When moving your toddler to a big kid there are two things that should be deeply considered:
Most importantly, when. But also, how?!
If you’ve found yourself on my blog because you’re looking for ways to help your toddler sleep through the night, then the answer to the question of “When to move your toddler to a big kid bed” is “Not now”.
I have my reasons for this so stick with me!
If you toddler is not sleeping well in their crib, then chances are very high that their struggles will only get worse when given the responsibility that comes along with an open big kid bed. If you are thinking about helping your little one sleep better through teaching them independent sleep skills, this will go much smoother if you keep them in their crib. There’s always an adjustment period when learning a new skill and keeping them in the comfort of their familiar sleep space will only help them.
Which brings me to my next point: there is no rush to get your child out of the crib. I’ve worked with plenty of 3-year-olds who are still sleeping comfortably and safely in their crib.
Let’s talk about how to know that they ARE ready for a big kid bed:
Your toddler is too big for the crib to be an option
At about 3 years old or 35 pounds, many kids just simply outgrow their crib. They are too big to comfortably fit in there so they begin fighting the crib for sleep times. Or maybe they are too heavy to lift in and out of the crib.
Your toddler has reached the point of wanting a new bed
Also occurring around 3 years old or older, they may begin asking for a big kid bed. This will most likely happen more for kids who spend time with older friends or family and those who have older siblings. When they ask, begin thinking about making this transition.
Your little one is climbing out of the crib and putting themselves in danger on a consistent basis
If your child is under 3 years old but they are climbing out each time you put them into the crib, this could be a safety issue and I would never advise continuing something that puts them at risk.
If your child is younger than 3 and this is the only reason you would be considering moving them to a big kid bed, try the tips below before completely deciding to make the move:
-Use a sleep sack for all naps and nighttime. Sleep sacks help avoid crib climbing by making it more difficult for your child to get their legs up over the rail. I’ve linked some of my favorite ones here.
-Make sure you’ve removed crib bumpers or anything else that your child could be using as a step up.
-If your child’s crib is taller on the back side, turn the crib around so that the shorter front rail is against the wall. This will make it a bit more difficult to climb out.
-Be sure that the mattress is lowered to the lowest possible setting.
Reasons that should not be considered when moving your toddler to a big kid bed before age 3
A sibling is coming and you want to use the crib for the new baby
I would much rather see you keep your newborn in a pack n play or a mini crib than transition your toddler out of their crib too soon. This can actually cause some unseen psyche damage to your toddler that you would never mean to inflict upon them. Bringing home a baby can cause them to feel a certain way and we most definitely don’t want to add fuel to the fire by kicking them out of their crib, before they are ready, to have the new baby sleep in it (or have it sit in the new baby’s room for a few months until they’re ready to sleep in it).
Family members are telling you that they should not be in a crib anymore
Other family members can be very opinionated on all things parenthood. It’s important to not let their thoughts and opinions on certain matters cloud your judgement. If you know that your child is simply not ready for a bed yet, then Grandma shaming you for keeping them in the crib should just be something you vent about to your spouse instead of letting it influence your decision if your child isn’t ready.
As you can see from above, it’s really important that you carefully consider the timing of this move. If you are not seeing these signs and your child is younger than 3, I urge you to wait. Moving too soon can cause a sleep regression. And a sleep regression at the toddler age is a battle that you don’t want to find yourself in.
So, let’s say that you have decided it’s time! Your toddler is sleeping wonderfully in their crib and they are cognitively ready to handle the responsibility that comes along with a bed! Now, how do we make this transition?
Step One: Preparation
Fill your little one in on what’s happening. Explain that they will be sleeping in a new bed soon, set a date and let them know when it’ll happen. Make sure you explain this with a positive spin but without making a huge production about it.
This is not a time for surprises. I repeat…. You do not want to use this as a time to surprise your toddler with a new room! This can add a lot of stress and pressure to the situation and it could backfire.
Step Two: Involve your child in the purchase of the new bed and bedding
Give your child input in the new purchase. Let them pick out the bed, sheets and what pillows they like. Keeping them involved will help them be more on board with the new change. Giving them the sense of ownership can work wonders in easing this transition.
Step Three: Place the bed in the same spot that the crib was in
This is not the time for surprises, and this is not the time for a room redo. Keep everything else the same and place the bed in the same exact spot that the crib was in. Too much change can cause meltdowns and resistance, which we obviously want to avoid.
Step Four: Keep every aspect of the bedtime routine the same
With the big change of the bed, you will want to be very cautious about not making any other changes (I know, I’m getting redundant but this is important to helping this go as smooth as possible). When you’re getting your toddler ready for bed on that first night, don’t switch anything up about the bedtime routine. Keep everything predictable and as ‘normal’ as possible.
Step Five: Put your toddler in their bed but keep in mind how to handle what could happen next
When you are nearing the end of your bedtime routine with your child, be sure to tell them you are proud of them but avoid statements like “You’re a big girl now” or “What a big boy you are”. Toddlers are usually stuck in a place of being excited about being a big kid but sad about not being a baby anymore. They are unsure if they actually want to go through this “growing up” thing (can you blame them?).
There are few scenarios that can happen next:
Scenario 1- They could adapt easily to the new bed without testing any rules. If this happens, celebrate! You are among the very few!
Scenario 2- They could adapt immediately but, after a week or two, the honeymoon phase ends and they begin to leave their room or start calling you to come back in many times throughout the night.
Scenario 3- Your toddler puts up a fight the very first night and starts testing the boundaries right off the bat!
For scenarios 2 and 3, the solution is to mean what you say and stay stern in what you are asking of them. If you tell them to stay in their bed but allow them to sit with you for a bit on the couch when they do come out, they won’t forget this and it’s going to become difficult to break. Holding your boundaries firm will help them learn that even though they can get out and roam from their bed, this doesn’t mean that they should be doing that.
If you have a baby that is not quite ready to make the change, save this for later! You will want to come back to it! If you have a toddler that you have determined is ready after reading this post, leave a comment below and let me know how things are going!!
*Important to remember: every child is so different. Your best friend’s child may have moved to a big kid bed at 20 months and it went well for them! My suggestions are speaking to the masses because it is not the norm for it to go smoothly without being sure it’s the right timing.