Sleeping in a Big Bed

Moving into a big-kid bed can be very upsetting to many toddlers. Taking away the safe comfort that your toddler’s crib has offered her for so long can lead to some sleepless nights; both for you and your toddler. But making the transition from crib to bed doesn’t have top be painful.

The Right Timing
Many parents wonder: just when do you move a child from a crib to a toddler bed? Unlike many other milestones in a toddler’s life, like walking and talking, moving from crib to bed doesn’t follow any real age guidelines. Roughly speaking, most toddlers make the transition some time between the ages of 18 months and 3 ½ years. Obviously, this is a fairly wide age range, so it’s better to take cues from your toddler as to just when they are ready to switch.

One of the main indicators that it’s time for your toddler to move from crib to toddler bed is when he starts to climb out of his crib. As much as he might enjoy the expedition, it can pose a real safety hazard. Before you buy that new toddler bed, though, try lowering his mattress as far down as you can to hinder his scaling ways. If he’s still climbing out, then it’s time to start shopping.

Another clear indication that your toddler may be ready to go from her toddler crib to a bed is a growing sense of autonomy. If she’s insisting on feeding herself and dressing herself, she’ll probably be open to the idea of sleeping in a big-kid bed. One of the biggest signs of growing up is toilet training. If you are potty training your toddler, then putting her into a big-kid bed is probably a good idea. Since she’ll need to get up during the night to use the facilities, leaving her in her crib will only impede your toilet training efforts.

However, in some cases, you may want to move your toddler into another bed because you’re expecting another baby and will need your toddler’s crib for the new addition. Since adjusting to both a new baby and a new bed may be a bit too much to deal with all at once, move your toddler into his new bed at least six weeks before your due date. This will give your toddler plenty of time to get used to his role as the "big-kid" in the family.

Moving Day
Surprising your toddler with a new bed often doesn’t go over too well with the young ones. Since toddlers thrive on routines, suddenly placing them in a new and completely different type of bed without warning may just seem like cruel and unusual punishment to them.

To get your toddler prepared, introduce the concept of sleeping in a big-kid bed a few weeks beforehand. Language makes all the difference, so put the transition into a positive light. Saying something like "You’re growing up so fast! Soon you’ll be big enough to sleep in a big-kid bed," can help make her feel important and grown-up.

It may be helpful if you don’t expect your toddler to sleep in her new bed all the time. Using her toddler bed for naptime and the crib for bedtime is often an easy way to get your little one used to the idea of sleeping in a different bed. Easing into the transition is often quite successful.

Staying in Bed
Once your toddler is in his new bed, you may find that he likes to get out of it more than staying in it. When this happens, simply lead him into his bedroom and calmly tell him that it is time to go back to bed. However, if he gets out of bed but stays in his room, don’t worry about getting him back into bed. He’ll put himself to bed when he is ready.

If you can, avoid forcing him into his new bed. Making your toddler do something he doesn’t want to do will only cause him to have negative associations with the bed. And then he’ll never get into it.

Some people may recommend packing up the crib as soon you as your toddler looks at the new bed, reasoning that, if your toddler can’t see the crib, she can’t miss sleeping in it. However, this isn’t an option for everyone. So, if you need to leave the crib out for a while, then suggest your toddler put her stuffed toys to bed in the crib. Since these are her "babies," putting them to bed in the crib will reinforce the idea that cribs are for people younger than your toddler.

New Beds
Nowadays, parents can choose between buying a regular twin-size bed or a toddler bed for their child. While a toddler bed is nice and small, and therefore not too different from your toddler’s crib, it will need to be replaced in a few years once your toddler gets too big for it.

Most experts recommend buying a regular twin-size bed when you plan to move your toddler into a big-kid bed. Although they may seem too big right now, over the years your toddler will grow into it. Since you won’t need to buy another bed for many years, this option will help you save money.

Another alternative that is popular with many parents is the adjustable bed. These beds start off small, like a toddler bed, but can be adjusted as your child grows. Most adjust to a regular twin-size bed.

Regardless of which type of bed you buy, always make sure your toddler sleeps in a bed that has guardrails. Many children’s beds will come with guardrails. If your bed doesn’t, you can buy them separately. Just make sure that the rails fit right up against the mattress; there should be no space between the rails and the mattress. Additionally, the rails should stretch the full length of the bed.

Tips and Techniques
Use these handy tricks to help make that big-kid bed more enticing to your toddler.


  • Go shopping with your toddler and let her pick out her new bed or some new bed sheets. This will help her feel excited about the new bed, plus it will let her feel as though she has some control over the situation.
  • If you can, place the bed in the same space that your toddler’s crib occupied. This will help minimize the amount of change he needs to adjust to.
  • Regardless of where your toddler sleeps, always continue with her nighttime routine. Again, this will help to reduce any disruptions the new sleeping arrangement causes.
  • For many toddlers, their crib acts as a comforting space. Consider letting your toddler sleep in a sleeping bag on top of the new bed, which will mimic the cocooning effect of his crib.
  • To make the transition into a big-kid bed more gradual, you can place the mattress first on the floor, then onto a box spring and finally onto a frame.
  • If you’re handy with sewing, then consider turning your toddler’s old crib blanket into pillow cases for her new bed.

    Interestingly, later born children make the switch to a big-kid bed much easier than first-borns. This is because they have an older sibling to look to as an example. So, if you’re having a hard time with your first-born, remember that it shouldn’t be so bad the next time around.