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Transitioning from Crib to Toddler Bed

Kathleen Roberts | 3, March 2008


Transitioning from Crib to Toddler Bed

Is your child ready to start transitioning from crib to toddler bed? If he is frequently climbing out of his crib or if he is 36 inches tall or more, it may be that time. This is a big moment for you and your child as he takes another step closer toward independence and you see your child growing up right before your eyes.

The Right Time

So, how do you know that it's the right time? Suddenly realizing that you have an escape artist is a good clue. Most children make the transition to a big kid bed somewhere between one and a half and three and a half years old. Usually when a child is about 36 inches tall she is considered big enough leave her crib behind. If she is big enough to climb out she can get hurt or get stuck dangling from the crib rail.

Another clue that your child is ready is if he has learned to use the toilet. He will appreciate being able to get up on his own during the night if he needs to. If he has to call for help, he may have an accident which is frustrating for you and for him.

There is no reason to rush your child to move to a toddler bed however. You can extend the use of her crib by lowering the mattress as low as it can go. Don't forget to remove the bumper pad as soon as your child starts climbing. Some parents like using a mesh crib tent to keep their child from escaping. However, this can also pose a danger because it can be difficult to remove in an emergency.

A New Baby

Maybe you feel that you have to move your child to a new bed because you have a new baby on the way. There are two ways to handle this situation. One is to start several months before the new baby is due to help you child adjust to a new bed.

It may not be a good idea to tell him that he needs to give his crib to the baby. He may end up resenting the baby for taking his things. Just allow him the excitement of getting something new and being a big kid without the pressure of having to grow up before the baby comes.

You could also consider allowing him to transition after the baby comes. Most likely the baby will start out sleeping in a bassinette anyhow. This will allow your older child a few more months in his crib. This is a good option if your child is very young and may not be emotionally ready to make such a big change.

Making the Change

When you are sure that you and your child are ready to make a change in beds, be sure to take it slow. There are many ways to do this and only you can decide which one is the best way for your child.

One option is to simply place the crib mattress on the floor. This way you won't have to worry about your child falling from her bed. Put the mattress in the same place as the crib was set up so everything will feel the same as it did before.

You can also try buying a toddler bed. This is a great option because you don't have to buy a new mattress; the crib mattress fits perfectly. Take your child along to pick out his new bed. There are many styles to choose from and he will love to pick out something fun. Let him select his own bedding as well. Make a big deal about this special event.

Once assembled, allow your child to use the same blankets that he used in his crib so he'll feel more secure. He might even want to pick a special stuffed animal or other toy to sleep with as well.

A final option is to get a twin or full sized bed. You can purchase guardrails for the sides to keep her from falling out. Once again, she should be allowed to use the same blankets from her crib. She will also enjoy picking out pretty new sheets for her big, new bed.

A Few Tips

Some parents have had success by setting up the new bed in their child's room a few months before the transition from the crib. Doing this allows your child to sleep in his big bed for naps but still gives him the security of his crib at bedtime. You can also give him the option of which bed he wants to sleep in at bedtime.

Other parents find that the best way to make the change is to take down the crib and put it away. This out of site out of mind method may work well for you as well. However, if your child still doesn't like her new bed after a few nights, allow her to go back to the crib until she is ready. This shouldn't be thought of as a punishment; it simply means that she isn't ready for a big bed yet. As with potty training, it doesn't need to be rushed. Once a child is ready, she'll spend the rest of her life in a grown up bed. A few months will not matter a bit.

Avoid making this transition if there are other major events going on in your child's life. A recent move or the arrival of a new brother or sister is stressful enough. Allow your child to deal with one stress at a time.

Make sure that you don't forget your child's normal bedtime routine. A bath, pajamas and a bedtime story will ease your child into bedtime. Children tend to respond well to routine and it may take some of the stress out of getting a new bed.

Nighttime Wandering

If your child takes advantage of his new found freedom to roam the house as you sleep, he may not be ready to be in a toddler bed just yet. He may also be having nightmares and can finally run to his parents' room for reassurance. This is something he may have had trouble doing when he slept in his crib.

Lovingly but firmly take your child back to his bed. Tuck him in and tell him it is time to go to bed. Some parents solve this issue by putting a baby gate across the doorway of their child's room. Others simply close the door. Either way, this too shall pass.

Just remember, as your child grows up she needs your guidance and reassurance. Even small achievements are big milestones to a very young child. Celebrate each accomplishment together and she will grow up with confidence.

Kathleen Roberts is a freelance writer and editor as well as the mother of five children. She writes about pregnancy, parenting, gardening and natural living. Kathleen enjoys spending as much time as she can in the outdoors with her family in the Florida Keys where she enjoys scuba diving, bicycling and anything else that will allow her to interact with nature.

