Guide for How to Transition to Toddler Bed

Moving your child into a toddler bed is a big step for you and them. As a parent, it is difficult to know when to switch from crib to toddler bed. Finding a balance between your child’s readiness and your emotional attachment to their crib can make it harder. 

Toddler’s do not make the transition any easier since they are often very stubborn and tend to not know what they want. In this guide, we will cover when and how to start transitioning your toddler out of their crib. 

Transition to Toddler Bed

How Do You Know When Your Toddler is Ready for a Toddler Bed?

Little ones may be ready for transitioning to a toddler bed starting at 18 months. If you are struggling with when to transition to a toddler bed, look for signs that your toddler is ready. Indicators may be:

  • Showing interest in sleeping in a bed as opposed to the crib
  • Wanting to do everything an older sibling does, including sleep in a big kid bed
  • Has friends or playmates who sleep in toddler beds and is aware enough to know the difference between the two
  • Has outgrown their crib
  • Begins to climb out of their crib at nap or at night time

The American Academy of Pediatrics states that children should transition into a larger bed when they reach 35 inches tall or if the railing is at chest height or lower. Generally, children begin to transition to a toddler bed between 2 and 4-years-old based on their readiness. 

Several studies have been done within the last couple of years, showing that toddlers transition better at 3-years-old. It has been demonstrated that 3-year-olds have better cognitive development and therefore understand why they need to sleep in the bed. 

You may need to transition your child into a toddler bed because you are prepping for your next child. If you’re going to have the new baby sleep in the crib upon arrival, you will want to start the transition early on in your pregnancy to ensure your toddler is sleeping soundly through the night, so you do not have to be up at night with two children. 

Choosing a Toddler Bed

Once you have determined that your child is ready to transition into a toddler bed, then it is time to choose a bed for them to sleep on. There are a couple of different options for you to consider when it comes to a toddler bed. 

Convertible Crib

If your crib converts to a toddler bed, then it will be an easier transition. Most sets will have a crib to toddler bed conversion kit that makes it simple to change it over. It will come with all the necessary hardware needed to make the switch. 

The crib face comes off, and the toddler rail goes on. The rail makes it easy for your child to get in and out of their bed but prevents them from accidentally rolling out while they are sleeping. 

The nice thing about transitioning their crib to a toddler bed is that they are already familiar with the space. 

The only new piece is they have the freedom to get in and out on their own, but it is still the bed they are used to sleeping in. For toddlers, familiarity can be beneficial in changing part of a routine.

Crib and toddler bed combos can save you money in the long run since you can use the same piece from the time your child is born until they are adults. Especially since many of the convertible cribs ultimately turn into a day bed or a full-size bed.

Toddler Bed

If your crib does not have the option to convert into a toddler bed, many styles of toddler beds are available for purchase. The nice thing about toddler beds is they fit a crib mattress and usually come with side rails. This way, you do not need to purchase those items separately. 

Toddler beds come in many different styles and colors, so you are bound to find something your little one will love. Many popular movies have beds styled after their characters making kids excited to hop in and snuggle down with their favorites. 

However, there is a weight limit of 50 pounds for toddler beds, limiting how long your child can sleep in a toddler bed. Your little one will eventually outgrow it, and you will need to transition them into a bigger bed. 

Since many toddler beds use crib mattresses, it is also more difficult for you to snuggle with your child if needed. Toddler beds are low to the ground, so if your child finds a way to roll or bounce out of bed, there is not far for them to go. Toddler beds are also reasonably affordable ranging, anywhere from $50 to around $250. 

Toddler beds are not meant to last forever since toddler beds have an age and size limit. If you choose to go this route, make sure you look for a design that will last you until you are ready to move your toddler up to a big kid bed. 

Mattress on Floor

If you want to skip the toddler bed experience, you can go straight to a twin size mattress. A regular bed will last your child many years without you having to purchase another one, likely until they are teens. 

Putting the mattress on the floor for the first couple of weeks can help you successfully transition your child into their new sleeping arrangement. This way, they are close to the ground, and it is a similar feel to being in their crib, without the sides. 

After this transition period of a couple of weeks, you can put the mattress up on a box spring and frame. If you are concerned about them falling out of the twin mattress, you can pick up a set of toddler rails from Walmart, Target, Amazon, or a baby store like Buybuy Baby.

