If your child is still in a crib, often the following question comes up: “When to transition to a toddler bed?”
There is a range of ages that the transition to a toddler bed can occur. Some children are ready to transition at 18 months, while others not until age three-and-a-half.
There are many factors to consider when transitioning your child to a toddler bed.
If your child is persistently trying to get out of his crib and there is a safety concern, this would be a time to transition to a toddler bed. If your child climbs out just once, you don’t necessarily have to rush the transition. If it persists and really becomes a safety concern, then that is the time to transition.
The expected arrival of a new baby could be another reason to transition to a toddler bed, assuming your child is ready. I would suggest doing the transition several months prior to the new baby’s due date. This will allow time for your child to adjust to the new bed. You don’t want the child to feel displaced from his crib. It is also best to do this when there are no other major changes in the child’s life.
I personally transitioned my daughter to a toddler bed when she was 21 months, four months prior to my second child’s expected due date. I wanted to ensure enough time for the transition before the baby so she didn’t feel displaced from her crib. This is a very exciting time for your toddler and for you. However, I wouldn’t rush to do this if your toddler isn’t ready for the transition. Some children are simply not ready and the second crib in this case is the best option.
Another reason to change is when your child is excited and asking to move to a big girl bed. This may occur in some children who are ready, and more frequently if there are already older siblings in the house.
So how do you begin the transition?
To start, you can have your child pick out bedding and sheets with you. My daughter was even more excited for the transition to her big girl bed knowing she would sleep with all her princess friends.
Keep the nighttime routine the same. For instance, if it is typically bath-then-books, keep the routine the same.
Please ensure that the bed is not near heaters, radiators, blinds, lamps etc. The same safety precautions used throughout the house must be used in her room near her bed. It is very important know that your child’s room is safe and baby proofed.
When making the transition, you can start with naps in the toddler bed if that is easier. Expect a few tumbles initially, even with the guardrails that some toddler beds have. Toddler beds are low to the ground, but I would still recommend a soft mattress, chair bed or pillows beside your child’s bed in case she falls out. This can occur frequently initially. It can take a week or two to make the transition. My daughter initially rolled off quite frequently, so I would need to put her back in the bed. The soft pillows beside her bed kept her safe. Within two weeks, she learned that she couldn’t roll as much as when she was in her crib.
Your child is going to love his or her new freedom, too. Expect many middle-of-the-night wake up calls and a wandering child. My daughter loved being able to run into my room saying ‘mommy’ and asking for what she needed or wanted. It really showed me her new freedom and growing up. She loved knowing she had that freedom, too.
As previously mentioned, it is important, however, to ensure that all toddler accessible areas in the home are safe. Ensure you gate off stairs and any rooms that you are concerned about that are not child-proofed. I would recommend door locks or child-proof handles for the bathrooms as well. Another option, for example, is to gate off a portion of the house, so she could only run into the bedrooms or stay in her own room. The layout of your home will determine how you could use gates. Having that comfort of knowing your child is safe as she roams around the house if she gets out of bed will ease some of the anxiety most parents have with their wandering child. I don’t recommend adding a gate to the child’s room – you don’t want her to feel locked into her own room.
Continue positive reinforcement. Tell him how proud you are if he slept in his own bed. The continued praise is a great way to reinforce his excitement for his bed. Initially, with some children, you may need to lie down next to your child until he falls asleep. You may even need to sleep in the room next to him at first, as he may wake up through out the night and may want you there.
Sit or lie next to the bed with your child while she falls asleep. Read books, sing, do whatever nighttime routine you previously did while she was in the crib. Don’t leave the room until your child is soundly asleep. You don’t want her to wake up and see that you’re not there if you stated you would be there.
Once your child is used to going to sleep in her own bed with you there, you can slowly transition her to falling asleep without you, and sleeping without you. What I find works well is leaving the room briefly for a few minutes and then slowly increasing the time you are out of the room. For example, you can say ‘I’ll be right back’ and state something you may need to do. Then increase the time you are out of the room until your child soon falls asleep while you are out. Also, while out of the room, you can talk to your child or let them hear you doing things so they know you are nearby and coming back.
The time it takes for the child to fall asleep without you can vary depending on the child. With many toddlers, including my daughter, this took longer than the transition to the bed itself. I had many nights when I stayed in the room until she fell asleep. Even now she often tells me not to leave or not to wash up some nights because she wants me there in her room a longer amount of time. Although the timing per child varies, he will learn to fall asleep without you.
Transitioning your child to a toddler bed really shows how patient parents must be! You should be proud. For me, I loved transitioning my daughter even with the little sleep I had for those weeks. Seeing her so excited for her new bed and growing up was worth every minute of my all-nighters and lack of sleep for a couple weeks.
Remember: there is no set age. The right age depends on each individual child.
Ali is a board certified pediatrician who practiced general pediatrics for five years in a busy private practice in Manhattan NY. She since has moved into the pharmaceutical industry and oversees and mentors many physicians globally. She enjoys sharing her knowledge and experiences as a pediatrician with other moms and dads. Ali’s outside interests include working out, acting, piano, guitar, dance and being a mom! Ali currently lives in NYC with her husband, two-year-old daughter and baby on the way.
The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the blog contributor’s. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. Writers may have conflicts of interest, and their opinions are their own.