One of the biggest transitions for our toddler and preschool aged children is the move from the crib to a big bed. This can be a very interesting (aka difficult) transition.
Let’s put this into perspective. Your little person is used to being in a crib which restricts their ability to move about the room or house throughout the night. Once in the bed, your little one will be able to get up and move about the house as they wish. This new found freedom often takes time for our little ones to get used to. After the novelty of having the freedom wears off it does get easier when you remain consistent with the expectation that they stay in their bed.
When should you move your little one from the crib to a bed?
The best time to transition your little one to a bed is when they understand the concept that a behavior has a consequence. When does concept begin to be understood? Typically, children begin to understand that behaviours have a consequence closer to the age of three. Therefore, I recommend waiting until your child is 3 years of age or older before you begin the transition to a bed.
What if my child is climbing out of the crib?
If your child has learned how to climb out of the crib and you have exhausted all efforts to keep your child in the crib safely then you will have to transition your child to a bed before age 3. Safety trumps developmental readiness.
How can you keep your child in the crib longer?
There are a few things that you can do to prevent your little one from climbing out of the crib.
1. Remove anything from the crib that your child can use to stand on to help get their legs closer to the top of the crib when they lift a leg over the rail. The most common thing people do is to put a bumper in the crib. Your child will use the bumper to help get over the railing.
2. Lower the mattress to the absolute lowest level possible.
3. A sleep sack can help to prevent your child from being able to get their leg over the crib railing. Here is an article that may help.. Sleep Sack: Is It Really Necessary?
4. A number of cribs have one side of the crib that is lower than the other. I recommend that you turn the shorter side so that it is against the wall. This could give you a few extra weeks/months with a child in the crib!
Excellent! Now, you know when you should do the transition. So the next question usually is…
What type of bed should I move my child to?
Honestly, this is a personal preference. If your crib transitions to a daybed or toddler bed pretty easily I’d stick with that for a few months if possible (it may not be possible if you need the crib for another child). If the crib does not transition or is not available then the next bed is really up to you.
For us, we took the rail off the crib and he slept there for about a year. Then he transitioned into a double bed. We went to a double bed so that we could lay with him to read stories. Initially, he found the bed too big. We placed pillows beside him and he dis great.
How do I prepare my child for the move?
The best thing to do is to involve your child in the preparation of the new bed. Let your child help with picking out the bedding and any paint colours.
The next thing to do is to make sure that all the furniture that can be climbed is anchored to the wall. If you are concerned about your child getting out of the room in the middle of the night I would put a baby gate up in their doorway. We made sure there was a gate at the top of the stairs.
My child’s room is ready! Now what?
For the first few nights, I would stay close to the room at bedtime. Then when your child exits the room you guide them back to the bed with minimal communication. If you find yourself guiding your child back to the bed a great deal I would switch to a camp out sleep teaching method.
This transition does take about 3 to 4 weeks for it to be complete. I have seen it take as long as 6 to 8 weeks.
As with all things parenting the transition will not be the same for all children. Pack your patience and have fun!