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Showing 1 - 10 out of 31 Comments
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Kerri Nov 26, 2012 02:17:56 PM ET

My daughter is just over 10 months. She's started climbing a little bit and has almost gotten over the railing of her crib. She's tall for her age but I don't think her depth perception is quite good enough for a toddler bed. Any suggestions?

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Vicki Sep 8, 2012 06:54:19 PM ET

Our son is 20 months, he has been in a toddler bed for two months now, it takes us easily 45 plus minutes to get him down at nap time and bedtime. If we leave the room before he is asleep he screams, kicks the door, climbs on changing table, never goes to sleep so we have to go back in with him until he goes to sleep. He has is strong willed, any suggestions? PS we do the same nightime/nap routine but does not seem to help.

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Alicyn Aug 9, 2012 08:07:45 PM ET

My son has been in his toddler bed for almost 2 weeks. He has only fallen asleep in it once. Nap and bedtime he falls asleep in the corner of his room or by the door. He has rolled out of it 2 or 3 times. He is almost 19 months. Is it normal for them to not want to stay in their bed at first? We haven't converted his twin sister's crib to a toddler bed. I have been hesitant to since he doesn't seem to want to stay in his bed yet. I have thought about going back to the crib but am not sure. Anyone have any suggestions?

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Mrs.Jabro Mar 26, 2012 12:43:28 AM ET

My son isn't even a year yet and is 36 inches tall. Im afraid he ia going to fall out of his crib. Should we transition to a toddler bed?

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Amber Mar 15, 2012 05:42:39 AM ET

My daughter is almost 2 and has quickly and very easily transitioned to seeping in a twin bed at night. I was astonished at how simple it was, but she absolutely refuses to nap in the same bed. I spent 4 hours one day continuously putting her back in bed before giving up. She was cranky the rest of the day. If I put her in a crib she goes right to sleep, but I would really like her to make the full transition. Any ideas?

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jennii Mar 8, 2012 06:33:31 AM ET

Hey my son is nearly 17months old and have started the cot/bed transition 3 n half weeks ago. i loved him in the cot as he'd be asleep within minutes. 10-10.30am was his day sleeps.since being in a bed I've struggled to maintain his day sleeps.if he doesn't sleep by the time i get my other kids from school he will fall asleep in car and we end up with a very grumpy boy along with chaos after school lol.night time is easier but struggling with the play nappy change book bottle sleep is not working...even tried laying down with him but he fights..any other settling ideas...

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Stephanie Feb 20, 2012 10:03:41 PM ET

Tom: Routine, routine, routine. Create a 30-minute ritual before bed that you begin at the same time each night and put your son to bed at the same time, without fail. The ritual (for example, PJs, drink of warm milk, brush teeth, story, cuddle, bed) will help to "program" his body to expect sleep at the same time each night. Extremely helpful but not critical is a sunset/sunrise light. (The best are made by Lumi.) It's a full-spectrum sunlight simulator that goes through a 30-minute sunset when you tell it to. It starts off bright as noon on a summer day, and slowly and gradually fades from a warm yellow to orange and finally dull red before going completely black. We use one every night and it puts me to sleep as well as my daughter! We've never had a single problem with bedtime. (The wake-up/sunrise function is also brilliant. It wakes her up at the same time each morning. Babies wake up numerous times during the night, but when my daughter wakes in the night she knows it is night and settles herself back to sleep on her own. The day begins when the light comes on.)

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Tom Feb 20, 2012 02:10:30 AM ET

Son is 2 years, 3 mos. He can climb out of his crib. With that in mind we decided to covert his crib to a toddler bed.(its designed to do it.) So now he is screaming his head head off and wants to get up and play. While my wife sits with him telling him its time for bed. Any suggestions.

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cecelia Feb 5, 2012 12:39:24 AM ET

My son is almost 20 months, and has been trying to climb out of his crib, while doing so he gets his leg stuck. so for safty reason I just bought him a toddler bed. it seems to be going ok, except my family seems to think I changed to fast. they say im making him grow up to fast.

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sd Jan 12, 2012 06:10:01 AM ET

Jo, if your husband is emotional and upset about your last baby growing up, you should comfort him... i would suggest to him that her not sleeping in her cot means she will not be coming to your bed, this could be a good thing for you and your husband to enjoy! we all grow up someday, but just knowing that you had everything to do with her becoming the responsible and confident person you hope she will be, should make you feel good about the little things you do while she is young... chidren may grow fast in age but if you dont do these small things now, she wont grow to be mature and confident in things she does alone later in life...there are alot of things to look forward to in life for your baby. all the good times to come should be motivation for your husband to let her grow up, her first day at school, protecting her when it comes to boys, high school graduation, looking for the perfect collage, her wedding day, your grandchildren!!! all these things are blessings:) dont feel bad for giving your baby the things she needs( responsability, confidence, independence, tough love) keep doing what you are doing, he will come around...

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