Your child will outgrow the crib and needs to transition to a toddler bed at some point in time. Far from a simple change of bed, this milestone can be complicated or outright traumatic. But there are ways to avoid the impending catastrophe and make this experience fun and enjoyable.
When Should Your Child Switch from Crib to Toddler Bed?
In one estimate, up to 90% of 18-month old toddlers sleep in a crib. That number goes down to 80% at two years old. Most people believe the right age is three, and the numbers show that – only 40% still sleep in a crib. Science also supports three as the ideal age. One study shows that keeping a toddler on a crib until three years old is associated with enhanced sleep quality and quantity.
Is age the only basis?
Absolutely not. There are plenty of other factors to consider, many of which are related to physical, mental, and behavioral development. Hence, do not plunge in once your child reaches a certain age.
At the very least, wait until you prepared for or observed half of the following:
1. Climbs Out of the Crib
The crib, with its high side rails, is a safe and comfortable haven. During the first months, the mattress would be near the top. Before your baby could sit and potentially roll over the side, it should be lowered to the middle position. After a few more months, before your child could stand, it should be adjusted to the lowest position.
Once your toddler reaches 35 inches (89 cm), or a quarter of the body taller than the rails, you have no more choice. It is time to switch to a toddler bed. The crib is no longer safe, and your child could climb and fall off the side.
2. Potty Training
On average, most parents start potty training when the child is 27 months old. Some start early, between 18 to 24 months old, while others begin after reaching 3 years old. Regardless, you cannot begin – not until your tot is off a crib.
Even when all the signs indicate it is time to potty train, a crib does not allow your child to get off the crib quickly to go to the bathroom. A toddler bed makes that possible – and safer, especially in the middle of the night.
3. Another Baby On the Way
It may not be practical to buy a new crib if you have another baby on the way. You do not have to if your child is at least 18 months old. But do not buy a toddler bed, transfer your tot, and let another baby take over the crib – because that is what it is going to look like.
For your tot, you can begin the transition about 6 to 8 weeks before giving birth. That should be more than enough time to get accustomed to the toddler bed. Once your new baby comes home, you do not even have to immediately use the crib. A bassinet is sufficient for your newborn up until reaching 3 to 4 months old.
The idea behind this seemingly gradual transition is so that your tot eases into the new bed and accepts the newly arrived sibling, and not feel threatened. You do not want to give the impression that someone else came to replace your tot.
4. Has Established Sleep Routine
Unless there are pressing reasons that require you to put your child on a toddler bed, you should delay if your tot is having trouble keeping a bedtime routine on the crib. It is incredibly rare for a child to actually sleep better after transferring to a new bed. Most likely, the switch is going to be troublesome.
The best thing you can do, at this time, is to continue getting your tot into a regular bedtime routine. There are plenty of recommendations and tips out there. Most are probably not going to work. You only need to come up with a plan and schedule that is most suitable for you and your tot.
Once your child can recognize bedtime and sleep without much trouble, it is another sign of readiness switching to a toddler bed.
5. Goes All Over the Place
You realize your baby is not going to stay still for a long time. In only a few months, it goes from crawling to sitting and climbing all over the place – one milestone after another. As delightful as each of those events are, they also present a dilemma. If your tot becomes too active, you start to worry about accidental falls. Those slats on the crib’s rails may no longer be enough to keep your child safe.
Rolling and falling on the mattress is not a problem. But if your toddler has to fall off the side, that is a scary thought best vanquished by considering moving to a toddler bed. At least it is lower than the crib.
6. Baby-proof the Room and the Entire House (H3)
Once on a toddler bed, it does not take long for your toddler to learn how to get up and wander around the room or the entire house if the door is open. Hence, before you even begin the transition, you should baby-proof the whole house.
No matter what you do, it can never be 100% safe. But you can reduce the risk significantly if in case your child embarks on an exploration mission while you are asleep or distracted. In most families, toddlers wake up earlier than their parents. As far as they are concerned, it is time to play.
7. Enticed by Toddler Bed
Your mild-mannered, generally cheerful child may show signs of resistance getting on or staying in the crib. Maybe the crib’s side rails are becoming too constricting. It is also quite possible that after watching kids’ shows, your tot has developed a preference for some characters – Princess, Cars, Mickey Mouse, and so much more.
And so, seeing themed toddler beds, they must be incredibly enticing – the freedom to move around and to be with a favorite character. When you notice this tendency, it may be time to make the switch.
8. Want a “Big Bed” or Be a “Big Kid” (H3)
For tots with older siblings, seeing them on toddler beds influences them to want to sleep on one. Or, they may have seen it during play sessions with friends or relatives.
If your toddler has older siblings, then you already know the drill. Even if it was quite challenging for your firstborn to make the transition, expect your youngest to have an easier time. Monkey sees, monkey do. Your tot will want to be like the elder brother or sister – and express a desire to play and sleep on a big bed.