If your toddler frequently moves throughout the night, having mesh sides attached to the mattress will keep them secure and reduce their risk of falling out of bed. The mesh sides will also be more comfortable than wooden or metal rails if they are continually rolling into them. 

Toddler Bed Safety

Just like when your child was sleeping in a crib, there are some safety concerns to address with a toddler bed. If you choose to have your child sleep in an actual toddler bed, you want to make sure: 

  • Your current crib mattress fits within the frame without any gaps.
  • The toddler bed is sturdy and will hold up to toddler play.
  • That it comes with rails, so your little won’t accidentally fall out or has a spot for sides to be attached.
  • The edges and corners are smooth and free of any spots your child can scratch themselves.
  • The bed is certified by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association, meeting current safety standards.

If you choose to go straight to the mattress with rails added on, ensure the sides are firmly attached with zero gaps. If there are gaps between the mattress and the toddler rail, your child may roll in between and get stuck. 

You will also want to pick a sturdy frame free of sharp edges and with the appropriate weight limits. When it comes to bedding for your toddler’s new mattress, keep it simple. You do not want to add a lot of pillows and bedding just yet. 

How to Make the Transition

If you have determined that your child is showing signs of readiness, you may wonder how to introduce the topic to them. You can use many techniques to ensure changing from a crib to a bed goes smoothly, allowing you to avoid making the toddler bed transition a nightmare. Here are a few of the ways you can prepare your child.

Read all about it

Toddlers learn so much through watching others and seeing examples. Transitioning to a toddler bed is no exception. A great way to talk about sleeping in a toddler bed with your little one is to read books on the topic. A few books are: 

Hearing about other toddlers who have switched to big kid beds just like they are will make your little one more comfortable with the process. It also gives them a visual, which can help increase their level of understanding. 

Make sure the time is right 

Timing is everything. If significant changes are going on already in your child’s life, adding another big change is not the best idea. Some people go by the theory of, what’s one more thing? Don’t be tempted to get milestones out of the way all at once. Toddlers do not respond well to too many things shifting all at once. Avoid transitioning to a toddler bed if you are:

  • Moving
  • Going on Vacation
  • Currently potty training
  • Having sleeping difficulties
  • Starting a new school
  • Bringing home a new sibling

While there can never really be perfect timing, choosing a time frame with the least amount of added stressors will increase your chances of success. 

Get your child involved

To get your child’s buy-in, include them in the process of choosing their new toddler bed. Looking at the options and picking out something that speaks to them will get them excited about the change. 

If you have a convertible crib, pick out some new crib sheets or a new blanket to go on their toddler bed to increase their level of excitement. Also, getting them a new special stuffed animal to snuggle in their big kid bed can help.  

Re-check Child-Proofing in House

Even though your house is thoroughly childproofed at this point, double-checking everything with a toddler in mind won’t hurt. When you childproofed the first time, it was with a baby in mind. Toddlers can get into a lot of trouble with regular items. Things to take a look at are: 

  • Curtains- Can your toddler pull them down?
  • Dressers- Is their dresser secure, or can it tip over? 
  • Toys- Are there toys with smaller pieces within reach?
  • Windows- Are they locked and out of reach? 
  • Kid chairs- Can they use them to climb on and tip over? 

If you have a climber on your hands, you may want to look at their room and assess anything they can use to climb on. You may want to remove these items from their room, for the time being, allowing your child to adjust to freely roaming around their room. 

Stick to a bedtime routine

Consistency is key. Since where your child is sleeping is changing, the rest of their bedtime structure must stay the same. Children find comfort in routines and will make the new bed seem like less of a big deal. 

Ensure your child has all the creature comforts like blankets, pillows, or stuffed animals to snuggle with in their new bed to make it similar to their crib. 

Ok, to wake clock 

For toddlers who need a visual of when it is okay to leave their rooms, sleep clocks can be useful. These clocks change colors to let your child know when it is appropriate to come out of their rooms. Some models also have sleep sounds and soothing music built-in. Some models to consider are: 

Sleep clocks can also take some of the pressure off of you as the parent. If it is not time for your child to come out yet, you can blame it on the clock. Since the clock is an inanimate object, it takes some of the emotion out of the situation, and your toddler may react better to the news. 

