Making the Move to a Toddler Bed
“I’m a big boy!” “I’m a baby!” “I’m a big boy!” Here’s how to help your toddler bridge the gap, vacate her crib and settle into his new bed.
There’s no hard-and-fast age when a toddler is ready to vacate the crib, but when your child is around 18 months or so, you’ll probably start thinking about it. Some kids need to do it earlier to make room for a new baby, while others — and their parents — are perfectly content with a crib until past age three.
There are, however, two clear signs that it’s time for a change: when she starts climbing or attempts to climb out of the crib and when she actually asks for a big-girl bed.Whatever the scenario, transitioning from crib to bed is a big step for the whole family. Here are a few tips to keep it as drama-free as possible.
Give her choices. A convertible crib that turns into a toddler bed with the removal of the front panel can make the change seem less drastic to a toddler. To mark the occasion and help your child feel excited about the change, let her choose new sheets. If you decide on a toddler or twin bed, enlist her help in picking it out (and the sheets too).
If you’re afraid her new freedom will lead to some middle-of-the-night tumbles, either add guardrails on each side of the new bed or place the mattress directly on the floor. Of course, no matter what bed you choose, be sure to place it away from windows, radiators, wall lamps, curtains, drapes, or window-blind cords to keep your child safe.
Ease into it. If your toddler is giving up her crib for a new baby, the switch calls for an extra dose of TLC. You don’t want her to feel that she’s being displaced. If you can, try to get the new bed in place before the baby arrives. Let her “practice” napping in it to help her feel more comfortable with the new setup. She may surprise you and head for her new digs right away (hooray)!
Don’t change the bedtime routine. Put the bed in the same space where the crib was, if possible. And if the bath-books-bed formula for transitioning her to sleep worked before, it’ll work again. Mixing up the bedtime routine will just mix her up.
Keep exploration to a minimum. For most kids, the newfound freedom to roam will be irresistible. It’s up to you to reinforce bedtime rules. Answer all calls for water, stuffed toys, and trips to the potty before the final tuck-in — and make sure she knows it’s final.
Patience, patience, patience… If you have a wanderer on your hands, be prepared to calmly and silently return her to her bed over and over and over. Keep it as boring as possible and she’ll get the idea. For kids who don’t, some parents put gates at the bedroom door, but if your little monkey has already proved that she can climb out of her crib, chances are the gate won’t be much of an obstacle.
…and praise, praise, praise. A better solution for controlling your child’s roaming habits might be a sticker chart. Give her one sticker for each night she stays in her bed, and by the end of the week reward her with a special treat, like an extra story at bedtime or a favorite family outing. Remember, toddlers love pleasing you and doing things for themselves. Helping her learn to love her big-girl bed should be a win-win situation!