Transitioning a child out a crib and into a big kid bed can be a stressful process. But it is something that every child inevitably experiences, so I thought I would share some tips that have helped me over the years as we have transitioned all three of our children. SPOILER ALERT: Some were easier than others. :)
1. Wait until your child is ready.
Our children have been various ages when we have transitioned them from the crib to a big kid bed. Our first child was around 18 months when we moved him out of his crib (because we needed the crib for our second born). Our middle child was about 2 1/2 and our oldest was nearly 3-years old. From my experience, it is best to wait until your child is ready and not rush him/her out of the crib. You can always borrow another crib for a new baby or purchase one on Craigslist or at a garage sale (just be sure to check that it hasn’t been recalled).
But how do you know when your child is ready? My answer is this: When your child starts climbing out of his/her crib, that is an indication that it is time to transition to a big kid bed. Not only is it dangerous for your child to be flinging themselves over the rails of the crib, it no longer makes sense to keep them in a crib intended to contain them.
We personally chose to skip the “toddler bed” and go directly from the crib to either a twin or full size bed. We did this primarily because our kids have often had difficulty with transitions and by doing this, we eliminated the need for yet another transition (toddler bed to twin/full bed) in the future. Obviously, this won’t work for everyone and some parents are more comfortable with the idea of a toddler bed. Do whatever works best for you!
2. Talk it up.
Transitions are difficult for kids. Moving to a big kid bed will be easier for some kids than others. Regardless of what bed you choose to put your child in, make a big deal about the transition.
Like with potty training, I suggest planning on making the transition after a big event (like a vacation, birthday, special outing, etc). Let your little one see the “big kid” beds of older siblings and friends. Make it something to celebrate. You might even let your child help pick out the bedding or arrange their furniture. The more that they are involved and excited, the better the transition process will be. Some kids will naturally be hesitant to transition while others will be enthusiastic. Either way, celebrate this special milestone with your child!
3. Ensure he/she can’t fall out of the bed.
This is a biggie. We obviously want our kids to be safe while sleeping and this means ensuring they do not roll out of the bed and onto the floor. This is why many parents might prefer a toddler bed. We have found, however, a few suggestions that work perfectly for keeping your child from falling out of his/her bed.
- Beddy’s Zippered Bedding: I think I might be the #1 fan of Beddy’s bedding of all time. The boys have had their Beddy’s for 2-3 years now and I initially was interested in them because they make it SOOOOOO easy for kids to make their own beds (you can read more about that here). I contacted Beddy’s and they agreed to send me another set for Little Sister’s “big girl” room. I am even more in love with them now that I realized that they help prevent nighttime fallouts as well! As long as your child is zipped into his/her bed at least up to their armpits, it is virtually impossible for them to fall out of the bed at night.We recently converted Little Sister’s crib to a full bed and have been using Beddy’s for her bedding. I absolutely love the while ruffles!Bonus: Now they offer Beddy’s bedding for toddler beds! And you can get 20% off your order by using the code “TEACH20”.
- A pool noodle taped onto each side of the mattress: If Beddy’s bedding isn’t an option for you, this pool noodle hack might do the trick!
- Store-bought guard rails: We used a double bed rail with Little Brother (before we knew about Beddy’s) and aside from being a hassle to make the bed, it worked pretty well. If you go this route, you won’t need the rail for long so it is definitely something I recommend buying second hand or sharing with friends or neighbors.
4. Establish a bedtime routine.
The routines we established with our newborns and toddlers will differ once our kids transition to a big kid bed, but try to keep them similar to what they are used to even though the location might differ. With our youngest child, we have a pretty strict routine that we follow: Read a Book, Bible story, Prayer, Songs (the same ones every night- at her request), and finally good night. I typically will lay with her for 5 minutes before I get up to say goodnight to her older brothers.
On nights where it is especially difficult for children to calm down, I suggest sitting outside their door. Grab a book and just camp out for a while. It works best if they can see you, but if not at least if they come out of their room they will know you will be right there to put them back in their beds. If/when this happens, don’t say much. Just pick them up or lead them back to their bed, kiss their head, and walk out the door. Sit back down and continue the process until your child is asleep. Obviously, this isn’t ideal long term but helps make the transition process smoother.
5. Use white noise, a special light and/or a wake up clock.
White noise is especially helpful for drowning out noise and has a calming effect on newborns, toddlers, and preschoolers alike. I simply downloaded a white noise track from iTunes, burned it onto a CD, and put it on repeat in my child’s CD player.
With Little Sister (who we are currently transitioning), we bought a special Elsa nightlight that projects a picture onto the ceiling. She enjoys seeing it on her ceiling each night and makes it easier for her to go to sleep in a darkened room.
Finally, the wake up clocks work well for some children but not others (mine included). You set up the wake up clock for what time your child is allowed to get up. In theory, he/she will not come out of his/her room until the wake-up picture is displayed on the clock. This hasn’t worked the greatest for us as we apparently have headstrong kids who come out of their rooms when they want to and not when the clock tells them to.
6. Set boundaries and stick to them.
It is so tempting to just let your child get in bed with you in the middle of the night or lay with him/her every night until asleep…but I would suggest that for the first couple of months of transitioning that you avoid “giving in” and stick to your boundaries. Then, once they know the expectations, you can relax a bit.
As I suggested earlier, I would recommend sitting outside your child’s bedroom after hugs and kisses to add an extra bit of security but without the dependence of you right by your child’s side. Whatever boundaries you choose to set, just try to be diligent with them for the first month especially. This will help set up for long-term sleeping success!
7. Expect some sleep regression…and take it in stride.
Unfortunately, sleep regression after transitioning to a big kid bed is inevitable (unless you are super lucky, I suppose). All three of my children have regressed somewhat, some worse than others. :) Despite what it may feel for a few weeks (or even months), this is just a phase and will eventually get better.
We are currently in the midst of some serious sleep regression with our daughter. She has slept through the night consistently for the last two years but started waking up at night when she realized she could get out of her crib and come to our bed. We transitioned her with all the tips I’ve shared and she is still sometimes waking up at night and is consistently up before 6am (she used to sleep until around 8am). I will be honest…this phase is frustrating and exhausting. But I know it will not last forever so we are doing what we can to get by for the time being and praying that eventually she will be a good sleeper again! :)
What are some tips that have helped you transition your child to a big kid bed?
Be sure to check out Beddy’s, my FAVORITE kids bedding company EVER! Beddy’s makes it nearly effortless for kids to make their own beds by zipping up both of the sides (and prevents middle-of-the-night fall outs)! Plus, the beds look crisp and clean even when your 2-year old makes it! The inside top of Beddy’s bedding is lined with chenille, making it super soft and cozy! Go here to check out all of the styles available and use the code “TEACH20” to get 20% off your order.