Moving to a Big-Kid Bed: Is it Time?
Each child is different so they won’t all be ready for a big-kid bed at the same time, but parents always wonder, should I do it? Why or why not? When is the ideal time to do it? Should I use a toddler bed in between or go to a twin bed? How can I make this transition easier on everybody?
Is Your Toddler Ready?
Obviously, at some point, you will need to transition your baby out of his or her crib. For most children, the first sign of readiness is being able to climb out of the crib. This poses a serious health risk, considering the height of the rails—although some children won’t climb out at all.
“Most toddlers have the ability to hop over the crib rail when they are about 35 inches tall and between 18 and 24 months of age” (Parents.com). It’s quite alright for your child to sleep in a crib up until to age 3. It’s all a matter of whether or not your child is ready.
Another reason for making the switch is the impending arrival of a new baby, who will obviously need a place to sleep! It should be emphasized, though, that transitioning out of the crib should have more to do with your child’s readiness than needing the crib. Moving a child out of his or her crib before he or she is ready can make bedtime a nightmare on top of an already stressful time.
It is interesting to note that first-born children are often resistant to the change (depending on their age in relation to the next child coming up).
Toddler Bed versus Twin Bed
Another question parents often ask is whether to use a toddler bed or go straight to a normal twin bed. It’s really a matter of preference. There is no right or wrong answer here.
The toddler bed has the advantage of being able to use a crib mattress, which is probably still an okay size for your child. This can actually ease the transition out of the crib because the toddler bed ultimately feels the same – you can use the same sheets, too. It’s familiar. Most toddler beds offer the convenience of built-in bed rails to keep your child from rolling out of bed until they get used to the boundaries. Another advantage is their size. Structurally, the toddler bed takes up less room than a twin-sized bed. It is also closer to the floor, so if your child does roll out of bed, they don’t have far to go.
Transitioning to a twin bed is another viable option parents have. Some parents prefer to skip over the in-between-toddler-bed step, although some children may feel a little too overwhelmed with the size. Since twin beds do not come with bed rails, you will need to get some. It’s probably best to go with a Mate’s or Captain’s style bed, as these types of beds don’t require a box spring, which means your child is not that much higher off the ground than the lowest mattress setting on the crib or toddler bed. Some even suggest not getting a twin bed frame at all, but rather placing the mattress (minus box spring) directly on the floor.
There are even some beds that transition from a crib to a toddler to a twin or from a toddler bed to a twin.
Again, there’s no real right or wrong answer—it’s all just personal preference. I went with a toddler bed for my two boys – a Hot Wheels one for my older son and a Cars themed bed for my younger one. I enjoyed the fun theme of these beds and I know it helped create excitement and use of the beds by my sons. In the second instance, limited space and readiness also played a role in my decision. I knew he was ready for a bed, but wasn’t sure how he’d handle a full normal bed. Plus, I knew his favorite movie characters would help to entice him out of the comfort of the crib, and embrace this new step.
Tips for Transitioning from Crib to Bed
Of course, without the crib rails, I soon had a little Jack-in-the-Box who required “re-setting” and re-settling”. Let’s look at a few tips for easing this transition from crib to bed.
1) Be aware and sensitive to the amount of changes going on in your toddler’s life. There is always stress involved when taking new steps and resetting boundaries. Some children respond differently to stress than others. If part of this transition is the introduction of a new baby, that adds another dimension of the first-born child realizing that his bed is going to be given to someone else. If there are too many changes happening at once, it may be better to wait a bit so your child is not overwhelmed.
2) Talk the transition up to him or her. Don’t just spring it on him. Read books about it.
3) If there is a new baby on the way, allow 6 to 8 weeks before your due date to allow your child to get used to sleeping comfortably in his new bed. In conjunction with tip #1 relating to stress, consider using a bassinet for the newborn for the first few months before making the switch for your older child.
4) Take your child out with you to pick out the bed and the bedding. Like everyone else, kids like to feel like they have a little bit of control in the continually changing world around them. This will help them take ownership of their bed and bedtime and, hopefully, help make them want to go to bed.
5) Put the new bed where the crib used to be, if you can, and with the head and foot of the bed in the same place as the crib was. This way, at least the location and direction are the same as what your child is already used to. Reconfiguring his room and his bed can be completely disorienting and may make the transition more difficult for them to adjust to.
6) Be willing and flexible to ease into using the new bed. If your child is particularly resistant, try suggesting having naps in it. Let him or her have a few naps in the bed before suggesting and encouraging night time sleeping in it.
7) Reinforce bedtime routine and bedtime rules. Keep your bath-book-bed routine the same. Every time your child jumps out of bed, calmly walk them back to his bed and reinforce that’s where they should stay and that they needs to go to sleep. It is important to not look on this behavior as disobedience. Your child is not deliberately choosing to ignore your instructions. They’re just simply testing their boundaries and wanting to explore this new freedom. Part of growing up means teaching your child where the boundaries are—this includes when it is time for the playing to stop and the sleeping to begin. In these back-to-bed sessions, do not interact too much with your child. Too much attention will only encourage these episodes.
“If you find that you’ve made the switch too soon and your toddler is upset, don’t give up right away. Encourage your child to try out the bed. If he’s still distraught after a few days, bring the crib back. Some toddlers simply aren’t ready for a bed…sometimes it’s worth taking a step back…and trying again later. Just be sure you don’t present the reappearance of the crib as a step backward in development or a punishment.” (Babycenter.com)
Darlene Oakley is a freelance writer for Empowher.com
When is Your Child Ready? Broadwell, Laura. Parents.com. Web. July 19, 2012.
How and when should I move my child from a crib to a bed? Lin-Dyken, Deborah. Babycenter.com. Web. July 19, 2012.
Switching from Crib to Bed. WhattoExpect.com. Web. July 19, 2012.
Making the Move to a Toddler Bed. WhattoExpect.com. Web. July 19, 2012.
Safety Tips for Sleeping Babies. Scholten, Amy
Babies’ sleep problems persist into toddler years.
The Top Ten Baby Products. Schade, Susan.