It's no surprise that if you are thinking about dropping the crib, that you are feeling anxious. The crib to bed transition is a big one. But, before you say Goodbye to your child's crib, I want you to be sure it really is the best time for your family. Keep reading. After You're done, I want you to feel more confident in your choice; whatever that is.
Common Reasons Parents Transition to a Toddler Bed Too Soon
Need the crib for a sibling?
If you need the crib for a sibling, look at buying used or refurbishing a crib. Ikea has cute, no frills baby cribs for around $100. No need to disrupt your toddlers sleep (and yours), because there may be other options.
Plus, your newborn will likely sleep in a co-sleeper bassinet or pack n play, meaning you won’t need the crib for at least another 2-3 months after baby is born.
Have a crib climber?
Think about troubleshooting your tiny ninja before ditching the crib.
If they aren’t in a sleep sack already, I would start using one. They have many benefits. They are a wearable blanket to keep them warm, and they also can prevent them from lifting a leg over the front of the crib.
Assess how you can discourage the climbing. Be sure the mattress is on the lowest setting, then, if needed, turn the crib around. The back of cribs typically are higher than the front. Your child is climbing out the front because that is where the door is. Turning it around can buy you some time. Talk to your child. Tell them it isn’t safe to crawl out and they could get very hurt. Catch them in the act and communicate that it’s not okay to try to climb out. "Stay in bed, please" can do the trick.
Check the schedule!
Always take this opportunity to ask yourself if your child is spending too much time in bed. Sleep needs continue to decline and at 2/3 years old, your child definitely is ready for more awake time. Typically, they need about 6 hours awake time before nap and 5.5 hours before asleep for the night. Increasing sleep pressure for them will discourage the crib shenanigans. It could be time to cut nap time way back or even stagger it throughout the week to increase sleep pressure at bedtime.
Child Sleep Needs Chart
If after reading through the yield signs above you are certain that it's time, follow these
5 steps when transitioning from a crib to toddler bed.
Step 1. Age
Pump the breaks before you take apart your child’s crib & stop and think it over. How old is your child? If they are younger than 3 years old, I encourage you to wait. There is so much development and maturity that is needed to grasp the concept of a big bed. Impulse control has a much better chance of forming and being in place when our kiddo’s are closer to 3 years old.
Step 2. Stage
Children go through so many ‘phases’. Taking apart their bed in hope of ‘fixing’ a sleep issue typically backfires. Maybe they are going through a stage of separation anxiety or they have a new sibling at home. Their crib can be a place of comfort and consistency when times are tough. Make sure your child is showing signs of readiness to move to a bed. i.e. asking for one, noticing their friends have a ‘big’ bed, are doing well with limits and boundaries during the day plus making good decisions.
Step 3. Routine
Toddlers and preschoolers need a routine even more so than babies. Young children thrive in a routine. The world and our busy lives can seem hectic and chaotic, so having a set of rituals each night that they learn to know and expect can be comforting. Bedtime is also a tricky time of day as it the end of the day and a long time of separation is coming up which can cue anxieties. Download my bedtime chart, print it off and hang it in your child’s room. The chart will help them take ownership of the routine, BUT don’t forget to also give them some choices! Pajamas, tooth brush and books are a good way to give your little one the power of choice.
Step 4. Communication
Get your kiddo involved in the big change. Get their input on what kind of sheets or new blanket they would like. Are you moving the bed? Where do they want it in the room?
Have them help you take the crib apart or take the side off. Explain what you are doing each step of the way. Explain that their door is the new boundary, and if they need you, to call out like they did before in their crib. I recommend making the crib to bed transition over the weekend (morning time) so they have several hours to process the change.
First night in a transitioned crib.
Step 5. Products & Design
This is a BIG one! You will need a couple things at this transition.
Visual chart. Not to be confused with a reward chart. A bedtime chart is simply a grouping of steps that takes your child from the beginning of the bedtime experience to the end. Download your own here! Print it out and place it at eye level in your child's room Appropriate for ages 2.5+.
Toddler clock. I personally think color clocks are an integral part to kid's success. It is another visual and thing to 'own' for them. Learn hard into the clock. If you have an early riser, start small and give lots of positive affirmations if they wait. Then, slowly move the time forward.
Weighted blanket. A new bed paired with big imaginations, can be a recipe for fears and anxieties. Did you ever think about how it helps YOU to put a pillow on your lap when getting comfortable, or how your bath robe makes your feel secure? The weight of something can really help your preschooler feel more secure in their new environment. I loved that we used Dreamland Baby's weighted blanket during this time, and my twins ask for it a few times a week when they need some extra comfort at bedtime.
Trying out their new weighted blanket
Minimal style room. This is especially important if your child struggles with sensory. Too much on the walls and/or toys and clutter in the room can interfere with their ability to sleep well. Less is more in this situation!
Neat & tidy rooms help kids relax
A few takeaways to keep in mind when transitioning to a toddler bed!
Don’t rush it. The older the child is, the smoother the change will be.
Check their schedule for any needed timing changes.
Convert to a toddler rail first, then move to a twin or full size bed a few months later.
Create new boundaries and do not waver on those. This is the prime age for boundary and limit testing!
I wish you very much luck during this fun, new time with your child. If you need a step by step coaching experience to help you transition, that's perfectly okay! Book your discovery call with me here.
Lindsay Loring is a certified pediatric sleep consultant and Owner of
Tweet Dreamzz Sleep Consulting.
Join her online community of parents here.