Is your child ready for a ‘big kid bed?’

Young child sitting on their floor bed about to stand up.

Two-year-olds are notorious climbers, and some of them see almost any structure as an opportunity, especially their crib. Others are completely content to stay in their crib well into their threes. There are signs your child may be ready to transition to a bed, but it’s really up to you to decide. There is no reason to rush it if you and your child are content where they are. 

That being said, there are circumstances that can force your hand: maybe your child is newly potty trained and wants to get up at night to use the bathroom, or a new sibling comes home and the crib is needed for them.

Here are some ways of noticing—and supporting—the transition from a crib to a bed

How to decide when it’s time to transition from a crib to a bed

  • Try not to make the decision based on the idea that your child has to be ready at a certain time. A three-year-old who is sleeping happily in their crib is getting good rest, and hopefully, you are too 😉
  • If your child keeps climbing out of their crib and you aren’t ready to transition them yet, some experts recommend having them sleep in a sleep sack (they come in bigger sizes too) to make it harder for them to get their legs over the top of the crib. You can also put some pillows around the crib to help cushion a potential fall and make sure the crib is on its lowest setting. 
  • Make the change if they’ve obviously outgrown it—for most kids this happens sometime before they turn four.  
  • It may be tempting to make the change when your child is potty trained so they can get up at night, but nighttime potty training typically takes much longer. Consider waiting to change to a bed during potty training, as two major changes at once can be disruptive for some children.

Tips for making the switch from a crib to a bed

  • For the new bed options, you can try putting the crib mattress directly on the floor or introducing the new twin bed without its frame yet. Experts recommend keeping a young child’s new mattress no more than 3 feet off the ground.
  • Consider positioning the new mattress or toddler bed in the same place as the crib (for consistency) or in a corner to create a sense of safety
  • Talk to your child directly about the change: explain that the bed has no walls like their crib does, but they’re still expected to stay on the bed while they sleep. Many parents come up with a short mantra their child can repeat and practice: “I stay in bed until Mama and Papa come to get me.” Understanding that a bed still has boundaries—even without crib rails—is a bit of a cognitive leap for your child, so you may need to keep reinforcing it. 
  • The Hatch Rest night light (which also has a sound machine and available monitor) can also help your child know when it’s time to get up in the morning. 
  • If the crib is needed for a new baby, preview the change for a while, and to avoid added pressure, try not to refer to the new bed as a “big kid bed.” If you can, make the transition around two months before the new baby is due to come. 
  • A choice between a few different patterns of sheets, pillowcases, and blankets can help your toddler feel included in the transition.
  • Try to keep the same order in which you do bath, book, pajamas, lullaby, or anything else your bedtime routine consists of. Try not to use the transition as an opportunity to change more than the bed—like taking away a pacifier.
  • Invite them to show off their new bed to visitors.

Consider new safety precautions

When your child can get out of bed freely, their room—and potentially the whole home—is now open to them. This newfound freedom invites new opportunities for your child to explore, along with new ways of safeguarding them against harm. A few considerations to keep in mind:

  • A bunk bed sounds exciting, but even with guardrails the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends waiting until at least age 6 to let your child onto the top bunk.
  • Make sure outlets are covered, and all large furniture and appliances are safely bolted or otherwise stable. 
  • The best defense against nighttime wanderings is to have a baby monitor handy; a baby gate at the door is considered a fire hazard. 

Be patient with your child and yourself 

Moving from a crib to a bed can be emotional for you too (at least it was for us 😥): it’s such a tangible sign that your baby is growing up. Be patient with the pangs and give yourself room to feel whatever you feel. 

Also, it’s possible that your child may not take to the bed right away, and that’s okay. Even some children who initially show excitement for the change may get worried, anxious, or simply thrown off when they’re actually in the bed for their first few nights. If it’s an option for you, you can switch back to a crib if the move isn’t working right now, and try again later. 


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Posted in: 3-year-old, 34 - 36 Months, Routine, Bedtime, Independence, Child Development

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