From Crib To Toddler Bed: When And How

Learn about the appropriate time to transition your child from a crib to a toddler or twin bed. Tips on how to do so, as well as common problems encountered.

One of the many developmental milestones of toddlerhood is the transition from crib to bed. For some children the transition progresses with few problems. Other children are reluctant and uncooperative about leaving the safety and comfort of their crib. Regardless of your child's ease in the transition, there are several ways that you can make the most of this toddler milestone.

WHEN?

Many parents wonder when is the right age to begin a crib to bed transition. Although a good majority of children move from crib to bed between ages two and three, it is more important to rely on developmental cues as well as situational concerns within your family to gauge the right time for your child.

A common reason parents make the transition is because their child has demonstrated an increased ability in climbing. Although this is often an appropriate time to introduce a transition in some children, it is important to note that a child who likes to climb will not necessarily want to escape the safety of his crib. It is correct to be concerned for your child's safety, but over-reaction often creates more problems with the transition. If you feel a transition is right for your child due to their desire or ability to climb, proceed calmly with the changes. Going too quickly or showing signs of parental stress will generally have a negative effect on the transition,

Some families transition their child to a bed because a new sibling is due to arrive. If this describes your situation, be sure to start the transition 2-3 months before the baby is expected to arrive. This will give your toddler time to adjust and become comfortable with his new bed. When the baby arrives, you may see a brief regression in your toddler, as he will probably remember the crib used to be his. Simply remind him he is a big boy and guide him back to his bed.

Do not worry if your toddler does not seem ready to give up his crib. If the transition does not go well, it is completely acceptable to try again in a couple months. Most newborns spend the first months of life in a bassinet, so this makes the crib available for a longer transition. If you don't feel the transition is going to work in the near future, just borrow or buy a second crib for the new sibling to use.

If your child has reached other toddler milestones, such as the beginning of potty training, it is sometimes appropriate to move them to a bed. A child who can get out of bed easily is less likely to have accidents. Be aware however that a child who can get out of bed easily may use his potty training as an excuse to leave his bed.



TYPE OF BED:

Once a family has decided a transition is appropriate, they must choose what type of bed to use. A toddler bed generally has the same size mattress as a crib, but is not surrounded by railings and is much closer to the ground than a crib. You can purchase a traditional type toddler bed, or take advantage of the many creative alternatives such as beds shaped like race cars or favorite fictional characters. Although there are no surrounding rails on a toddler bed, there are generally guard rails that can be added to prevent a child from rolling out. Some toddler beds (such as race car beds) are designed so the mattress sits lower in the frame which will also keep the child from rolling out.

Some parents don't want the extra expense of a toddler bed and simply choose to move their children straight from a crib to a twin sized bed. Twin beds are wider, longer, and higher off the ground than a toddler bed. Guard rails can also be purchased for these larger beds. The advantage of a twin bed is the child can remain in it indefinitely and a second transition (from toddler bed to twin bed) is unnecessary.

A third option for a bed is to simply remove the mattress from the crib and place it on the ground. This introduces the child to sleeping on a bed without the complete confinement of surrounding rails. It has the advantage of being only inches off the ground so if a child rolls off, it is almost impossible to sustain injury. This is an easy way to see if your child is ready for to transition before putting out the expense of a whole new bed.

HOW TO TRANSITION:

The most important thing to do before transitioning a child into a bed is to child proof their bedroom. Cribs have the advantage of keeping them confined from all possible safety hazards in their room. By moving them into a bed, you potentially give them unsupervised access to everything in their room, including outlets, furniture, toys, etc. Look around their room to ensure there is nothing dangerous they can access should they get out of bed in the night.

A transition should be made slowly. Some parents invite their children to help choose the new bed, linens, and accessories for their new sleeping place. This creates an excitement that often helps form a positive attitude towards the transition. When bringing the bed home, place it in the same spot the crib originally sat. This is not an appropriate time to rearrange furniture or change d├ęcor. Too many changes at the same time might over stimulate the child and ruin an otherwise positive transition.

POSSIBLE PROBLEMS:

It is not uncommon to experience a few problems when switching your child from a crib to a toddler bed. The most common problems stem from the simple fact your child is no longer confined.

Besides making a room safe, you also need to make it boring. Many parents believe that by telling their children not to play with things in their room after bedtime that the issue will be solved. However, unless you plan to stand over your child until they go to sleep, you may not know they are playing and this will undermine your authority. If at all possible, put all toys and other distractions in a closet or make them otherwise inaccessible.

Children also get out of bed to test parents on many different issues. Most often are requests for water, using the bathroom, another story, etc. As parents you have to decide how many of these requests you will tolerate. Unless the request stems from a nightmare or illness, it is generally suggested to ignore the request and guide your child back to bed with a firm "I love you; it's time to go to sleep".

If you find you are having trouble keeping your child in bed after transition, there are a few things you can try. A child safety gate in the doorway of the bedroom is sometimes suggested. However, if your child was transitioned to a bed because he climbed out of his crib, the gate will only present another opportunity for climbing. It generally works better to enact a reward system (such as receiving a sticker for each night spent in bed, and five stickers in a row means a larger treat) or having a special big bed blanket or stuffed animal who can only stay with your child if he stays in bed.

If these suggestions don't work, it may be necessary to switch your child back to a crib. It may be possible your child simply isn't ready for a bed and either requires or simply prefers the confinement of a crib.

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