Transitioning to a “Big Kid” Bed
Your toddler’s sleep has taken a turn for the worse and you think that one way to solve that problem is to bribe your little one with a “big kid” bed. This may work for a few nights but it is just a bandaid solution. Parents feel rushed into transitioning out of a crib and into a toddler bed too soon. Part of the reason is that you may be having another baby and you need the crib for the new addition. My advice to you is to HOLD OFF AS LONG AS POSSIBLE. Keep your baby in the crib for as long as possible. I recommend holding off until at least age 3.
“Keep your baby in the crib for as long as possible. I recommend holding off until at least age 3.”
But My Toddler Is Climbing Out Of His Crib
The number one concern I hear from parents is that their toddler has learned to climb out of their crib. Safety takes precedents and we want to ensure your little one is not hurting themselves. I recommend using a sleep sack to prevent climbing out of the crib. If you little one can take off the sleep sack turn it around (depending on the type you have), use safety pins to prevent the zipper from being unzipped or to secure the snap buttons. If your toddler is still finding a way to climb out, consider lowering the crib mattress all the way to the ground (just make sure there is not a gap between the bottom bar and the mattress). Depending on the type of crib you have you can even turn the crib around to face the wall. The back of most cribs is taller and more difficult to climb. One other suggestion I have is to use the microphone option on your video monitor. Right before your toddler tries to climb out you can speak to him and tell him to lay back down.
When to Make The Transition
If at all possible, I suggest buying or borrowing a second crib so that you are not rushing the transition but I realize this may not be an option. If you are making the transition because you are getting the crib ready for a new baby, I recommend either transitioning to a big kid bed 3 months before baby arrives or 3 months after baby arrives. Even though having another baby is very exciting, the change is quite stressful on siblings. Children do not like change so having two big changes at once will not work in your favour.
I recommend waiting until your toddler is at least 3 years old to make the transition to a big kid bed. The other guideline I urge you to take into account is this: A big kid bed should be a reward for GOOD sleeping, not a bribe for bad sleeping.
“A big kid bed should be a reward for GOOD sleeping, not a bribe for bad sleeping.”
Cribs are wonderful for many reasons and one of them is that they show babies their boundaries. Someone has to place them into the crib ad remove them from the crib. Once you make the switch to a bed, there are no more imaginary boundaries. Your child may start out sleeping well in their new big kid bed, but soon they will realize that they can get up, walk around, play with toys or even dun dun dun, climb into your bed in the middle of the night.
Starting “Bad” Habits
Let me just say that I do not necessarily agree with the term “bad habits”. I think all habits are formed with the best of intentions . . . to get your child to be quiet and go to sleep. When your toddler goes into a bed, it is easy to begin laying with them while they fall asleep. But guess what? This is the start of a new sleep crutch.
Wait as long as possible before making the transition to a big kid bed (3 years old or later).
Use the big kid bed as a reward for good sleeping, not a bandaid solution for bad sleeping.
You no longer have imaginary boundaries so there needs to be clear rules that go along with the new bed.
Use a baby gate or another visual barrier.
Remove toys from your child’s room.
Ensure a safe sleep environment -secure dressers to the wall, etc. Their bedroom is now their sleep space so we want to make it as safe as possible.
Avoid sleeping in the bed with your child.
Reward their good sleep using this sleep reward chart.
If your little one is waking up early, I suggest using a GroClock to teach her when it is time to wake up for the day.
Now that your toddler is in their bed kid bed, she will want to come out of her room whenever she thinks that it is time to wake up. We do not want this! I suggest using a gro clock to teach her when it is an acceptable time to wake up. If your toddler is an early riser, set the clock at 6 am. Any time between 6-8 am is an “acceptable” time to wake for the day. This gro clock helps to teach early risers that it is still sleepy time. Reinforce positive sleep behavior using this sleep reward chart.
If your toddler does not wake up early, do not bother with a gro clock. Why do I say this? Because the groclock emits a blue colored light through the night and white/blue colored lights block the production of melatonin. Stay tuned for my post about choosing a night light!
I wish you the best in your transition to a big kid bed. Don’t forget to use bed rails! Some cribs come with transition kits that include the rail. As always, sleep environment and sleep routines are crucial for good sleeping. Any big change, such as a transition to a big kid bed, has the potential to be a little rough. Stay consistent, enforce firm boundaries and remind yourself that this too shall pass.