When it comes to transitioning your kid from a crib to a bed, there are two main questions to consider: when and how. When will your child be ready to wave goodbye to the crib and say hello to the big kid bed? How should you help your little one through that transition?
Since every child is different, there isn’t one perfect answer for every kid or for every parent - no magic age, no magic formula. Some independent children might proclaim themselves ready for a “big kid” bed early on, while others might love their crib and want to stay in it. Similarly, mothers may have different preferences from one another as well - some might relish the high walls that keep their child in an enclosed space for a few blessed hours a day, while others might want to ditch the crib sooner and have an excuse to redecorate.
Whatever your situation, look for the following signs to see when your kid is ready for that next step.
When to Start the Transition
Is the crib still safe?
Safety should be your number one concern when considering the move to a toddler bed. Says professor of pediatrics Mark Widome MD, parents should move a baby from a crib to the bed before he is able to climb out of the crib on his own. Most toddlers are able to hop over the crib rail once they’re between 18 and 24 months old. If your child is near that age, you may want to consider making the change before they’re involved in an accident.
Safety was the main reason we decided Alex was ready for the big kid bed - but we found out the hard way! Just a week after Alex turned two, I was woken up by a dull thud, then felt a small hand in my hand while my husband and I were still in bed. Still tired and bleary-eyed, I was so confused - Alex would have still been in his crib, and nobody else lived in the house with us. I was genuinely too scared to open my eyes until I heard Alex calling, “Mama!” right next to me. We found out that he managed to escape from his crib for the first time! Fortunately, he didn’t hurt himself - but he easily could have from such a great height and with those hard wooden bars.
What does your child prefer?
It can be hard to convince some kids to give up their crib. On the other hand, some kids can get excited about the change before they even have to go through it! Ideally, the best time to make the change is whenever your little one asks for it. If he starts asking for his own, give him what he wants! If not - consider waiting a little longer. Toddlers know when they’re ready to move on.
Is your child expecting a new sibling?
Another major factor that can determine when your child makes the change is the expected arrival of a new sibling. This can be a tricky situation, especially when your little one loves her crib and shows no interest in getting out of it, and you need that crib for the next baby. To make sure your older child doesn’t feel that she’s being displaced or replaced, start the transition to a toddler bed a few months before the new baby is due to arrive (provided the older child is at least 18 months old). Aim to get your child as comfortably situated in her new bed as possible, so she doesn’t feel like the new baby stole “her” crib.
What other steps has your child gone through?
Consider major transitions your little one has already experienced. For example, if your child is potty-trained, it may be a good idea to make the transition to a toddler bed shortly after, in case they need to “go” in the middle of the night. If your little one is excited about other “big kid” steps he or she has made, get him or her excited about the next one! Just be careful not to overwhelm with too many changes at once.
How to Ease the Transition
Avoid the transition when other major events are happening
Toddlers go through a lot of steps from babyhood to childhood - going to daycare, entering preschool, getting a new sibling, potty-training, etc. One big change at a time is plenty! Introduce major changes one at a time.
Make as little change as possible
Transition gradually. This worked really well for Alex. After Alex first escaped from his crib, we didn’t just go out that day and buy him a brand new bed - we just removed the side railing. Alex still slept in his same old crib with the same old sheets and pillow, but we gave him the freedom to get on and off the bed at his own will.
Even that was a tricky transition - for Alex and for us! The first two weeks of that brought us right back to his newborn days when he needs to be fed throughout the night.
When he was in his crib with all sides of the railings on, if he woke up at night, he would put himself back to sleep since there wasn’t anything else for him to do. However, once he was free to roam without the side railing, he would just climb out and start playing in the middle of the night as if he had just woken up from his afternoon nap. Plus, he’d wake us up as well whenever he didn’t want to play alone (or in other words, all the time).
Still, that wasn’t even the worst part. Our “traditional” night-time routine with Alex before the removal of the side railing was take a shower, put on the pajamas, and give him a kiss goodnight. Short and sweet. Alex would fall right to sleep after 5-30 minutes of that, depending on how tired he was during the day.
Once we removed the side railing, after kissing Alex goodnight and closing the door, he would just climb out of the bed and join Mama and Baba in the living room.
After many failed attempts to reason with Alex, my husband and I were on the verge of just giving up the two hours of alone time we got each night that each of us holds very dearly.
Don’t give up!
I was so anxious and worried that it would last forever. I suppose I was totally spoiled by Alex’s great sleeping habits during his first two years - still, it made this regression very difficult to accept. I did what any desperate woman does nowadays: I turned to the internet. Instantly, I was overwhelmed by the sea of suggestions from experts and other moms regarding this very concern of ours. I finally decided to try the “100 walks” method.
As the name suggests, the “100 walks” method involves walking the kid back to bed for as many as 100 times! Yes, that sounds tiring, and yes, it was extremely tiring. Every time Alex exited his bed and joined us in the living room, we would simply pick him up from the living room and walk him right back to bed while saying “No, Alex. It is time for bed.” Nothing more and nothing less. We would avoid any other other interactions with him, and we would repeat it as many times as needed with little or no change between each time until he finally stayed in his bed for the night. It was hard for us to do that over and over with a poker face because Alex was always smiling and wishing to stay with us for a longer time. Still, we were determined to do it as many times as it took that first night - even if it was all 100 times!
Fortunately, Alex stayed in his own bed right before we were about to lose count of how many “walks” we’ve done. Even though we were both exhausted after taking turns to walk him to bed 30+ times, we saw a glimpse of hope to get our alone time back. Thankfully, the 30+ times dropped each day the next week until he learned that it’s just too boring to go to the living room and he is probably better off just playing in his bed.
Keep ‘em safe while transitioning
When we removed the side railing after Alex climbed out of his crib, he still had his fair share of accidents. Just the first night, he managed to roll off his bed twice and cried loudly, even though we had left half of the side railing on and left some pillows on the floor. The following day, we invested in a bed bumper which is essentially a big block of foam that’s impossible for any kid to roll over. It just goes right under your child’s bed sheet. It was relatively inexpensive compared to other bed railing options, and we are happy to report that Alex has not fallen once after the bed bumper was installed! It even works on Alex’s new twin bed!
Just one week ago, we retired Alex’s crib and bought him a big boy twin bed. There was no drama with the transition and Alex enjoys jumping on his bouncier mattress!
As a mom, I’ve always had a conflict in my heart that I’m sure many mothers have. I wish my little one could grow up faster so that he can explore and experience this colorful world. On the other hand, I sometimes selfishly wish that he could be a little boy forever and just stay by my side.
When Alex climbed out of his crib that first time, I realized that he is not a baby anymore. He knows what is happening around him, he can express his feelings, and he asks for what he wants. It was such an exciting and joyful feeling to witness all these changes and I am so glad to be a part of this journey with him.
When did you make the transition for your kid? What other tricks do you have that could help to ease the transition? Let us know in the comments!