Transitions Part Two: The Big Kid Bed

By the time our children are around two-and-a-half to three years old, we (hopefully) have well-established sleep routines in place. Our toddlers are able to communicate with us, are more aware of their surroundings and have a great sense of humor. And, behaviorally, they start to become more challenging! I previously wrote about my struggles with my own three-year-old. I don’t think I’ve met a parent who has not struggled with this age. Whatever stage you are in feels like the worst, and some more experienced mother or father will tell you, “Just wait” – as if that’s helpful! Well, we’re here to tell you that you can do it – that sleep is just another one of the challenges that comes with having a toddler. When you figure this part out, the rest will fall into place. Believe us, a cranky toddler means a cranky parent!

When is the right time to transition from a crib to a bed? Our answer: as late as possible. For some reason, parents like to rush this transition. Perhaps we’re eager to help our babies grow up. Maybe we think it will be easier for us as parents when our kids can become more self-reliant and get in and out of bed when needed. The truth is, this transition is pretty tough and delaying it is really the best thing you can do for your entire family!  Please don’t move your child into a bed until she is three-years-old. Two reasons why families may need to do this earlier might be a new baby on the way who will need the crib and toilet training.

If you are having another baby, perhaps consider putting the newborn in a pack-n-play or bassinet until you need to move her to a crib when she’s bigger. If that’s not acceptable, you might want to borrow a crib from a friend.  Anything you can do to delay this transition will be worthwhile in the end.

We ended up moving our daughter into a toddler bed at 2 years and 9 months because she was toilet trained and hating having a wet pull-up in the morning. The result was a screaming child every morning at 5am. We decided that putting her in a bed so that she could use the potty we left in her room in the morning would be worth it. Thinking back on that transition, I’m not sure what else we could have done differently given the challenge we faced – but it was pretty horrible. Margo was out of bed every night until we took action. I believe if we had been able to wait a few more months, the transition would have been smoother.

Here are tips for the transition from crib to bed

  • Wait until your child is three years old

  • Establish firm sleep rules as a family before making the move

  • Purchase a sleep clock

  • Use a behavioral chart with a rewards system (5 stars and you can pick a prize from this basket)

  • Be firm – in the middle of the night it is easy to just crawl into bed with your little one but it is a very hard habit to break – stick with your plan

  • Make sure your child is not over-tired by allowing for an earlier bedtime if necessary


7 Responses to “Transitions Part Two: The Big Kid Bed”

  1. My son started climbing out of his crib before he was 18 months old. After a few weeks of climbing out at nap time and bed time we decided he could not remain in the crib. One night he got stuck so by 18.5 months we said we had to make the switch. Our pediatrician suggested this was the best and safest for him. You can imagine how nervous I was for this transition as 18.5 seems way too young for a big boy bed!! He has always been challenging on the sleep front, despite multiple efforts of cry it out, inevitably something throws him off every month or two.

    Now, at 21 months we are still battling sleep with the twin bed. Getting him down at night takes about 45 mins and many nights he is not asleep until 8:30. (I have tried various ideas such as limiting my talking to him, just continuing to put him back in bed when he gets up, sitting on the floor, laying with him… ) He is up several times in the middle of the night. When he wakes he is crying and usually headed to our room. My husband and I are feeling quite sleep deprived and at a loss of what to do next. Any suggestions on how to handle this situation?

    • Sleep Sisters

      Hi, Gina. Certainly, changing over to a “big kid” bed is one of the hardest transitions! And doing it at such a young age makes it that much harder! So sorry to hear you’re battling this. When kids are struggling with this transition, there are usually more issues in play other than just the bed. (Sleep times, routines, daytime activities…etc.) Feel free to take a look at our packages if you’d like some support.

  2. Cassie

    Ugh. My memory is already glazing over. According to FaceBook, it took five weeks to get him to stay in bed. Then our vacation ruined everything, and it was another almost six months before he started staying in bed. We still use the gate, though.

  3. Cassie

    We had to move our son into a bed at two years, four months. The crib was at the lowest level, he was in a sleep sack and he was STILL climbing out of the crib in protest of going to bed. We were doing a silent return to the crib, but it seemed to have no effect. He had a few rough landings and we were afraid he’d hurt himself.

    It took probably a week to get him to go stay in bed when we put him to bed. Then, we went on vacation and when we got back, he resisted going to sleep – getting out of bed more than 50 times a night (all immediately after we put him to bed – once he was asleep, he stayed asleep) – for probably five months. We finally put a gate on his door (we didn’t want to lock him in, but we couldn’t continue to give him attention). A year later, he USUALLY goes to bed without issue, but it’s still tricky. I’m hopeful that baby #2 can stay in a crib until he’s 3, but he is already much more physically advanced than his brother was at that age.

  4. Thank you so much for your quick reply and great information! When she climbs out at nap time, it’s in protest of nap. It doesn’t happen every time (usually when we’re off schedule, my own fault! And we’re only home for nap 2 days a week with daycare so it is really rare.) The mattress is as low as it can go, but she’s a tall girl (36 inches already). However, you’ve made me realize that I think she really would be fine to stay in the crib as long as we do a better job of managing nap time and not causing her to be overtired and angry about nap. :)

    She normally has no trouble staying in her crib. She is usually a later sleeper and in the morning and will lay in there talking or singing to herself until I come get her.

  5. What should you do if your child is climbing out of the crib? My daughter (2 years and 3 months) has climbed out during nap time, but not at nighttime (yet). I’m still trying to delay the transition, but others tell me once they can get out, you need to move them to a bed for safety reasons.

    Also – what are your thoughts on transitioning with a toddler bed vs. going straight to a twin or full bed?

    • Melissa Zdrodowski

      You are in the best position to decide if you and your 2yr old are ready for her to be in a big kid bed. If you are concerned she may hurt herself getting out of the crib, assess the environment and see if you can make any changes to prevent injury. If not, then the crib goes. But first, check to make sure your crib mattress is to the lowest setting!

      What does she do when she climbs out? Is she scared? Does she climb out to come find you? If so, then moving her to a bed will just facilitate this behavior that presumably you’d like to deter. As with most things toddler, this is a behavioral challenge. Teaching your daughter that she needs to stay in her crib (or in her bed) until the appropriate time is your next challenge.

      Try a rewards system to congratulate her for staying put until nap time is over. Or put a few books or soft toys in the crib so she can play quietly until you come to get her. Try using a clock like the type we reference and set it for a little earlier than you want her to wake from her nap. Then move it a few mins later each day she succeeds.

      If you are so inclined, you could try a large sleep sack. I used them on my kids until they were out of the crib. It makes it more difficult for them to get that leg over the side of the crib.

      Personally, I think providing your child with a bed that isn’t too overwhelming will make the transition from crib to bed easier, so I prefer a toddler bed or a twin bed. But it really depends on your child’s personality, the room, your finances, etc. The most important thing is safety, so make sure the bed frame, mattress, and bedding are all safe and secure.

7 Responses to “Transitions Part Two: The Big Kid Bed”

Leave a Reply to J

Click here to cancel reply.