Getting Your Toddler into His Very Own Big Kid Bed

The day comes for all parents when your baby is no longer a baby and is ready to move out of his crib and into his very own toddler or big kid bed. But when and how should parents go about making the momentous change for their little one?

big kid bed
Image via Flickr/ no film

Dr. Jack Maypole, advisor to The Goddard School and pediatrician for medically complex children at Boston Medical Center says that there is not a lot of scientific literature supporting when the ideal time is to transition your infant or toddler from a crib to a big kid bed. But, generally speaking, children are ready sometime between 18 months to three years of age. 

How will you know when your child is ready?  

For some families, the fact that their toddler is consistently climbing out of the crib, regardless of attempts to limit that behavior, may require a new approach. For other children in this age group, they may not be escaping their cribs but may be motivated and quite verbal about their desire to sleep in a new bed. This desire may stem from seeing an older sibling or other friends who are doing this, or just plain curiosity. For the two-year-old who is interested, it is reasonable to give it a go. 

For this approach, switch the crib to “toddler bed mode” by lowering the mattress to the lowest level and taking off the side gate. Then see how the child reacts. As you might imagine, this is probably a process not tried spontaneously and/or right at bedtime. In fact, the more a family can preserve the elements of a bedtime routine (bath, chill time, story time, etc.), the more likely they are to see success. Preparation and including the child in the process can help, including reading some books on the topic, or going to a store and looking at possible bedding options or ideas.   

For some families, they might even try the cot approach and put the crib mattress (or a futon) on the floor, with appropriate bedding. The low altitude may make the new sleep surface less intimidating and allow for easy entry and exit without the fear of falling off.

For other families, this may be a time to consider a toddler bed or even a standard twin size bed. Toddler beds are nice, but they can be pricey. They are not essential, in Dr. Maypole's opinion.  

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Lastly, make it joyful! The transition to a new bed can be a happy time of celebration and progress, and toddlers especially delight in observations of their accomplishments. (“Yay me!”) For that reason, it is okay to work on a calendar together for Big Kid Bed Day and to festoon the new sleep surface with comfort and security-type objects. And, as always, keep this area screen-free!

As a parent, I've found success with making my children's first big kid bed truly their own. As Dr. Maypole advised, we skipped the toddler bed and instead opted for a higher quality twin that my little one could sleep in for years. We opted for a Zotto because it's a memory-foam mattress that also provides temperature regulation – plus it can be mail ordered. Comfy and kid-friendly pillows are also a great choice. When my older kids started sneaking my Pillow of Health off my bed at night I knew a kids' version in my toddler's favorite color was a great way to help make his new big-boy bed inviting.

Another way to save money is to get a comforter that is not specifically for little kids. I let my toddler have some say in his comforter choice, going with the Lacoste Zonda that is a kid-friendly style that will grow with him when he transforms from a toddler into a big kid and even a tween. We also got him a coverlet for warmer nights when he still wants to feel cozy but without the bulk of a full comforter and that can act as an extra layer on cold nights.  

Then, with all of these things in place, celebrate the little one who has made it Big Time for Bedtime.  

How did you help your big kid get ready for a big kid bed?

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Getting Your Toddler into His Very Own Big Kid Bed

Jamie is a Beltway Insider who loves channeling her pre-motherhood love of traveling into spending time exploring all D.C. has to offer with her brood of two girls and two boys ages 9, 7,5, and a baby. She is a reformed lawyer turned full-time kid wrangler who enjoys photographing her everyday chaos and anything salted caramel. Since life is never dull, she loves writing about the issues and events going on in her life at any given time, including caring for a daughter with special needs and th ... More

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