Making the Transition to a Bed from a Crib

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The transition to a bed is a big step for toddlers. Some go from a crib to a bed easily. Others are sad to give up the security of their crib. Still others don’t mind giving up the crib but have a hard time staying put in their bed!

Tips For Easing a Toddler’s Transition to a Bed:

Before moving your toddler from the crib to a toddler bed or twin bed there are some things you should do:

  • Tell your toddler: Suprising him/her with a new bed and expecting your child to sleep in it that night may be too much! Talk to your toddler about going from the crib to a big kid bed at least a couple days in advance. This is also a good time to explain the rules of the bed (Ex: No jumping on bed, stay in bed at bedtime, etc).
  • Put the new bed where the crib was: Your toddler is used to looking at his/her room from a certain vantage point. If you put the bed where the crib used to be, the view won’t change. This will create one less distraction for your toddler.
  • Don’t transition to a bed while other major changes are occurring: Toddlers love stability and will handle the change from a crib to a bed best if they aren’t also having to cope with other changes like potty training, giving up a pacifier, moving, new daycare, or a new sibling.
  • Stick with their normal bedtime routine: You want to make sure as many of your toddler’s normal sleep cues as possible are present the night s/he switches to a “big kid” bed. Don’t make bedtime seem like a party. It’s okay to start the bedtime routine a little earlier since it may take a little longer for your toddler to fall asleep, but stick with your normal routine.

Tips for Helping Toddlers Who Want Their Cribs:

  • Keep the Crib in the Room: Sometimes it’s comforting to know the crib is still around. The new bed should be placed where the crib was, but that doesn’t mean the crib needs to be dismantled right away. Your child can still sleep in the crib for a few nights after the bed is put in his/her room to help him/her adjust to the idea of sleeping in a bed. Let the toddler sit on the bed, play on the bed, and lay on the bed during the day. If s/he is too upset to sleep in it at night let her/him sleep in the crib.
  • Introduce the Bed at Nap Time: Nap time occurs during the light of the day. It will often seem less intimidating to try out a new bed at nap time. Then, having that successful nap in the bed may help give your little one the confidence to sleep in the new bed at night as well!
  • Put the mattress on the Floor: The size of a new bed can seem scary. Some children who refuse the bed completely will sleep on the mattress laid on the floor by the bed. Some toddlers adjust better to change when that change is divided into little steps. Then, when your little one is comfortable with the mattress, he/she can adjust to sleeping with the mattress on the bed.
  • Talk about Other Children who Have Big Beds: It can be comforting to know that other children sleep in “big kid” beds. Help your child remember all the people s/he knows that sleep in toddler beds or twin beds. You don’t want to shame your child for his/her reluctance to transition to a bed, rather you do this as a way of making the bed seem less scary.
  • Read Books about Moving from a Crib to a Bed: Many authors have captured the fears and sadness some toddlers feel about giving up their crib in their books. Reading about how book characters were able to handle going from a crib to a bed can help your own child cope.
  • If needed, sit in the room until your little one is asleep: Some children need extra comfort when switching to a toddler or twin bed. If your child simply doesn’t feel comfortable staying in the bed, get a chair, place it by the bed or in your child’s doorway and stay there until your child falls asleep. Don’t talk or sing, let your child fall asleep on his/her own. Just be there for support to help make this step easier. Each night move the chair further and further from your child until sitting by the room is no longer needed.

Tips for Toddlers Who Won’t Stay in Their Beds:

  • Set expectations: Tell your toddler before bedtime (and maybe even a few times during the day) s/he needs to stay in the bed when it’s bedtime.
  • Be prepared to patiently help your toddler stay in bed: Expect your little one to need help staying in bed for a couple of nights. Prepare to keep a calm, positive attitude and the transition will go more smoothly for everyone involved.
  • Put your toddler to bed with the normal routine: Do your normal bedtime routine, nothing extra. Having a new bed can be exciting, you want to counter that by keeping bedtime as routine as possible.
  • If your toddler gets up, put him/her back in bed: If your toddler gets out of bed, calmly take them back to his/her bed. Remind your child it is bedtime and you can talk in the morning. Do not react with a lot of energy, you do not want to turn this into a game.
  • Don’t say much: This is not the time for a long lecture. You don’t want to engage your child, you want him/her to sleep, so keep what you say short. If he/she keep coming out, you eventually may not say anything at all, just simply put him/her back in bed.
  • If needed, sit in the room until your little one is asleep: Some children need extra comfort when switching to a toddler or twin bed. If your child simply doesn’t feel comfortable staying in the bed, get a chair, place it by the bed or in your child’s doorway and stay there until your child falls asleep. Don’t talk or sing, let your child fall asleep on his/her own. Just be there for support to help make this step easier. Each night move the chair further and further from your child until sitting by the room is no longer needed.
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