Your little one loves their crib, but one night you hear them trying (and maybe even succeeding) to climb out! Your parent spidey-sense is tingling and telling you that a big change is coming...one that you might not be ready for!Changing to a toddler bed might seem like a big, scary decision, but it doesn't have to be. The hard part about this decision is that most people don't know what to expect in the aftermath, or they attempt it too soon with the impending birth of a little sibling. The overarching concern is your child's safety, along with proper timing for this milestone.
If They Are Consistently Climbing Out
For me, changing my son into a toddler bed happened much sooner than I expected or wanted, when he was only 17 months old. But never fear, Baby Center assures us that most children make the transition somewhere between 1.5 and 3.5 years of age. Unfortunately for me, what started with binky weaning ended with my son climbing and falling out of his crib repeatedly.
With such a turn of events, we were forced into getting a bed that my son could safely get in and out of at will, along with the natural consequences that accompany a toddler bed (i.e., some sleepless nights). If your child attempts to climb out before they are 18 months old, lower the crib mattress as much as possible as they likely aren't yet really ready for a toddler bed. This was my bad, as we bought a VERY cheap crib that didn't allow the mattress to be lowered. Moral of the story: don't buy a cheap crib.
Luckily, most parents won't have to deal with such a change this soon, but it's important to be aware of the signs that mean it's likely time to make the transition.
Signs That Your Child Is ReadyAs with most big decisions regarding your child, it's important to let his/her behavior be your guide. Your child may be ready for his/her very own toddler bed when the following occurs:
- Your toddler is climbing out of his/her crib consistently and safety is an issue
- Your child can verbalize the desire for his/her own bed
- Your toddler understands imaginary boundaries (unlike the very real boundaries provided by crib rails) so he/she will stay in bed at night
- Your child shows a negative attitude towards his/her crib and staying in it
The important thing to remember is that if you make the transition too soon, it will disrupt both you and your toddler's sleep in a big way. Many parents make the mistake of transitioning their child too soon in order to make way for the birth of a younger sibling, but this often backfires. With a younger sibling on the way, your child is dealing with countless scary and overwhelming changes already, and may not do well with the transition just yet.
Make sure that when you do get a toddler bed, you ease into the transition slowly and keep safety a priority.
What to Look for in a Toddler Bed
Toddler beds should be sturdy and simple in design. Avoid anything with protrusions or ornate pieces that a rough-housing toddler could get hurt on. Rounded edges and smooth materials are a must. Also, your toddler bed of choice should include:
- proper railings
- a toddler-friendly mattress with a certified sticker from Juvenile Products Manufacturers (JPMA)
- Low height for toddler ease of entrance/exit
Toddler Bed Transition TipsYour toddler will take some time to adjust, so be patient. Here are some other tips to try:
- Let your child be part of the change by picking out new sheets and helping to set up the bed.
- Help your toddler be excited about the new bed with the language and tone you use.
- Place his/her new bed in the same spot as the crib for spacial familiarity.
- Stick to your bedtime routine like glue (I can't emphasize this one enough).
- Place soft pillows or blankets around the bed to cushion falls.
- Patiently take them back to bed if they get out during the night, keeping lights off and keeping talking to a minimum.
- If you need to wait and try again later, do so.