Transitioning your child from a crib to her big-girl toddler bed can be a bittersweet time. Between the excitement of reaching new milestones and the hint of sadness that comes with watching her grow up and get one step closer to independence, actually figuring out when she’s ready to make the big switch can be a bit confusing.
Work on Your Child’s Timeline
If your child has physically outgrown her crib, then it’s probably time to start transitioning to a toddler bed. Before then, there’s no hard and fast rule dictating when you have to move her out of the crib, although most children are ready to be moved by the time they reach 37 inches. If your eighteen-month-old is ready to move and eager about the prospect of a big-girl bed, or if she’s pushing three and still seems reluctant, you can and probably should work on her schedule. If you’re worried that an active little one is showing signs of attempting to climb or even jump out of her crib, then you should take that into account for safety reasons. You should also take into consideration, however, that toddler beds are designed to allow her to get in and out independently. She will be able to crawl out of her new bed when you’re fast asleep, meaning she could potentially get into a dangerous situation. If sleeping through the night is still an iffy proposition, lowering the crib mattress as much as possible will make it harder for her to climb over the sides. It is worth noting that some children can become even more attached to their cribs the longer they sleep there. Weighing the benefits and drawbacks of the switch and paying close attention to your child’s reactions can help you determine when you’re both ready to move her out of the crib.
One common reason for parents to begin a transition from the crib to a toddler bed is to prepare for the impending arrival of a new baby. If this is the case in your situation, you’ll want to shoot for having your child totally accustomed to sleeping in her new bed at least six to eight weeks before your due date. If she’s still attached to the crib and considers it “hers,” her perception after the baby’s arrival may be that the new sibling is taking over a place that still belongs to her. One solution to easing the transition when there’s a new baby involved is to keep your newborn in a bassinet in your room for the first few months, that way your older child has more time to get used to the idea and you’re better able to tend to a new baby’s needs in the middle of the night.
As with so many milestones in childhood, the key to success often lies in your ability to create a sense of excitement and anticipation surrounding the big event. Letting your child pick out her own bedding and accompany you to purchase her new bed are both great ways of helping her feel more excited and like she has a role in the transition, rather than like she’s simply having a change forced upon her.
Establishing a Routine
Making sure that you begin your child’s transition when she’s not facing any other major lifestyle changes is another way you can help ease the process a bit. Establishing a bedtime routine is a key part of helping things run smoothly. Picking out pajamas, brushing her teeth and reading a bedtime story every night before bed, for instance, can help your child understand that the bedtime ritual is part of going to sleep each night.
Patience is a Virtue
For some children, the transition to a toddler bed is quick and painless. For others, it can be a bit more difficult to manage. If your child falls into the latter camp, the best thing you can do is simply be patient with her and continue providing her reassurance until she becomes accustomed to her new bed and no longer feels anxious about making the change. More often than not, younger siblings have an easier time moving to a big-kid bed because they’re anxious to emulate the older siblings that they look up to. As a result, the most difficult transition will probably be with your first child. Just keep in mind that, like adults, some kids respond better to change than others, and do your best to make her feel as secure as possible along the way.