Somewhere between the ages of 2 and 3 ½ (though there’s no set age), your wee one is going to need to move from her crib to a bed. It’s a sticky time, for both you and your child. They’ll have new fears – and freedoms to wander. You’ll have new fears about their freedom to wander. It may be unchartered territory for you, but, as with every step of the parenting journey, many have done it before and you get to learn from their experiences. Here are 10 tricks for transitioning to a big kid bed.
#1 Make sure it’s the one major leap you’re focusing on.
Our little ones go through massive changes in a very brief amount of time and it can be very mentally and emotionally draining. (Think of it like moving to a new city, getting a new job, and meeting a new partner all at once.) You might be able to rise up to the challenge, but don’t expect your toddler to. If you’re potty-training, starting pre-school, preparing for a new sibling, or something similar – try to tackle one milestone at a time.
#2 Talk about it in advance.
A big change like this is definitely not something to spontaneously spring upon your child. Maybe your child has expressed wanting a big kid bed, or maybe not. Either way, at least 5-7 days before the transitioning start talking about it.
This is a BIG deal, and while it’s bound to include some bumps, prevent some by making it a very intentionally happy transition. Whether you go all out with a “Moving Out of the Crib” cake or keep it to emphatically positive talk, mark the milestone with plenty of excitement.
#4 Engage your child in the change.
“To mark the occasion and help your child feel excited about the change, let him choose new sheets and kid-friendly bedding, and encourage him to personalize the new bed with a few favorite stuffed animals,” write the experts on WhatToExpect.com. “If you decide on a toddler or twin bed, enlist your child’s help in picking it out.”
#5 Start with nap times.
“Every transition I’ve ever had to do has always been easiest when I started with nap times,” writes Nikki of MBA SAHM. “They’re so much more tired that they fall asleep way easier (and quicker) and I was always less likely to be tired on my own. This was no different. I started with nap times and before long, he was comfortable in his new bedroom, which made nighttime transitions much easier.”
#6 Maintain your routine.
Routines are imperative for smooth bedtimes and better sleep and that doesn’t change when your baby moves to a big bed. While there are many different but effective types of bedtime routines, researchers agree that the most important factor is that they are routine. In a 2009 study, researchers found that simply sticking to a routine led to children falling asleep faster and staying asleep longer. Added bonus: They also found that the mothers’ overall mood improved signiﬁcantly.
#7 Prepare for falls.
After rolling around safely in the confines of a crib, your toddler might inadvertently roll himself right out of his new bed. Place the bed snug against a wall and put pillows, layers of blankets, or couch cushions on the floor of the other side.
#8 Block the exit.
A new transition means testing new limits – like wandering off whenever one feels like it. Use a child gate or door knob protectors to keep your kiddo in her room.
#9 Introduce a transitional object.
Our Cloud b Sleep Advisor extraordinaire, Kim West (aka The Sleep Lady) has this sage advice:
Once you’ve made the decision to transition from a family bed into separate bed(room)s, you may want to introduce a lovey if you haven’t already: a blanket, or stuffed animal (be sure that there are no choking hazards like loose parts or button eyes) that can be introduced into the bedtime routine. Be sure that you make the lovey part of your day and give it some personality. The goal of a lovey (or transitional object) is to help soothe your baby and give him security when you aren’t there.
It may also be helpful to ‘wear’ the lovey so that it has your smell, which is calming for your baby. This will allow your baby to have a part of ‘you’ without you actually being there.
#10 Set up an award system.
Your toddler will almost certainly end up popping out of bed a bazillion times in the beginning, or asking for unending hugs and kisses and drinks of water. Put things on a positive path with a little positive reinforcement. So, while your child’s favorite thing to say might be “no,” you can pave the way to “yes” using our printable awards that encourage better sleep habits. Find the PDFs and guidelines here.