Transitioning your child to a toddler bed is a big step, both for you and your little one. It is not a decision to take lightly and, I know, sometimes it is a rushed one or one that we make thinking that it will help solve current sleep issues.
Let's dive deep into how we can make this transition a success.
When should I make the crib to bed transition?
This is a very common question and I always respond the same way: Try to wait for as long as you can!
First of all, there is no safer environment to sleep in for your child than her crib. You have (almost) 100% control. There is nothing that he can get tangled with, or anything she can climb (about crib climbers we will talk later) and fall from, nothing he can open or anything sharp she can grab. I could imagine very few things more scary than a child roaming the house in the middle of the night without an adult's supervision.
Also, your child cannot really understand the concept of staying in bed to sleep until she is about 2,5 - 3 years old.
So, if your child is not climbing the crib or is not asking for a big bed, hold on and keep your little one in the crib for as long as you can.
But my child does not stop trying to climb out of the crib!
If your child is younger than 3 years old and she is consistently trying to escape the crib, then, my friend, you have to make the transition.
But, before you do it, you can try to elongate the time in the crib by experimenting with three different techniques that I always recommend my clients:
Turn the crib around, so that the back side is in the front. Only to be used if the back side is taller than the front
Lower the mattress to the floor. Only to be done if there are absolutely no gaps between the mattress and the crib rail
Use a sleep sack. The sleep sack puts a physical limit to your child opening her legs to climb
If you have tried all of these and your kid continues to escape, then do the transition.
How to make the transition
There are a few things you want to have in mind when you make this transition. This is a big deal for you, but it is a HUGE deal for your toddler. So do not surprise him. Prepare your child in advance and involve her in the whole process.
At this time, your child is craving responsibility and wants to have certain ownership, so take him with you and let him pick the sheets, the pillow, get her a new cuddle toy or even new big boy pijamas! Let her feel that she is a big girl and that you are so proud of her for becoming a young little lady! If your child is keen, have him help you build the bed and, once it is ready, practice! hope on the bed, lay down, cover yourself with the duvet/sheets and invite her to do the same. Make it look fun! And repeat this as many times as you need to. You know you have a toddler, and toddlers need things to be repeated to them a bazillion times until they click ;-)
But, when the day comes, I would recommend that you do not make a big deal of it, but rather treat it as the new normal. Do your bedtime routine as usual, finish getting ready to sleep and then get into bed. Night night, and off to sleep.
Finally, I do recommend that you do not make too many changes at the same time. If you have a little sibling coming soon (by soon I mean weeks, and not months), wait. If you have just moved, wait a month or two. If your little one has recently started school, wait.
Do not say "don't get out of bed!" before you leave. I guarantee you that the idea had not crossed your child's mind until you just said that
How do I keep my child in the bed?
Some kids will happily adapt to their new bed with any further question and some kids will quickly realize that "oooh cool, I can get out of bed now!"
I would just recommend that you acknowledge that "yes, you can now get out of bed by yourself" because there is no point in lying to your child. But let's introduce a new rule and that is that "coming out of the bed is only allowed to go potty or when mommy/daddy come to get you / when the light goes blue/green...". You decide what you want to do things at your house, but your child needs boundaries and this is a very important one.
If now your toddler is consistently visiting you at night or she is quick to tip toe out of her room as soon as you say good night and leave, then you have to train her. This process is very different from baby sleep training and may involve a lot of different tactics and some fun arts&crafts with your little one. You may also want to look into buying a toddler clock to help you with it.
If you need help sleep training your toddler, you can have a look at the toddler packages here . The process usually takes around 3-4 weeks and mainly consists of building your toddler's confidence and eliminating habits that no longer work for the family substituting them for habits that will be helpful long term.
What kind of bed should I choose for my toddler?
Honestly? Whatever works for your family. Do you want to get her a princess bed with tassels? go for it! Do you want to buy a bed that grows with your child? go for it! Do you have an extra bed laying around that you don't want to get rid off? go for it!
Children do not need a specific bed, and certainly do not need that their beds are their size. If you can use a nice mattress on a regular size bed frame you already have, don't go spending crazy money to just buy a new bed later on! But if this is what you want to do, by all means, do it!
What I want to have you thinking about is this: if your child is prone to escaping the crib, she may very well try to escape the bed. You may want to look into having that mattress off the floor so it is a little less inviting. Montessori beds are fun, cute and very Pinterest, but they may invite hell into your house. So think about it.
About the mattress, again, don't go crazy. Your child does not have the last model in the market! I say: try it! Would you sleep on it yourself? then it is good for your kid!
I sincerely hope that this blog helps you clear your head about this very important transition and milestone for your little one and your family.
Feel free to drop your question in the comments if you still have one! I am here to help!