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From Crib to Bed: Ensuring a Smooth Transition

Friday, December 12, 2014 3:04 PM

There is no magic age for when it’s best to transition your toddler from a crib to the “big-kid” bed. Much of the timing depends on your child’s readiness as well the need to free up the crib for a new little brother or sister. In most cases, toddlers transition to a bed between the ages of 18 months to 3 years.

Whether you are mid-transition or only in the planning stages, Susan Roth, MD, Pediatrician at NorthShore, offers helpful tips to make the change a smoother one:

  • Maintain consistency with a bedtime routine. A big-kid bed shouldn’t mean a new bedtime hour or a different routine. Keep the bed the only significant change. Also, try to put your child’s new bed in the same place as the crib.
  • Make it fun! Get your child involved with this “big girl”/“big boy” step. For instance, let him or her choose new sheets for the bed. If you will be purchasing a new bed, let your child help out with this decision as well.
  • Start with naps. Make the new bed the naptime bed to start. If your child can’t manage to stay in his or her bed for the duration of an afternoon nap, it might be too early to make the transition. 
  • Keep safety in mind. Depending on the type of bed that you select, be sure that you are providing a safe sleeping environment for your toddler. If you transition straight to a twin bed, it may be best to place the mattress on the floor for a while. If this isn’t an option, consider installing guard rails so your child does not roll out of bed. Padding the floor with blankets and/or pillows can also help reduce the chance of injury.

    This is also a good time to rethink and revisit your overall household childproofing. Now that your child may get out of bed and walk around at night consider removing or safety-proofing other household hazards. If needed, consider installing a gate in your child’s doorway so he or she cannot exit the bedroom. This may be especially important in homes with an accessible staircase.
  • Be supportive, yet firm. Your toddler may not adjust to this new bed immediately. The newfound freedom may lead to him or her getting up more frequently or even trying to get out of bed. Try to stay calm and reinforce that it’s time for sleeping. 
  • Reward positive behavior. Don’t expect this transition to be without its hiccups. Be sure to positively reinforce a job well done throughout this transition period.

Have questions about transitioning your toddler from a crib to a bed? Join NorthShore's online community, The Parent 'Hood, to ask and answer questions as well as connect with our team of medical experts. Check it out here