Transitioning your toddler from their crib to a bed can be an intimidating process that leads to a lot of questions . You may wonder if your child is ready for this change, if they’ll fall out of the bed, if they’ll sleep better or worse, and/or if you’re ready to let go of the notion of them sleeping in their crib. As a marriage and family therapist, I’ve not only worked with parents who were contemplating this transition for their child, but also with little ones who were in the thick of this change. Using my background as a therapist, as well as my intuition as a parent, here’s how my partner and I helped our two and a half year old go straight from her crib to a twin size bed.
With toddlers, it’s best to be prepared for multiple outcomes that may take place, especially when it comes to significant transitions. Letting go of the expectation that our daughter has to make this shift, we placed our focus on making this change super exciting for her and made sure she was involved the entire time. We removed the pressure from this process and kept it in the back of our minds that if she wasn’t ready, we could postpone.
Our parenting philosophy has always been to go at our daughter’s pace, knowing that she would both tell and show us her readiness for major transitions. We began by asking her if she wanted to sleep in a bigger bed and emphasized that it would be extra cozy, soft, and much larger so she would have more room to stretch. She was immediately excited and intrigued about getting a new bed. We continued talking about this for a few weeks and her interest in switching beds didn’t change. We took this as a solid indication that she felt ready to move forward.
Next, I pre-picked out two options for her for bedding and bed frames so she would have an opportunity to select what she wanted without being overwhelmed by choices. Inviting your child to participate in this aspect of the process can help build the excitement even more and allows the space to reflect their individual style. Again, we reinforced the idea that what she picked looked really soft and cozy and that her bed was going to be really special. Because we like the Montessori approach, we opted for a low profile bed that our little one can get in and out of on her own and we decided to skip the bed rail. Keep in mind, it’s super important to make sure your child’s room is totally child safe before their new bed arrives.
Once everything was ordered, we discussed with her where her new bed would go and where her crib was going. When everything arrived, we told her in a few days, her new bed would be ready. Giving toddlers plenty of notice helps them feel more prepared for upcoming changes. We also planned for her to begin sleeping in her new bed on a Friday so we would have all weekend to help her ease into her new bedtime routine.
Once her bed was put together and placed in her room, we put her loveys in the bed and gave her time to explore her new setting. We continued to emphasize how special and comfy her bed was and told her we were so excited for her to have such an amazing bed. She was elated and we spent about an hour just hanging out in it, playing, and reading stories. We went back to our normal routine, had dinner, gave her a warm bath, and began her night time routine about 30 minutes earlier than usual because we knew her new bed may prolong her ability to fall asleep. The first night took her about an hour extra to fall asleep, but over the next few days, she began falling asleep around her typical time. During these first few days, we praised her a lot for trying out her new bed and for doing such a good job sleeping in a big bed.
She has been sleeping in her new bed for several months now and seems to be sleeping about as well as she did in her crib. Even now, we continue to reinforce how proud we are of her for sleeping in a big bed and that’s she doing such a good job taking care of it. (She helps make it every morning.)
Remember, every child is different and you know your child best. Some little ones do very well with transitions, while others become more anxious or nervous about their routine changing. As parents, it’s your job to help your child ease into big transitions, while still respecting their individual readiness level. Instead of comparing your child to others, or reading up about what age is the best age to transition out of a crib, focus on what your child is telling you and go with it. Kids tend to be very in tune with their needs and will make it clear what they feel comfortable and uncomfortable with. The biggest lesson we learned as parents during this particular transition was just how important it is to remove the pressure from these major shifts. Our daughter picked up on how excited we were for her, but also knew that the choice to switch beds was totally hers. This gave her the space to decide if going from a crib to a bigger bed was right for her.