There is no right age to move to a toddler bed. Each child is different, and it’s up to the parents to look for the cues. Two major signs your child is ready are when he can easily climb out of the crib, and when he asks for a “big kid bed.”
But moving from the confines of a crib to the open terrain of a regular bed can be intimidating for toddlers. Here are a few ways to ease the anxiety of such a big change:
- Stick to the Routine. Don’t feel like you have to change the bedtime ritual. If you normally read, sing or tuck in all the stuffed animals together, keep doing those things with your child. One exception- you may want to start the routine early for the first few nights. It’s likely your child won’t be able to fall asleep right away and will need extra time to feel secure.
- Get Excited! Talk about the big kid bed in positive ways. Point out other family members, or favorite book characters who sleep in a big bed.
- Don’t Switch Beds During Potty Training. Taking your child out of her diapers and crib at the same time might be too much change. The frustration she may feel could cause both efforts to fail.
- Shop Together. Let your child be a part of the buying process. Let him help choose the bed frame, sheets, pillows, etc; This lets him feel in control of the change.
- Timing is Everything. If you are expecting a new baby, make the change several months before your due date. Let your child get used to her new bed before she sees a new baby in her old crib. Waiting until the last minute might make your older child feel like she was kicked out and can cause resentment.
- Prepare for Falls. Pick a toddler bed that is low to the ground. Many include a guard rail built in to the side. If you are using a twin bed, purchase bed rails to keep your child from falling to the ground in his sleep, or simply put the mattress on the floor and save the frame for later.
- Stay the Course. Consistency is key for a big change to become the new normal. Your child will probably get out of his new bed, to play or explore. Simply put him back in bed and explain it is time to sleep. Be patient and comfort any fears, but make it clear that this new bed does not mean your child can ignore bedtime.