girl in red dress sitting on bed reading book

The Ultimate Guide to Transition your Toddler into a Big Kid Bed

So you are thinking about making the big switch from a crib to a big kid bed? It’s a major milestone that causes many parents undue stress. My son is getting to be much too big for his crib, and we are planning the transition for him from his crib into a toddler bed. I’ve been through this once with my oldest, but thought it would be good to brush up on tips for the transition (and dust off my memory banks how we did it the first time). I did some research and pulled together these tips and tricks to make the transition to a big kid bed a smooth one.

How to Transition Your Toddler Into a Big Kid Bed

girl sitting on big kid bed - how to transition to big kid bed
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When to Transition to a Big Kid Bed

So when should you make the big switch? Typically, experts recommend waiting to make the switch until age 3 or your child is 34-36 inches tall as at that height they could likely climb out of the crib on their own. If possible, it’s best to wait until your child hits those limits. However, there are some scenarios that will warrant making the transition sooner. For example, if your child attempts to climb out of the crib sooner, is potty-trained, or begins asking to make the switch then its a sign to make the transition a bit earlier. Most parents end up making the switch out of the crib between 18 months and 3 years.

What Bed Should I Use?

Fortunately, you have lots of options for beds when transitioning your toddler out of their crib.

Many cribs now convert into to toddler beds by having one of the fours side come off and be replaced with a guardrail. Usually these conversion kits are reasonably priced, so worth exploring if it’s an option for the crib you own. A great advantage to this is that since it is a modification to their existing crib, it may feel more familiar and be easier for your child to make the switch. Here’s an example of a Babyletto convertible crib for reference; you can see the open bed rail on the side that turns it into the converted toddler bed:

Babyletto convertible crib - converts from crib into toddler bed

If you want to save money (or if you need to quickly make the switch) you could also put the mattress directly on the floor. This removes the risk of falling out of the crib and obviously wouldn’t cost you anything until you upgrade to a larger bed and/or mattress.

Alternatively, you can buy a toddler bed. These are smaller beds that often come in fun themes (like racecar or princess) which may get your little one more excited for the switch and be more cosy than a larger bed. The downside to these is that they are smaller and at some point you will then need to purchase another full sized bed. Here’s an example of a Mickey themed toddler bed:

Finally, you can move straight into an adult sized bed (twin, queen, etc. Depending on your preference). The advantage to making this choice is that you shouldn’t have to buy another bed at a later date. Which is great since kids already outgrow everything so quickly! The disadvantage is that these are larger, more expensive and you may need to add bedrails to ensure your little one won’t roll off the side.

How to Transition to a Big Kid Bed

Of course the mechanics of making the transition are simple, you’ll simply swap out the crib for a toddler bed or larger sized bed. However, the reality of making the transition can be more complex. So I wanted to share some tips and tricks that can make the transition go more smoothly.

Before the Transition out of the Crib

Before making the transition, your child should be able to fall asleep independently. You’ll also want to ensure that their room is completely child-proofed for obvious reasons. Make sure furniture is anchored to the walls, outlets are covered, cordless blinds should be installed and all cords should be secured or covered. For safety reasons, you should ensure that their bed is not near windows, wall lamps, heating units, blind cords, or long curtains. It’s also recommended that the side of the bed is not up against the wall (instead place the headboard against the wall) to avoid the risk of your toddler falling in between the wall and the bed and getting trapped.

Prepare your Child for the Transition

Involve your child in the upcoming transition. Tell them that they are old enough to move out of their crib into a big kid bed and explain what that means. Make it exciting for them by allowing them to select their sheets or pillow or something fun for their new big kid bed. This will achieve a few things. One, it will prepare your child by letting them know a big change is coming. They will know what to expect. Secondly, it will get them excited for the change and feeling like it is something to look forward to rather than a loss of something familiar and comforting for them.

Set Firm Expectations & Limits for your Child

Be sure to set expectations for when they can get out of their bed. Let them know that when they go to bed at night exactly what you expect. Different parents will set different boundaries here, but we told our daughter to stay in her bed and call for us if she needed us. She can come wake us up in the morning when the sun is up. Now that she is a bit older, we actually got her a clock that changes colors in the morning so that she knows when it is time to get up (which is super helpful for when the time changes and the sun is up super early).

Be Patient and Consistent

If you run into any trouble, bear in mind that this is a major a milestone and a big change for your child. Try to be patient, but consistent with the boundaries and rules you set. If they continue to get out of their bed, lead them back to their bed, settle them and repeat the ground rules that you have laid out for them.

Stop the never-ending bedtime requests

If you find that your child is always requesting one more song, one more book, one more glass of water, etc. Try to stave this off by first anticipating their requests. For example, have their glass of water ready or prompt that the next book you are reading is the last. Then when you tuck them in, you can say the bedtime genie will only grant one more wish and then they have to go to bed. Then they can ask for the one final thing (follow through on this being the last thing). It turns the requesting into a fun game, but it also draws a line in the sand because bedtime genie only grants one wish. At least worth a try if you find yourself facing endless bedtime requests (which is a game that I think every child plays at some point to test the boundaries).

Use Positive Reinforcement

Another thing that can be particularly helpful at this age for creating excitement and getting your kids to follow the rules is using a sticker chart as positive reinforcement. Each night that they successfully stay in their bed, they can earn a new sticker to put on their chart. Kids tend to really love stickers, but if yours doesn’t you could always try another reward…think anything small that you know they really enjoy.

I hope that these tips help you and your little one have a smooth transition from a crib to a big kid bed. If you have any tips or tricks for the switch to a big kid bed that helped you, I’d love to hear from you in a comment down below.

Thanks for stopping by, if you enjoyed this post you may also want to check out my post on How to Keep Toddlers Busy in the Car – Road Trip Toys & Activities.

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