Successfully Transition Your Toddler to a Big Bed
Updated: Aug 4, 2022
You have decided that your toddler is ready for a big kid bed - goodbye crib! If you’re not yet sure, review my check list and see if they meet at least two of my criteria. To make the transition a successful one, I have a few key tips and plans to follow so that your toddler is excited about the big bed, but understands the rules around the new setup.
I find that with toddlers, it’s best to involve them in these significant transitions so that they feel a sense of ownership and control. Here are my suggestions:
Ensure that their room is 100% safe. Since your toddler will be able to get out of their bed and move around their room while you are not there, it’s important that the room is safe. Think of the room as one big bed/sleep space. Things to consider for safety are fastening furniture like bookshelves and dressers to the wall. Placing a gate at their doorway so that they can be contained within their room. We can consider removing the gate down the road if parents feel comfortable that their child is sleeping well and will not try to leave throughout bedtime and the night. Padding sharp edges that they could bang into and ensuring that any windows are fastened shut with appropriate curtain treatments that can’t be easily pulled down.
Involve them in the process. We want them to feel connected to their new bed with positive associations. Try including them in the process of picking out new sheets, blankets or a pillow. Additionally, have them pick a new special soft toy that they can cuddle with once they start sleeping in their new bed.
Hold a family meeting. A family meeting is a great way to bring all members of the family together to discuss the changes and outline the new rules. It doesn’t have to be serious - talk in any way that connects to your toddler and gets the message across. I always like to have visuals for toddlers - I suggest creating some sort of poster with the rules and simple pictures that illustrate them. You can even have your toddler help to decorate the poster and put it up in their room. Rules of the new bed would be something like: 1. After mommy & daddy say goodnight, they will leave your room 2. Close your eyes and get comfortable in your bed 3. Stay quiet and fall asleep 4. If you wake in the middle of the night, close your eyes, snuggle with your soft toy and fall back asleep.
Keep the same consistent bedtime routine. Hopefully by this stage you have a consistent bedtime routine. By continuing to follow a similar bedtime routine, it helps set expectations and provide comfort for your toddler as to what is to come.
Some other things to consider:
If one of the reasons your toddler is moving to a big bed is that you are expecting a baby and need their crib for their sibling, the timing of the transition is very important. Keep in mind that the new baby won’t need the crib for at least the first few months as he/she will likely be sleeping in a bassinet or smaller pack-and-play in your room. We want to transition your toddler to the new bed at least three months before or after the arrival of the sibling to avoid having any feelings of being replaced.
Avoid making the transition during any other major changes like starting pre-school, potty training, etc.
Consider purchasing a morning clock (sometimes referred to as an “okay to wake clock”). These can be programmed to turn a certain color at a determined wake-up time. This is a great visual way for your toddler to know when it’s okay to get up and out of bed, and when it’s still time to be quiet in their bed/room.
Since your toddler may not be used to having a blanket to sleep under (they made have previously been sleeping in a sleep sack), try to practice and role play during the day on how they should pull their blanket back over their body should it fall off. Sleeping bags can also be a great solution!
Keep in mind that no matter how much you try to prepare your toddler for the transition, it can take a little time for them to adjust. Be firm and consistent in your responses, yet positive in their ability to sleep in their new bed.
If you've either made the transition and feel like things have derailed or you just need that extra support before the transition, let's connect. I'll help to but a plan in place to support you along the way.