The move from crib to bed is a big milestone. It provides new freedom for toddlers: if they don't want to be in bed, they can climb out! This also creates new challenges for parents. Every toddler is different, and some may feel less enthusiastic about the bed — or too enthusiastic — than others. Luckily, there are some tips that can help even the most reluctant child adjust more smoothly.
Most toddlers leave their cribs behind between the ages of one and three. Some signs that's it's time to start moving to a bed include
Some parents initially take the original mattress out of the crib and place it on the floor in the same place with the same bedding and crib toys as usual. This can be a helpful middle step between the crib and bed. Children who struggle with change may appreciate the familiarity.
A move or new pregnancy may feel like a natural time to change beds. However, trying to adjust to a new house or baby and a new bed all at once can be overwhelming for a toddler. It may be worth it to move the crib or get a second one for the new baby. If not, it's recommended to start the changes before. Introduce the new bed months in advance, if possible, and give the toddler time to process one big milestone at a time.
If there is enough space in the child's room for two beds, it may help to add the bed to the room while leaving the crib assembled. The child can still sleep in their crib at night, but perhaps they take naps or hear their bedtime story in the bed. Once the child is comfortable, remove the crib.
For particularly reluctant toddlers, having some say in their new sleeping arrangement might be helpful. The child may be allowed to choose between two or three suitable beds. They may be asked to consult on the color of the frame or the pattern on their new bedding. These small choices can make them feel more involved in the decision.
Just as with cribs, there are important safety concerns when moving a toddler to a new bed. The bed should not be too high from the floor or beneath a window. Guardrails should be fitted close to the mattress on all sides to prevent falling. A small, firm pillow is safe for children over the age of two.
It's recommended to put the bed in the same place as the crib for familiarity, but consider whether the new bed might be casting unfamiliar shadows that could be frightening. Will the child experience colder or warmer air than before? Has their view changed to include potentially scary or unfamiliar parts of their bedroom? Being aware of these things can help prevent discomfort or understand what a toddler could be reacting to if they're upset in the night.
Now that the child can get out of their bed at night, extra safety features may be needed in the home and bedroom. Check the room to ensure there's nothing a child could pull down on themself or swallow. A baby monitor or bell on the door can alert a parent when the child is leaving their bedroom. Baby gates for stairs and covers for outlets add extra protection.
A toddler may want to get out of bed and play or test the limits of their new sleeping arrangement. It's important during this time to strictly demonstrate the rules of the new bed. If they get out of bed, escort them back. A parent may need to do this several times a night for as long as it takes. Be consistent and praise them the next day when they do stay in their bed all night.
Regular bedtime routines can help kids feel safe and sleep easier. When a child is adjusting to a new bed, it can help if the rest of their bedtime activities are the same as usual. Reading the same stories, sleeping at the same time, doing the same nightly process of bathing and putting on pjs can reassure children that the rest of their life won't change just because they've moved into a bigger bed.
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