By Kathryn Peck
The bumpy road of parenthood is fraught with change. As soon as you get comfortable with one routine, your little ones change it up. Feeding schedules, swaddling and sleep habits—all are short-lived, I’m afraid.
The one coming up for me is the transition from a crib to toddler bed. I’m a mom of 4, and I’ve done this before, but like so many things in parenting, I just can’t remember how?
I’m a mom of 4, and I’ve done this before, but like so many things in parenting, I just can’t remember how?
Experts recommend that, in general, parents should make the change before their child can climb out of their crib and risk hurting themselves. For some toddlers, this can be as early as 18-24 months of age, but for non-climbers this might not happen until age 2 or 3. But there are other factors that might help you determine if your child is ready or not.
Has your child been asking about a “big kid” bed? Or is there another baby on the way? When my second baby was nearing her due date, we took the opportunity to transition my son to his toddler bed a few months before that. The new baby would need the crib, and I didn’t want any more change in the picture, aside from the sudden arrival of a new baby.
When my second baby was nearing her due date, we took the opportunity to transition my son to his toddler bed a few months before that.
Whatever the reason, you'll ideally want to do it at a time when there are no other significant changes going on. For instance, avoid making the move if your child is in the midst of potty training or starting a toddler program at a new school.
After deciding when to make the change, the next big question looming is: which toddler bed is best for us?
Some parents have success with simply using the crib mattress on the ground for starters. It certainly is the easiest route. And we took this approach when our second child was ready to move out of the crib.
Toddler beds are a great option, although not 100% necessary since they do make removable guardrails for regular beds. But they are low to the ground, which makes it easy for your child to get in and out, they fit a crib mattress, and they are super cute. Toddler beds getting great reviews include:
Perch Toddler Bed by Oeuf
Emma 3-in-1 Convertible Toddler Bed by Dream on Me
Toddler Shelter Bed by Pottery Barn
Perhaps a transition right to a twin bed is easiest, in which case you might want to consider removable guardrails along the side. Honestly, I gave up dealing with the logistics of rails and the straps that go under the mattress around my second or third child and my go-to has been the Shinnwa Bed Bumper, a soft memory foam bed bumper that simply slides in place underneath the fitted sheet.
It’s likely that having a consistent bedtime routine is something you’ve heard before, but it’s just as important as ever during this transitional time to stick to your routine. It will make your child feel more grounded and less scared by this change.
And finally, check for child safety issues throughout your house. If your toddler is free to roam, then make sure there are safety gates at the stairs and nightlights in the hallways.
And what happens if your child is having trouble staying in bed or resisting sleep? You’re right, you can’t fall back on the “cry it out” method now. So here are a few expert-recommended tactics that we’ve heard called the three P’s:
- Practice. Go through all the other steps of bedtime and your new sleep-training technique, have fun with it, and do this earlier in the day before your child is overtired from a long day. Consider trying out the new bed at nap times, first.
- Praise. If your child stays in bed for a few moments or longer, even in practice mode, be sure to praise their efforts. Positive reinforcement often goes a long way.
- Patience. Excuse yourself for a moment, then return. Perhaps again and again, but little by little you’ll stay out of the room longer. This, and everything else in parenthood, requires patience (and persistence, another p!).
This transition might not happen overnight, but like all other transitions you’ve been through, it will happen.
About the author: Kathryn is the owner of Bicycle Pie and mom of 4 little ones. Also a writer, editor, and former owner of one of Boston's premiere baby boutiques, she continues to write about motherhood, children's products, family life, and all other things that test our skills and patience as parents.
Photo credit: iStock.com/dragana991