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Making the Big Transition: Moving Your Toddler from a Crib to a Bed 

toddler sleeping all night in their own bed instead of sleeping in a crib

If you have a 2-3-year-old, chances are you’re gearing up for a significant milestone in your little one’s life – the exciting, yet somewhat daunting transition from crib to toddler bed. I know it feels like a big leap, almost as if your baby isn’t such a baby anymore.

You have so many questions racing around in your mind – “Is it the right time yet?” “Which bed is the safest?” “What if they keep popping out of bed at night?” Let me reassure you, you’re not alone. I’ve been there, too, and I’m here to help guide you through this major transition.

In this blog post, I’m going to walk with you every step of the way, from beginning to end. While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, with empathy, abundant patience, and a handful of practical tips, I’m confident that we can make this transition as seamless as possible.

Before we delve any deeper into this topic I want to share a nugget of wisdom many of you might find surprising…

Most people rush this transition. I and many other experts recommend keeping your child in their crib as long as possible, assuming they’re safe and haven’t outgrown their crib. The closer to 3 years old they are, the more developmentally ready they will be, which makes the transition considerably easier.

With that said, let’s get this journey started.  

Recognizing Readiness

You might be eager to read all the reasons why your little kid should transition to a toddler bed and embrace their “big kid” status. But before we talk about that, let’s talk about something much more important: when should you hold off transitioning your child from their crib to a bed?

The number one sign to wait a bit? Your kiddo isn’t sleeping well in their crib.

I have engaged in countless conversations with clients who are under the impression that their child – who struggles with sleeping well in the crib – will somehow find a magic sleep potion once they’re in a ‘big’ bed.

In reality, it’s usually the other way around. It can be much harder to teach your child to fall asleep and stay asleep independently if they can just stroll over to your sofa or bedroom instead.

So to recap, if your child isn’t currently:

  • Falling asleep independently
  • Sleeping the recommended amount of time at night, and
  • Waking at an appropriate time in the morning…

It might be best to hold off on the crib-to-bed transition. Instead, book a call with a member of the Tender Transitions team to explore how we can improve your child’s sleep before you make the move. 

In addition to the big flashing “WAIT” sign I describe above, here are some additional reasons to keep your child in their crib a while longer:

  • Comfort and safety. Your child fits comfortably and there are no safety concerns about them climbing out of the crib? This is a sign that the crib is still a good sleeping spot for them.  
  • You are only considering the move because you think you ‘should’. Remember, there’s no hard and fast rule about when a child needs to make this transition. If your toddler is content to sleep in the crib – lucky you – you’ve hit the parenting jackpot. And don’t let anyone else make you think or feel otherwise.
  • There’s an imminent arrival of a sibling on the horizon. You might think it’s a great time to free up the crib for your new baby. Chances are your toddler won’t be on the same page. Children often have a period of regression when an infant sibling is introduced to the household, so it’s best to keep everything as stable as possible. Once your older child adjusts to their new sibling, the transition out of the crib (so the baby can claim it) will also be smoother.

Signs Your Child Might Be Ready for a Toddler Bed

If you’re seeing one or more of these you probably should consider a transition to a toddler bed.

  • Outgrowing the crib: Is your toddler beginning to resemble a sardine in a can? When your child looks uncomfortably cramped in their crib, it’s definitely time to think about that transition.
  • Crib escape: Has your little one turned into a stealthy ninja, climbing out of their crib at every opportunity? That’s another pretty clear sign they’re ready for the move. Climbing out of the crib can be dangerous, so if your child is attempting this and you can’t get them to stop, it might be time to switch.
    • Safety Note: Never use a crib tent to keep your toddler from climbing out of the crib. These are not safe for your child.
  • Interest: Your toddler might see a sibling or a friend sleeping in a big bed and express interest. If they seem excited about the prospect of having their own ‘big-kid’ bed, it might be time to consider the move.

As I previously mentioned, barring real safety or comfort concerns, recommend that you delay moving your child to a toddler bed at least until they are 3 years old if not longer. 

Laying the Groundwork: Preparing Your Toddler for the Bed Transition

Making the switch from a crib to a bed is a big deal for your little one. It’s a sign they’re growing up (a bit too fast, if you ask me!). To make the transition smoother, it’s important to prepare your toddler for this big change. Here are a few ways you can do this:

Start the conversation: Begin by talking about the change in simple, positive terms. Use language your toddler understands, and reassure them that this is an exciting step in their growing-up journey. This way, they’ll start viewing the transition as something fun and exciting rather than scary and unknown.

Read about it: There are plenty of wonderful children’s books out there about moving to a big kid bed. Some of my personal favorites include “Your Own Big Bed” by Rita M. Bergstein and “Big Enough for a Bed” from the Sesame Street series. Reading these together can help normalize the transition and spark positive conversations about it.

Involve them: Let your toddler be a part of the process. Take them shopping for their new bed, or let them choose the bedding. This sense of ownership can make them feel more comfortable and excited about the change.

