Transition to Bed

Jill Bertelsen
It can be scary to hear a thud and to know that your toddler just fell out of their crib. Many parents struggle with their toddler because they are either climbing out of their crib, or constantly getting out of bed. This leaves parents asking “When is the ideal age to have their child move from the crib to the bed? How can I help my little one be safe? What can I do to get peace of mind during the crib to bed transition? And what do I do to help my child settle in to this new change?

This transition can be an exciting time because it is a milestone showing your child is no longer a baby in a crib. But this time can also be a chaotic one if they are moved too early or the child does not take the transition well. It leaves them taking this new freedom to play with toys, bother siblings, or climbing into bed with you.

On average the best time to move a toddler from a crib to a bed is around 2.5-3 years old. For many parents this seems really old because they start climbing out of their crib way before this. When they climb out we take it as a sign that our child can no longer stay in the crib. But this does not have to be the case. One suggestion to keep your child in their crib longer is getting like a crib tent, or putting cushions around the crib, or even laying your child in a pack and play because there is netting and it is harder for your little gymnast to crawl out.

When you’re able to wait until about 2.5-3 years old, children are more cognitively aware of what it means to stay in bed all night long. Otherwise you may battle many nights of your child getting up to play in their room, going into your room, or just going and getting a snack. Constantly putting them back on the mattress and them getting up time and time again.

When they are a little bit older you can make the crib to bed transition go much smoother. One suggestion is to make moving to a bed a really exciting “milestone.” You can do this by having them help you pick out the sheets, buy a new pillow, and/or put the bed in their room for a night or two before they sleep in their bed so they can see it and get excited. The point is to try to make it an event, something to look forward to.

A day before the big move day, try holding a family meeting and talk about how great things come with great responsibility and the expectations of staying in bed all night long are still in force. This will set the stage because you acknowledged it beforehand you can help them to remind you of the rules during the bedtime routine. Your child can get excited and feel like they are moving into a milestone and the transition can go much easier.

But let’s say that you moved your child into a bed already and it’s not going well. And you are not wanting to get the crib back out and put your toddler in it again. Just be aware that you may endure many months of walking your toddler back to their bed because they get out. Transitioning back to the crib or pack and play is not a step backwards, it is just recognizing your child’s level of understanding and adjusting your expectations to meet it.

Our job as parents is to guide our children to become happy and healthy adults. Developmental and social milestones are a key part of realizing that goal. Check out the Sleep Coaching 101 class more tools on all things children’s sleep.