Transitioning from a crib to a bed is a significant step for both parents and toddlers. Determining the ideal time for this transition can be a puzzle. Thanks to Jessica from My Dreamy Sleeper, we’ll explore the best age to make the shift, signs that indicate readiness, bed options, expected behavior, and tips for a seamless transition all in this post. If you’re ready to educate yourself on how to have a seamless transition, keep on reading to learn more!
Is there an ideal age that is best to transition a child from a crib to a bed?
Jessica: I really like to encourage parents to hold off until the 3rd birthday. The move can be a big to-do tied in with birthday celebrations. The reason I like to wait until age 3 is because by then, most children can handle the freedom and independence that goes along with a big kid bed. Are there 2.5 year olds who can handle this move? Of course. Are there even 2 year olds who can handle it? Sure, but the younger your child is when transitioning them to a big kid bed, the bigger the gamble.
How do you know when your child is ready to transition from a crib to a bed?
Jessica: I would first make sure your child’s sleep is in a good place before moving them out of the crib. Making the move when sleep is already difficult thinking this move is the solution tends to lead to even more challenges unfortunately. Also, you know your child. Are they able to follow simple tasks or instructions? Are they capable of being a good listener? Are they pretty compliant in general? If you can answer yes to these questions, your child will probably do fine. I guess how you know it is NOT the right time is you make the move and your child just keeps popping out over and over and over and over and over. And the pop outs don’t stop. A lot of times this move can start out fine. There is a honeymoon phase where the child stays put and sleep is good. It might last a month or even 6 weeks, but then the first pop out happens. They realize their newfound freedom and then getting out of bed becomes their thing.
Do you recommend transitioning to a bed if the child is climbing out of their crib on their own?
Jessica: It depends! Obviously our child’s safety is most important, and we always want their sleeping environment to be a safe space for them. Climbing out and potentially falling is dangerous but so is roaming the house in the middle of the night. If they are 2.5 – 3 years old when the climbing happens, they may be fine to just move to a big kid bed. If they are closer to 2 (or younger), I would try to work on teaching them that climbing is not ok and try to keep them in their crib. If you don’t know how to do this, reach out! I have worked with many families of crib climbers where we were able to keep the child in their crib safely until they were older and could handle the big kid bed transition better.
Do you have any recommendations on what type of bed to transition a child to from a crib?
Jessica: I like all of your options! What I try to tell parents is to consider two things. 1. What do you already have that you could use for a bed, or what do you want to spend your money on right now? If converting the crib to a toddler bed works logistically and financially, then do that. If you already have a full size bed you’d like your child to use like I did, use what you have. Then 2. What would be best for your child? Do they tend to move around a lot in their sleep so a floor bed, larger bed, or one with rails would be beneficial? Does your child actually prefer more of a confined space? If so, perhaps the converted toddler bed is the way to go. Does your child struggle with change? If so, sticking to the converted toddler bed might be a good transitional bed right now, and then down the road they can move to a bigger one.
Are there any specific behaviors a parent should expect when a child transitions from a crib to a bed?
Jessica: The majority of the families I work with as infants or young toddlers, don’t have issues when moving to a bed. If sleep is in a good place and your child knows how to sleep independently, I would expect the transition to go smoothly. However, that is not always the case for parents. The most common behavior is the child not staying in bed. The pop outs occur at bedtime and in the night and it can be so exhausting for parents! So quite often parents resort to sitting or laying with the child to get them to stay put so they can fall asleep.
Do you have any tips for helping a child stay in their new bed?
Jessica: Consistency on the parent’s part is key. If your child gets out, walk them back to bed. Try to make this interaction very boring for the child so the pop out is not reinforced. Then continue to walk them back every. single. time. This is the hardest part because by this point in the night we are sooooo exhausted. Consistently walking your child back will reinforce to them that getting out of bed is not the behavior we want to see and eventually it should stop. Unfortunately though, this strategy does not work with all children and that’s where I come in! I help parents teach their child to stay in bed all night long so both child and parent can get a good night of sleep. So my best advice is to reach out for help if you need it. Although it is common for parents to have to sit with their child to fall asleep and it is common for a child to wake in the night, it doesn’t have to be your norm.
Do you have any more advice on how to transition a child from a crib to a bed?
Jessica: Before making the move to a bed, start using a Toddler Clock or Light that can act as a visual for your child. There are many on the market. You want one color that represents “sleepy” time and one color that means it’s wake up time or time to get out of bed. The most important thing about using a clock or light is you must follow the colors yourself. So if the light is still in the “sleepy” color and your child gets out of bed, they must be brought back. They can only get out and be up for the day if the light is in the awake setting. The great thing about using a tool like this, besides it being a visual for your child, is it becomes the “bad guy”. It’s the light’s fault that your child has to stay in bed, not Mom’s. I want to make this as easy as possible on you so anything we can use to take the blame away, let’s use it! If you start using the clock or light while your child is still in their crib, it’ll make for an easier transition once they move to their bed.