The idea of moving your little one out of their safe and confined crib and into a bed can be extremely daunting. There are certainly enough horror stories on the Internet about all the trouble toddlers can get into in their bedrooms, not to mention the possibility of them escaping their rooms altogether.
Here are some tips and tricks for making the transition as smooth as possible for you and your toddler. May the odds be ever in your favor.
Before you think about making the transition from a crib to a bed, you’ll want to make sure that you have a well-established bedtime routine that works for both you and your toddler. The more comfortable they are with going to bed and sleeping through the night already, the easier the transition will be for you, and that is the ultimate goal!
If you don’t yet have a routine in place, start working on that now. Establish a strict bedtime, and get into the habit of doing each piece of your routine every night, brushing teeth, reading them a story, turning on the night light, etc.
So you have a pretty perfect bedtime routine down and you think it’s about time to make the transition, but is your toddler ready? There are a few signs that it’s time to start thinking about a bed - if your toddler is climbing out of their crib is the main one (this can obviously be a safety hazard), if your toddler is seeming cramped and always getting their limbs stuck, and if they are starting to potty train and need to be able to get up in the night.
There are other reasons for wanting to move them of course, if they have a new sibling coming and you need the crib, or if something else is encouraging you, but to make this easier on everyone involved you want them to be physically and emotionally ready to make the switch!
Before you jump right into this project, it is always a good idea to do some preparation. Slowly start introducing the idea of a “big boy” or “big girl” bed. Start casually talking about it, you can read some books with your toddler about new beds, growing up, and big changes, and maybe show them some photos of different beds they could have.
If your toddler has an older sibling, this is a great way to introduce the conversation; “Look at brother’s bed, that’s the kind of bed you’re going to have soon because you’re a big girl!” etc... It may seem a little over the top, especially if you’re toddler is only 18 months or so, but they truly do understand more than we think they do!
Here is the fun part: you get to start shopping! Many people choose a toddler bed to transition to from a crib, but they tend to be a waste of money because they don’t last very long. They’re the same size as a crib, after all, they just don’t have jail bars! Unless a toddler bed is all that will fit in the room, a twin bed would give you much better value as they can use it all the way until they leave for college!
Picking out sheets and a comforter is probably even more fun then picking out the bed itself, and if you’re not too particular you could even have your toddler help! Take them on a special date and go shopping for bedding. This is another great way to encourage the conversation and help prepare them for the change.
Probably the most important part of the entire transition process is picking the perfect timing to make the switch. If your toddler is teething, isn’t feeling well, or has a very busy day and will be overtired when they are headed to bed, don’t make the switch on these days. Wait for the absolute perfect timing so that it can go as smoothly as possible.
For even easier timing, choose a night after they’ve gone for a sleepover with a family member. This means their bedtime routine is already a little wonky and you’re not trying to fix something that’s working perfectly.
Only make one change at a time. Don’t try to potty train, switch beds, and get rid of their pacifier all at once. Make one big change and let them settle in and get comfortable for at least six-eight weeks before taking on another huge transition. Their little brains are easily overwhelmed and they should be allowed to adjust to all the newness at their pace.
It’s best to plan backward if you have a time limit (like a new sibling coming and needing the crib) to make sure you allow a long enough adjustment period.
It may be tempting to give your toddler an entirely new big kid room with a new bed, new decor, etc. when you do the crib swap, but it’s actually better to just transition to the bed before you change everything else, or vice versa — change all the decor and then make the switch to the bed after they’re accustomed to it. This goes right along with only doing one change at a time.
Try to put their bed in the same spot their crib was in, keep the night light in the same location, use the same sound machine, anything you can keep the exact same will make them more comfortable in their new bed.
Before the first night in their bed, you’ll want to double-check that the room is baby-proofed. Now that they aren’t contained during their sleeping hours, even some of the best sleeping toddlers can get up and get into trouble!
Mount all the furniture to the wall, put covers in all the plugs, and be sure strings for blinds and cords for electronics are all hidden and out of reach. You may also want a child-proof knob cover on your doorknob, or a gate at their door or the top of the stairs. You will sleep better knowing that even if they get out of bed and you don’t hear them, they will be safe.
Your baby may spend their first night in their bed plotting an escape plan, so you will be grateful for having a plan in place in advance. If your baby gets up in the middle of the night, what are you going to do?
It’s recommended that you keep all the lights off, and make as little noise as possible so they don’t end up wide awake. Gently pick them up or take them by the hand and put them back into bed, quietly telling them it’s still bedtime and you’ll see them in the morning. Fingers crossed they’ll fall back to sleep easily enough.
Limiting temptation will help keep your kiddo in bed when you’re not supervising. Keep all toys, except their comfort item, in a playroom or living room so that they aren’t in their bedroom tempting them to get up.
Make sure any electronics like your baby monitor, sound machine, and night light are out of reach and not encouraging little hands to grab for them. If they think their room is “boring” they will be more likely to stay in bed.
Finally, get a few nights of good sleep, drink all the coffee, and summon some patience from every corner of your being. Some toddlers aren’t phased at all by the move, and just keep right to their usual sleep patterns, while others have a really hard time adjusting and may need a few nights worth of going back into the calm them, and then leaving again, over and over, until they fall asleep.
Don’t worry, no kids end up at college sleeping in a crib, so you’ll get there. Sending all the sleepy dust your way.