Maybe your toddler has started climbing out of her crib in the morning. Perhaps you have another baby on the way, and you need to get the crib ready. It could be that your baby has just outgrown the crib and needs a bigger space.
Whatever the reason, it’s time to make the transition from crib to bed.
The concept of your little one sleeping without the barrier that keeps him safe (and in place!) is often scary for both parents and children. To help your family make the change with as little disruption to sleep as possible, I’ve put together five tips for transitioning your toddler from a crib to a bed.
Child Proof Your House
Without the guaranteed containment of a crib, parents will need to look at their child’s room and the surrounding areas to make sure they will be safe when they get out of bed in the mornings.
Secure heavy furniture such as bookshelves and dressers to the walls, and think about places your child might try to climb and reach. You can use special door knobs or locks to prevent them from getting out of their room. If that’s not a sure thing, then install a strong baby gate to block off other areas of the house.
Child-proofing doesn’t always go to plan, so definitely make sure you have a way to listen and monitor your toddler in case they escape!
Pick Your Presentation
You know your child best. Some toddlers love to get excited and do “big kid” things. Others react better to change if you present it matter of factly, without much to-do. Consider your kiddo and choose the approach you think works best.
If they need things to get excited or rewards for motivation, try letting them pick out some new sheets or a comforter for the new bed. This will give them some control, as well as getting them used to the idea of moving before it actually happens.
For a child that is younger, or prefers less hoopla, you can read a book that presents a similar situation so that they have a reference to help them understand the change. Let them know it is happening, but don’t make a big deal, just talk about it as a part of growing up and getting bigger!
Be as Consistent as Possible
A new sleep environment can lead to stress for a toddler, so try to keep things as consistent as possible by making one change at a time. Don’t move rooms (or houses) at the same time as you transition from the crib to a bed. Keep everything else the same to minimize anxiety.
Sleeping in the same room, with their favorite pajamas, their lovey or blanket, and even the pillow they typically use is a way to help your little one feel safe and secure in their new bed.
If you’re moving out of the crib because of a new sibling on the way, try to make the transition before your new addition arrives to help ease your toddler into the new arrangement.
You don’t have to make the jump from crib to twin bed in one fell swoop. You can take small steps to get there and ensure your child is safe and continuing to sleep.
Several cribs convert to toddler beds, and if you don’t need the crib for a new occupant, you can start by doing this to keep things low to the ground and relatively contained.
If you are going to move to a bigger bed, consider starting with the mattress on the ground. It takes some kids a while to get used to not having protective rails, so keeping the mattress low to the ground reduces fall risk.
Another way to ease into the transition is to use the new bed for naps only and the crib at night (or vice versa.) If you’ve taken the crib down or reconfigured it into a toddler bed, consider using a travel crib as a bridge to split the time.
Adapt as Needed
Sometimes, kids just aren’t ready or circumstances change. If you try to make the switch from crib to bed and things go poorly, it’s ok to head back to the crib for a while and try again later. Don’t necessarily give up after one bad night, but if it’s a repeated issue, then consider a detour.
Toddlers have a way of knowing what they need (at least to some extent) and if they insist on sleeping in their crib, then follow their lead. It may mean being a two crib household or having a four-year-old still in a crib, but sleep is too precious and essential to sacrifice.
The Bottom Line
All children will move out of the crib at some point and start spending their nights in a big kid bed. But there’s no real age, timeline, or circumstance that dictates when that will happen.
Follow your instincts and use these tips when transitioning your toddler from a crib to bed to keep things smooth and sleep-filled during the change.
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Author: Cristin Howard
Cristin Howard runs Smart Parent Advice, a site that provides parenting advice for moms and dads. Cristin writes about all of the different ups and downs of parenting, provides solutions to common challenges, and reviews products that parents need to purchase for babies and toddlers.