed time so your toddler is “ready for bed” at the same time each night.

Watch a video to learn more tips about transition to toddler bed:

Notes and Precautions

  • Keep It Safe

Be sure the toddler bed is safe. Install the side rails but be sure you also put pillows or sleeping bag on the floor since the toddler is likely to climb out of this bed, too.

  • Be Ready to Revert to the Crib If Necessary

If your toddler becomes upset at bedtime and refuses to stay in bed, it may not be time to make the switch. Bring the crib back and try again in a few weeks.