Safety first: As much as we’re all about celebrating this big step, let’s make sure to keep safety in mind. With their new bed, your kiddo will have the freedom to wander around the room, even when you’re not there. Make the room safe by securing any large furniture to the walls, covering up electrical outlets, and removing small, reachable objects. Also, choose a low bed – it reduces the risk of any tumble-out-of-bed accidents in the middle of the night.

Smooth Moves: Strategies for Transitioning from Crib to Bed

Once you’ve prepared your toddler for this significant change, it’s time to make the actual move from the crib to the bed. Here are some important things to keep in mind as you go about it:

Make the environment familiar: If you can, try to keep the new bed in the same place as the old crib. Surround it with familiar things—maybe their favorite stuffed animal, the same mobile that hung over their crib, or their go-to blankets. The familiarity can provide comfort and make the new bed feel a little less new.

Timing is everything: Try to avoid transitioning during other big changes or stressors, like starting daycare or welcoming a new sibling. Aim for a calm period where their routine is as normal as possible.

Clear expectations: Toddlers and preschoolers thrive on boundaries. So communicate your expectations about bedtime and nighttime ahead of time to prevent a potential battle of wills with your child. This is also where the use of a toddler clock, such as an “Ok-to-Wake” clock or something similar can be really helpful. See some tips on using one below.

Maintain consistent routines: Amid all this change, it’s crucial to keep other routines as consistent as possible. If you usually read a story before bed or sing a lullaby, keep doing that. The familiarity will be reassuring and comforting.

Patience and reassurance: The first few nights might be a bit challenging as your toddler adjusts to their new bed. Be patient and reassure them that they’re safe and okay. Remember to validate their feelings while continuing to set firm expectations and boundaries. It’s a big change, and they might need a little extra love and comfort along with a dose of certainty.

Celebrate success: Positive reinforcement works wonders. When your child spends a successful night in their new bed, celebrate it with them. A little praise can go a long way and encourage them to continue sleeping in their new bed.

Dealing with Hiccups: Overcoming Toddler Bed Transition Setbacks.

Every adventure comes with its fair share of challenges, and transitioning your toddler from their crib to a bed is no different. If you’ve hit a few bumps along the way, take a deep breath. It’s perfectly normal. Here are a few common setbacks you might encounter and some handy tips to navigate them:

New bed resistance: Your toddler might be apprehensive about the new sleeping arrangement. If this happens, be patient and keep reinforcing the positive aspects of their new bed. Maybe spend a bit more time on bedtime stories, cuddling up in their new bed to create more positive associations.

Nighttime visits: It’s not uncommon for kids to get out of their new bed and sneak into your room at night. If this happens, gently but firmly lead them back to their bed, reassuring them that they’re safe.

Difficulty falling asleep: The new environment might make it harder for your toddler to fall asleep at first. Stick to the familiar bedtime routine and consider introducing some soothing elements like soft music or a nightlight.

Night wakings: If your child is waking up more often during the night, reassure them that it’s okay and guide them back to sleep. Remember, it’s a new environment and it might take a bit for them to feel fully comfortable.

Wanting the crib back: If your toddler is asking for their crib back, resist the urge to give in immediately. Instead, reassure them about their new bed, emphasizing how they’re growing up. But also know, it’s okay to slow down the process if needed. Your child sets the pace.

Using a Toddler Clock: A Visual Guide to Bedtime and Wake-up Time

One tool I’ve found incredibly useful during this transition phase, and one I heartily recommend, is a toddler clock. These ingenious little devices give toddlers a visual cue for when it’s time to sleep and when it’s okay to leave their bed.

Here’s how you can incorporate it into your bedtime routine:

Choose the right clock: Toddler clocks come in various designs. Some use colors, some have little characters that open their eyes or go to sleep, and some use a combination of both. Choose one that you think would resonate most with your child and would be easy for them to understand.

Explain it: Once you’ve got the clock, explain how it works to your toddler. Show them what the clock looks like when it’s bedtime and what it will look like when it’s okay to get up. Use simple terms and repeat the information a few times to ensure they’ve got it.

Incorporate it into your routine: Use the clock consistently, setting it at the same times every day. Make sure to point out the clock to your toddler at bedtime, and in the morning, reinforce the idea by pointing it out when it changes.

Be patient: Like any new concept, this will take some time for your toddler to get used to. They might not follow the clock perfectly at first, and that’s okay. Be patient and reinforce the message consistently.

Celebrate Success

Remember, this is a significant milestone for both you and your toddler. Be prepared for a few bumps along the way, and remember that that’s perfectly normal. Every child adjusts at their own pace, so try not to compare your child’s progress with others.

The most important thing is that your child feels safe and comfortable throughout the transition. With these strategies, a little patience, and lots of love, you’ll be well on your way to making this transition a success. It’s all about taking one step (or one night) at a time. You got this!

Would you like an expert to guide you through this important change in your child’s life? Then grab a Smooth Move Package and experience a stress-free transition to a toddler bed in 3 easy steps.

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