The transition from crib to big kid bed is a big step for any family. The first thing to consider is when to make the move. For the most part, it’s usually a good idea to keep your child in his crib for as long as possible. If your child isn’t climbing out, isn’t too big, and is happy in his crib, then you should leave well enough alone. However, there will come a time when the transition needs to be made. If your child is climbing out of the crib, it becomes a safety issue. If you have another child on the way, you may need the crib for the new baby. Sometimes, moving to a big kid bed can help solve other bedtime issues like fighting bedtime.
When moving your child out of his crib and into a bed, you’ll need to decide what type of bed he’ll be sleeping in. There are three basic options: a twin (or double) bed on a frame, a twin mattress on the floor, or a toddler bed. Each option has its pros and cons.
For bigger kids, a twin bed on a frame might be a good choice. They would too quickly outgrow a toddler bed, and a twin (or double) bed will give them the room they need. You can purchase a quality piece of furniture that will last for years to come. If you do decide to give them an adult sized bed (in other words, one several feet off the floor), you may want to use a bedrail until your child gets used to sleeping in his new bed. Bedrails can be purchased at stores like Babies R Us, Target, and Walmart.
A twin mattress on the floor is a good idea if your child is very young and needing to move out of his crib. You won’t have to worry about him falling out of bed, yet you’re not wasting money on a toddler bed that he may still outgrow quickly. If you live in a cold climate, however, the floor may be a bit drafty.
A toddler bed is another good choice for very young children, and also children who are on the lower end of the growth charts. Many toddler beds have a weight limit of 40 pounds, but if your child only weighs 25 pounds when he needs to move into his new bed, you’ll probably get a lot of use out of it. A toddler bed may also be a good idea if you plan on having more children, as your child’s younger siblings can use the toddler bed when they’re old enough.
If you’re moving your child out of his crib because of another baby on the way, you’ll want to make sure the transition is complete at least three months before the new baby’s birth, or wait several months after the new baby is born. A newborn can sleep in a bassinet for quite some time, or even in the parents’ bed. If you’re making the transition after the baby is born, you may want to take apart the crib and put it away for a few weeks before giving it to the new baby, so it won’t seem as much like Baby is taking over Toddler’s old crib.
Some children take to their new big kid bed right away, but most need to be coaxed a bit. There are several ways to get a child excited about sleeping in a new bed.
Set up the new bed, but leave the crib set up as well. It’s best not to force a child if you can help it, so let them have a choice of where to sleep until they get comfortable with the new bed. Read stories in the new bed, play with toys there, but when it’s time to sleep, let him sleep in his crib if he wants to. He won’t feel threatened and will get used to the idea of his new bed in time.
If possible, let your child help set up the new bed. Little children who like to help use screwdrivers and hammers might get so excited about being involved in the process that they’ll be equally excited about sleeping in the bed they helped build.
Have your child help pick out new bedding. Having a say in what sheets go on his bed makes him feel more in control. If he picks out sheets that aren’t exactly your taste, keep in mind that they can always be switched later on, when he’s more comfortable in his new bed. You’ll probably want to limit the amount of bedding you use at first, too, if your child is used to sleeping in a crib with just a sheet and light blanket. A sheet, blanket, pillow, and comforter might make his new bed seem too strange for him to feel comfortable. You can slowly add more bedding as necessary once he gets used to his new sleeping arrangements.
Let him keep any crib toys in his new bed. Many parents attach light and sound toys (like the Fisher-Price Aquarium) to the crib, and your child may use these things as a way to soothe themselves to sleep. If at all possible, let him keep these crib toys in his new bed, or at least nearby. The familiarity will help ease his worries.
Pick out a special stuffed animal or toy that “lives” on the new bed. If your child is a big fan of Sesame Street, get a plush Elmo doll that likes to sleep in his big kid bed. Make a fuss out of getting Elmo ready for bed and putting him to sleep in the new bed. Read Elmo a story, give him kisses, and tuck him in. You can have a rule that Elmo must stay in the bed, and if your child wants to play with him, then he must get into bed as well.
If your child has friends who sleep in big kid beds, arrange to have his friends show him how fun and special their big beds are. This tactic will probably work best on older toddlers.
Throw a party when you set up the new bed. Make his bed seem as fun and exciting as possible. You can do as little or as much as you want. If you feel like going all out, get some balloons and a cake and celebrate the new bed’s arrival.
When your child decides to sleep in his big kid bed for the first time, be prepared to stay in the room until your child is asleep, even if he normally falls asleep on his own. A few nights of this won’t ruin his good sleep habits, and will make him feel safe and secure. Be prepared for your child to wake up more often than usual, and respond promptly. You want to make sure his first nights in his new big kid bed are as comforting and reassuring as possible. Patience and love given freely now will pay off in the long run – you’ll have a child who feels secure in his new bed before long.