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Transitioning Your Toddler From the Crib to the Bed


Is your toddler is ready to graduate from a crib to a bed? This may be an exciting milestone for your “big kid,” who may enjoy her new status and freedom. However, this may also mean more work for you: choosing the right type of bed for your little one, getting her to stay in bed all night, creating a safe sleep environment, and taking additional steps to help ease this transition. Read all about how, when, and what to do as the time comes to transition your toddler from crib to bed.

When to Transition Your Toddler From a Crib to a Bed

When your child reaches about three feet tall, you can start having him use a bed instead of his crib. Another telltale sign that it’s time to transition is if he’s able to climb out of his crib even with the crib mattress at the lowest setting. This typically happens around the age of 2 or 3.

How to Make Transitioning Your Toddler From a Crib to a Bed Easier

For some toddlers, the transition from crib to bed may go smoothly, as it gives them a sense of being a “big kid.” Other toddlers may need more help to make the switch. Whether your child seems to be transitioning easily or not, it’s best to keep the same bedtime routine you’ve established in infanthood in order to make the change feel less extreme.

Of course, a major difference between a sleeping in a “big kid” bed and a crib is that a bed doesn’t have sides, and your child will have been used to being surrounded by sides in his crib. Here are two ways you can make this new sleeping environment more comfortable for him:

  • Place the mattress on the floor. You can start with a small mattress, such as a twin mattress or even the one from the crib, placed on the floor as a sleeping surface. Many kids during the transition tend to roll out of bed onto the floor anyway, so this helps keep your child safe. Eventually you can introduce a bed frame when your child is better at staying on the bed.

  • Use a guard rail. This can help keep your child feel safe and secure on his new bed.

What Type of Bed to Use

There are various options when it comes to transitioning your toddler from a crib to a bed:

  1. You could take his crib mattress out of the crib and place it on the floor until you decide on a more permanent solution

  2. If the baby crib is convertible, you could remove the sides and convert it into a toddler bed following the manufacturer’s instructions

  3. You could purchase a bed specifically designed for toddlers that can be adjusted in length and width

  4. You could transition to a twin bed, with the mattress placed on the floor at first, and later placed into a bed frame.

Reinforcing the "Stay in Your Bed" Rule

It’s finally happened: your little one has graduated to a bed! However, for you her new sleeping arrangement might be nerve-racking, especially when climbing out of bed in the middle of the night and wandering off might be involved. Check out the following advice to help keep your toddler in bed, and to help her get back to bed if she gets up and wanders during the night:

How to Keep Your Toddler in Bed When Transitioning From a Crib

Here are some guidelines for keeping your toddler in bed:

How to Help Your Toddler Get Back to Bed

Follow this step by step approach for getting your toddler back into bed if she’s climbed out and wandered off:

  1. Take your child's hand and lead her back to bed, and tell her that she needs to stay in bed

  2. Avoid singing her a lullaby, telling her a story, rubbing her back, or lying in bed with her until she falls asleep, as this or any type of prolonged interaction rewards her with attention for having gotten out of bed

  3. Assure her that you will come back periodically to check on her during the night—this reassurance may provide some comfort

  4. Before you leave the room, remind her that the rule is to stay in bed. Wish her good night and tell her you’ll see her in the morning.

You may need to repeat some of these steps several times in a single night. The best piece of advice is to remain calm and keep your interactions brief and low-key, even boring, and not reward your child with too much attention. Consistency and sensitivity can help you put an end to nighttime escapes and enforce the rules of staying in bed. If your toddler manages to stay in bed throughout the night, pile on the praise in the morning. Tell her how proud you are and how proud she should feel that she slept through the night in her own bed.

Note on Childproofing and Safety

It isn’t always possible to keep your toddler from climbing out of bed at night and wandering around. This is why childproofing your toddler’s room is a good idea before she becomes more mobile and independent. Here are some ways to childproof your toddler’s bedroom before transitioning from a crib to a bed:

  • Install a baby gate on the bedroom door so that he doesn’t leave his room at night without your knowledge

  • If his bedroom is located on the second floor of the house, make sure a baby gate is installed at the top of the stairs to prevent him from falling down the stairs.

  • Keep the area around the bed clear of furniture or large toys that she could use for climbing out or that she could bump into as she makes her escape

  • Use wall anchors on large pieces of furniture and childproof latches and locks on cabinet doors and chests of drawers.

The Bottom Line

Transitioning your toddler from a crib to a bed is definitely a time of change. Your child may enjoy the freedom of moving from an enclosed crib to a wide-open bed. However, this period can come with challenges, including your child climbing out of bed at night and wandering off, in most cases to find you! Before starting this transition, decide on the type of bed you’d like for your toddler, and whether you’d like to start with the mattress on the floor before putting the mattress into a bed frame and using a guard rail. Make sure your child’s bedroom isn’t hazardous by anchoring heavy pieces of furniture to the wall and using childproof locks on cabinet doors and drawers. If you think you’ll have a climber on your hands, make sure the area around the bed is free of large toys or furniture that your little one could use to climb out. Set rules for helping your toddler understand the importance of staying in bed. If he does climb out, take him back to bed and tell him that he needs to stay in bed. Assure him that you’ll check on him now and then. When the morning comes, praise him for sleeping in his own bed. If your toddler’s struggling with their transition from the crib, or if you have any other sleep-related questions, download the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers™. This easy-to-use app offers everything you need to know to understand and help transition your baby to their big kid bed as well as tools and other helpful sleep related info to help get and keep sleep on track.

How We Wrote This Article The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.

About Kim West

Kim West is a mother of two wonderful daughters and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been a practicing child and family therapist for 25 years. Known as The Sleep Lady® by her clients, over the past twenty years she has helped tens of thousa...

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