One of the biggest sleep concerns parents of toddlers have is when to transition their child from a crib to a toddler bed. Do you have to move your child to a toddler bed as soon as he starts crawing out of the crib? Does she have to be potty trained? What does it mean to be developmentally ready for a toddler bed?
I got lucky in that my son never climbed out of his crib— never even attempted it and has always been happy in it! Therefore, I never had a need to transition him to a toddler due to any safety concern, which is a reason for many moms and dads out there. Nevertheless, about three months before his third birthday, I started the transition.
First, I had to decide if I wanted a twin bed, mattress on the floor, toddler bed, or to just convert his crib. I decided to convert his crib and bought a rail for his crib. I also bought a "OK to Wake Clock" and blackout curtains and made sure his room is safe, in case he started wandering at night.
I involved him on every step in making the change—I probably took a few weeks talking about it until the day I unscrewed one side of his crib with him together, put together the side rail, set up the "OK to Wake Clock," and showed him the new blanket and pillow we bought together. I explained the new clock and how to "use" it. I made clear to him he can only come out of bed if the clock is green, which works great with him. He can call me if he has to go to the bathroom but has to go back to bed if the clock is red.
In the end, he was excited and went with no problem to bed. We went through a few weeks of him coming out of the room and testing what he can ask for (I need water, I am hot/cold, there is a noise in my room, there is a monster, I need a hug, I need to go potty, what are you doing, and so on). But after keeping our routine and not getting into all of his requests we are back to a healthy sleep schedule at nap and bedtime.
Here some general suggestions that help you with your child!
- Be aware of your child's readiness to transition. Most children transition out of the crib anywhere from 2–3 1/2 years old. Even if your child has climbed out of his or her crib ONCE, do not panic and rush to the store to buy a toddler bed—give it a few daysand see if she/he does it again!
- Be prepared! Convert the crib, have a mattress on the floor, or buy a toddler bed/twin bed.
- Involve your child when making a decision on what kind of bed you are getting! Have her/him pick out a new blanket and pillow.
- An "OK to wake clock" is optional but can be beneficial to your toddlers internal clock which avoids any early wakings or confusion.
- Pick the right time! Do not transtion to a toddler when potty training, new baby arrival, starting a new daycare/school or moving. One step at a time! Too many changes are too stressful for children.
- Keep the new bed in the same place as the crib. This will avoid any extra stress on the child!
- Keep the same strong bedtime routine and don't make any changes! The bed should be the only change.
- Talk about the big change with your child—do not just do it! You can also buy children books "Transiiton to a toddler bed" to have your child prepared and ease into the situation.