I’ve been teaching my toddler workshop, Tacking Toddler Sleep, several times in the past few weeks and I get so many questions about knowing when and how to transition a toddler to a big kid bed. It’s a BIG transition! Not only is it a new bed, but all this new freedom that a child needs to get used to can be fun — but also intimidating!
I’ll tell you right off the bat… many parents make the mistake of moving to a big kid bed too soon. Either because they fear their toddler climbing out of their crib, a new baby is on the way and they need the crib, or they just think it will be fun and exciting for their little one. Your first tip is:
Keep your toddler in their crib as close to 3 years of age as possible!
For many children, it isn’t until this age that they are able to understand the responsibility that comes along with being in a bed. If they’ve been sleeping in a crib, portable sleeper, or something similar, moving to a big bed that has no side rails and is bigger in size, can actually be overwhelming for a child. Even at age 3, this can be a really major transition.
Avoid making the move during other major toddler life changes.
Starting potty training? Moving to a new house? Starting a new daycare? New baby in the house? If any of these fit your situation, it’s probably a good time to wait it out. Asking your toddler to make several major changes all at once is a lot to expect. Focus on the first major change, and then get them into their big kid bed.
Keep your bedtime routine consistent.
Assuming you already have a set bedtime routine in place, try not to make any changes to it while your toddler is making the move. The more you can keep the rest of the process familiar, expected, and comfortable, the better you’ll have a toddler who is feeling confident and ready to sleep in a bigger bed.
Consider the location of the new bed.
Similar to keeping the bedtime routine consistent, it also may help to keep the room layout the same. Consider putting the new bed in the same place where the crib, portable sleep, etc. currently is in their room.
Another approach you can consider is to put the bed in the place of the crib, etc. but move the crib to the other side of the room temporarily. Then each night you can give your toddler the choice of which place they want to sleep. For toddlers who are really testing their independence, this is a great way to give them yet another choice that they get to control. Once they’ve begun to select the big bed consistently, make a celebration of moving the crib out of the room for good.
Don’t let the arrival of a new baby be your reason for the big move.
If your child isn’t ready to move to a big kid bed, the upcoming arrival of a new baby is not a good enough reason for the big move! Consider where your new baby will be sleeping the first few months. Chances are you won’t need that crib for the baby right away, anyway. Or, if you need two cribs for a short time see if you have a friend who isn’t using theirs anymore and borrow it for a few months.
There you have it! Moving to a big kid bed is truly exciting. But just remember that its a big world out there for your toddler and moving to a big bed with all that newfound freedom can come with a new set of sleep challenges. If you’ve already made the move and things aren’t going so well, it might be time to purchase your own toddler sleep package and I can help you keep your growing toddler in bed all night!
Share in the comments below what you have found to be helpful during this big transition for your toddler!
In Tender Care,