Patience

Toddlers find new ways to test our patience on the most simple of tasks. Changes in routine can come with even more significant pushback from your little one. Keep in mind that the calmer you are about enacting the changes, the more receptive your little one will be to moving to their toddler bed. 

Be firm with them and stay consistent no matter how many times you have to put them back to bed. If you have a clear set of expectations, your child will realize what is expected of them and follow those guidelines. If you have a particularly stubborn little one, you can try placing a baby gate in front of their door until they fall asleep and remove it before you go to bed. 

Praise

Rewards and positivity go a long way with toddlers. Praise is shown to reinforce the behaviors you want. If your child knows that they have done an excellent job, then the routine will stick faster. You can use a sticker chart or a tally chart with a prize at the end of a successful week to aid in this. 

Frequently Asked Questions for How to Transition to Toddler Bed

Here is a selection of frequently asked questions and their answers to give you some additional insight into making a smoother transition to a toddler bed. 

How long does it take to transition to a toddler bed?

Habits can take anywhere from 18 days to 254 days to form. Thankfully children have an easier time developing new habits. Most will adjust to their toddler bed within two-to-four weeks. However, like with most baby milestones, this can vary from child to child. 

Some children will take to their new beds immediately, while others will spend weeks fighting the transition. The important thing is to be consistent and patient. Your child will eventually grow to understand that their toddler bed is where they need to sleep and will stay there. 

Should you transition to a toddler bed or potty train first?

According to Unity Point Health, it is best to transition to sleeping in a toddler bed after your child is potty trained. They must be able to successfully use the restroom on their own. 

If your child is not potty trained and they need to be moved into a toddler bed, wait until they are comfortable sleeping in their new bed. Introducing two significant changes at the same time can be too much for a toddler. When too much changes all at once, it can cause your child to regress. If your child regresses, then you will not make any progress with either milestone. 

What happens to the nap and bedtime routine? 

While you are transitioning to a toddler bed, it is essential that you keep a consistent nap and bedtime routine. Kids love habits and routines. Keeping this portion of bedtime consistent is vital to the success of transitioning them into their toddler bed. 

Keep the order the same as well. If you currently do a routine of bath, brush teeth, and follow it up with reading a book and snuggling, ensure that you keep things in that order. Make sure you keep all of their comfort pieces, like lovies or blankets, the same. 

What do I do if my toddler climbs out of bed?

As your child gets bigger, make sure their crib mattress is on its lowest setting to prevent them from attempting to climb out. If your child is frequently climbing out of their bed, it is likely time to move them into a toddler bed for their own safety. Falling is not the only risk when your little one decides to be a crib escape artist. In the process of climbing, they can slip and fall, getting their legs or arms caught in the slats. It can lead to fracturing or even breaking an arm or a leg if they get stuck.

Even if they do not break anything, they can pull or strain a muscle, leading them to not want to use that appendage for some time. If you are at that point, it is best to put them into a toddler bed to prevent injuries or bad memories. 

Should you lock your toddler in their room?

Locking your child in their room is never a good idea. However, as part of the bedtime routine, you can shut their door. Merely having the door closed provides boundaries for your child, and they will think twice about opening it to come out. 

If the door is left open, they will see it as a free pass to move in and out of their room whenever they want. You want to establish scenarios, so your child will know when it is okay for them to go in and out of their room—times like in the morning or if they need to use the restroom. 

What if you need the crib for another baby? 

Transitions from a crib to a toddler bed may happen sooner if you are going to need the bed for a new baby. Be sure to allow yourself plenty of time for your toddler to get used to the new routine before the baby comes. Baby’s arrival will bring a lot of changes for your toddler. You will not want to be working through a milestone transition while your child is adjusting to the presence of a new sibling. 

If your child attends a preschool or daycare, see if they can use a cot or a bed for nap time to help with the transition. 

Final Thoughts

Transitioning your little one to their toddler bed may come with many tears from both of you. In the end, they will be much more comfortable and happier once they get the hang of sleeping outside their crib. Be positive and patient with your child. Make sure you look at the signs of readiness before you begin, as that will make the process easier.

Looking for more tips for your little one? Head over to our Ages and Phases Section to see more topics.

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