How to Transition to a Toddler Bed
You can make the switch from crib to a toddler bed when your tot is between 18 months to 36 months. During this time, you can start making preparations to make the transitions a delightful experience for you and, more importantly, the child.
Choosing a Toddler Bed
You have plenty of options when it comes to choosing a toddler bed. They come on all sorts of styles and designs, and from affordable to costly sets. At the very least, whichever you decide on, you should consider the following points:
- Sturdy and Durable. Your child is going to spend significant time on the bed. During those times, there will be plenty of wiggling, rolling, bouncing and jumping. The bed frame should be able to withstand the abuse.
- Close to the Ground. A toddler bed is designed to be low and close to the floor – for a good reason. Any child rolling over and falling off the edge are not likely to get hurt. Avoid buying a teen bed (thinking of saving money) and letting a young tot sleep on it.
- Has Side Rails. Most especially during the start of the transition, the toddler bed has to have side rails. Although some are fixed, most can be removed when no longer necessary.
- Simple and Safe. Ornamentations, cutouts, and any protrusions can cause jammed fingers or head bumps during overzealous moments. Opt for a more straightforward design. Inspect the surface and make sure the finish is smooth, and there is no possible way that your toddler could get fingers injured or stuck.
- Matching Mattress and Bedding. Do yourself a favor and buy a high-quality set that comes with mattress and bedding. For one, you can ensure a snug fit, which adds to the safety factor by reducing the risk of jammed fingers.
- Certifications. Many of the products sold on the market are cheap imports that do not conform to established standards. For toddler beds, look for the JPMA (Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association) sticker.
When you are looking for a toddler bed, it would be best to have your child involved. In more ways than one, those are not only bonding moments by doing a shared activity. You are also conditioning the little one’s mind to sleep on a “big” bed.
It would also help to present the toddler bed as a form of reward for proper behavior and following bedtime routine. You can do that by letting your child choose the style, design, and accessories.
Making the Transition
After spending time preparing and having bought and set up the bed, what should you do? Talk to your child and explain the ground rules a few days before making the transfer. Remember not to force or make the change abrupt. After sleeping in the crib for two or more years, suddenly switching to a toddler bed can be a traumatic experience.
As much as you want to let your child feel empowered, and rightfully so because that is part of the fun, ground rules must be set. What you need to do is to strike a balance in which there is a degree of freedom and independence. At the same time, there are limitations too.
It is going to take a while before everything becomes mundane. So, the best thing you can do is to keep reviewing routines – step by step. Repetitions can be tiring but necessary. Toddlers have trouble controlling impulses. And so, you do not want your child to only understand the rules, but also to follow them.
On imposing ground rules, you do not need to be scary strict. Instead, make it fun. Find creative ways that make it easier for your child to accept the rules happily.
Staying on the Toddler Bed
It is typical for your young child to wake up earlier than you. So, what do they do? Some children crawl out of bed and go find you. Others wander around their bedroom looking for toys to play with – and possibly knocking other things.
If your toddler goes out of the bedroom, then you should consider installing a physical barrier. Yes, you can keep the door closed and locked, but that also means you cannot see what is going on inside the room. A baby gate is better suited during the early years. It sets a boundary, but you can see your child at a glance and quickly enter the bedroom in case of an emergency.
You will also need to spend a bit of time teaching numbers and reading the clock. The idea is to let your child understand when it is okay to get up or keep staying on the bed if it is too early.
But what if your child is too young to learn numbers?
If they get up too early, bring back to the bed – that’s it. If that happens enough number of times, your child is going to sort of understand eventually.
Your child, most likely, takes one nap during the day. Assuming that was never a problem on the crib, the move to a toddler may disrupt that pattern. For sure, the last thing you want to do is to force the issue. So, the best thing you can do is to allow your child to have quiet activities. Avoid noisy toys and electronic gadgets, which can be too stimulating.
If you keep on trying to get your child to take a nap at the same time daily, the regularity or consistency bodes well in achieving that goal.
Be Patient and Empathetic
Some children can handle changes, while others need time. As much as changing beds seems trivial, it can be a big deal. So, try not to be frustrated when your child is experiencing difficulties. It could take only a few days or a few weeks, but it will definitely get better.
During moments of anxiousness, you may find your child climbing up your bed or perhaps express a desire to return to the crib. You could indulge for a moment, making sure that your child feels taken care of, and still bring him/her back to the toddler bed. Also, offer encouraging words every time there is progress.
From Crib to Toddler Bed – A Fun Change
At 18 months old, your child can move to a toddler bed. Of course, it would be best to wait until the age of three. For us, adults, it is sometimes easy to dismiss changing beds as not a big deal. That is not the case with young kids. For them, it is a significant event that can be traumatic.
By taking the time to plan and prepare, it is possible to make the switch fun. Getting your child involved is one thing. More importantly, it is to make the whole experience super enjoyable. Remember, a happy child is a more relaxed you.