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How to Ease the Transition from Crib to Bed

mother playing with two-year-old son in his new bed
Alena Ozerova/Shutterstock

Moving your little one from a crib to a bed is a big step, for both you and your child. It’s not hard to get a child excited about trying a “big-kid” bed, but some little ones may miss the comfort of their old surroundings.

You know your child best, so you may already have an idea of how they’ll react emotionally. However, don’t be surprised if they are less than enthusiastic when you thought they’d be excited, or less upset when you anticipated a melt-down. Emotions can make even our mini-humans react unexpectedly.

What’s the Right Age for a “Big Kid” Bed?

There’s no “right” age for moving a child from a crib to a bed. It’s become common practice to transition sometime between the ages of two and four, but it’s okay to wait a little longer.

As with most things in the parenting world, you’ll have a much easier time of things if you wait for your child to express interest first. If your kid has talked about a regular bed or repeatedly climbs out of the crib, these may be signs it’s time to consider taking the next step.

As parents, it’s easy to feel pressured into making significant milestones, but each child is different, so make sure you are both ready.

Taking the Plunge

If you’ve decided that you’re ready to go all in, there are a few things you can do to make this change as smooth as possible.

  • Avoid too many transitions: You’ve probably noticed that kids have a relatively small limit to how much change they can handle at once. To reduce the chances of melt-downs, avoid moving your little one from a crib to a bed during other major transitions (like moving or potty training). Not only will this make it easier for your little one, but you’ll also save yourself a few early gray hairs!
  • Let your child decide: This may not be easy if you’re expecting another child and you need the crib for your new bundle of joy. However, if you can, give your little one the information (show them cool bed sets, talk about how much you love your bed, and so on), and then let them tell you when they’re interested. There’s an adage that applies well here: Don’t wake a sleeping dragon. If your tot is zonked out all night long and they seem happy in the crib, enjoy your respite for as long as possible!
  • Do a practice run: Before popping your toddler from a crib to a toddler bed, consider taking the mattress out of the crib and laying it on the floor. You avoid accidental falls from the bed, and your little one can see what it feels like to sleep outside of the bars. Once you do move them up into a toddler bed, one with rails protects against falls too.
  • Keep them happy: Make sure their favorite blanket and a favorite stuffed animal is handy. You may even consider using the same bedding until your child is more comfortable in their new bed and wants to pick out a brand-new blanket and pillow. A nightlight might also help your little one feel a bit more comfortable.
  • Safety first: Kids will be kids. You may need to keep up a child gate for a little while to make sure your little ones don’t go wandering around the house at night. The freedom to explore can be quite exciting for the recently liberated.
  • Keep the bedtime routine the same: Make sure your little one knows that the same rules apply to bedtime as they always have. A routine will make the transition easier for them, and you. You may have to return your child to their bed a few times each night for a few days. Stay firm (but compassionate).
  • But don’t be afraid to introduce a new bedtime tradition: Making the transition to a new bed also comes at the age where kids might be ready to move from looking at picture books to being read a proper bedtime story or even just talking about their day for a few minutes.

Switching to a big-kid bed is an exciting milestone for little ones! It can be intimidating and even a bit sad for both parent and child, but with some planning and an extra dose of patience, your little one will adjust to the new sleeping arrangements.

Angela Brown Angela Brown
Angela has 14 years of writing and editing experience, including as a reporter and copy editor for two newspapers. Angela has a Bachelor's in communication with minors in creative and technical writing from BYU-Idaho. She works closely with real-estate and financial industry clients. Read Full Bio »

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