How to Transition a Toddler to a Big Kid Bed | The toddler years are filled with so many milestones, with transitioning from a crib to a big girl - or big boy - bed one of the biggies! When it comes to making this change, the first thing you need to assess is whether your child is ready, and what you need to do to make the change as smooth as possible. This post has everything you need to know - signs of readiness, bells and alarms for safety, and lots of sanity-saving transition tips!

The transition from crib to big-kid bed is a big moment in a toddler’s life.

Unlike other developmental stages, there isn’t a particular time to expect your toddler to be ready. Your toddler may be anywhere between 18 months and 3 years of age.

Every child is different. Some may have a strong attachment to their current sleeping arrangements and will resist the change. Others are itching to make the big move.

So how do you know if your toddler is ready to make the switch? These 3 signs will help you know when to leave the crib behind.

3 Signs Your Toddler is Ready for a Big Kid Bed

  1. They are too tall – If your child is at or just below three feet tall, they have most likely outgrown their crib. Pay attention to your crib’s mattress placement and recommendations for size.
  2. They’re trying to make an escape – This one is all about safety. If your toddler is scaling the side of their crib and can propel themselves over the crib rail, it’s time for a big-kid bed. They are still small and could easily hurt themselves, so watch out for escape artists.
  3. They ask for it – Pretty straightforward, right? Some kids will simply ask you to make the move. This is even more likely if they have an older sibling in a big-kid bed.

How to Transition a Toddler to a Big Kid Bed: 11 Tips

You can help your little one transition from crib to big-kid bed smoothly and safely by following these 11 tips:

  1. Timing is everything – If possible, avoid trying to make the transition if your toddler is currently going through another big change such as potty training, a new school/childcare, or they’re weaning off of a bottle or pacifier. If you’re expecting a new baby and you need the crib, start transitioning them at least three months before you are expected to give birth.
  2. Start a conversation – If your toddler is showing no signs of wanting to switch to a big-kid bed, you can slowly introduce it by starting a conversation. Talk with them about a new bed, read books about it, and pay attention to how they react. It may be all your little one needs to be ready to make the switch.
  3. Don’t forget your routine – Keep things consistent by sticking to your normal bedtime routine. Toddlers thrive on routine, so keep up the bedtime rituals they’re used to. Also, be sure to allow some extra time to get ready for bed as they are sure to get overly excited or distracted.
  4. Find the right bed – There are plenty of options out there when it comes to a toddler bed. Some allow you to reuse your crib’s mattress, saving you money. You can also choose to use a twin-size bed with a guard rail. No matter what you decide, keep safety in mind – place the headboard against the wall, ensure it’s put together securely, and keep it away from windows, curtains, lights, or heating elements.
  5. Give them a choice – This is the fun part. Let your toddler pick out sheets, bedding, and pillows they love to help make the transition more comfortable and exciting.
  6. Introduce it early – If possible, before making the switch, place the new bed in their room. Let your child know this will be their bed – practice laying down and resting, show them how to be safe by not jumping, and make it part of bedtime by reading books on it. You can also begin using their new bed for naps before they begin sleeping in it at night.
  7. Childproof the space – Now that your toddler can access their room (and rooms beyond!) more easily, you need to make sure that they will be safe. Add safety gates to stairs, secure heavy furniture and televisions, and make sure drawers are latched.
  8. Set an alarm – Many parents wonder how to keep their children from leaving their room at night. Locking their door, while it may seem to be the easiest option, is both a safety and a fire hazard. You can attach bells to their door or use a monitor to alert you when they leave the room.
  9. Reward their behavior – If your toddler is staying in their bed for naptime and bedtime, let them know how happy you are. You can also encourage them with a reward system such as a sticker or special treat each time they sleep in their big-kid bed.
  10. Don’t be afraid to switch back – It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes the switch happens too soon. If your toddler is constantly throwing tantrums or is unable to sleep at night, you may want to think about bringing back their crib and trying again in a month or two. If this happens, it’s OK. You will know when the time is right for your toddler and your family.
  11. Have patience – Easier said than done, we know. Just remember, like anything else in your child’s life, this too is a process. You will need to be prepared to put your toddler back to bed when they inevitably get out again, and again, and again. Take them back to bed calmly and leave quickly. It may take a month or two before they learn to stay in bed.

Knowing how to transition your toddler to a big kid bed is just the beginning. Remember, you know your toddler better than anyone else. Follow their cues and be sure to pay attention to their comfort levels. By doing so, you and your toddler will both rest easy.


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