Whether your toddler’s literally outgrown his crib—or spends more time jumping out of it than he does sleeping in it—it might be time to make the switch to a big kid bed.
Toddlers are usually ready to move out of their cribs around age three. “At that age, you’re able to reason with them and they can better understand what’s happening,” says Rebecca Michi, a Seattle-based Children’s Sleep Consultant.
Depending on your child’s temperament, he may be slower (or quicker) to warm up to the change. For some kids, their crib is a security blanket—warm, cozy and confined. Plus, it’s a space that belongs to just them!
Explaining to your tot that he’s getting too big to sleep in his crib is a good first step. (Hey, it might work!) But if attempting to reason with a three-year-old sounds akin to getting a root canal, never fear. Here’s how to make the crib-to-bed transition easier for everyone.
Take baby steps
If your toddler’s room has enough space for a crib and a bed, try keeping both around for a few days to help him adjust to the change. Start by giving him the chance to spend time playing on the bed and getting used to having it in his room. Move on to using the bed for daytime naps, and then have him try sleeping in it at night. By this time, he might surprise you and voluntarily opt out on the crib.
If you need the crib for a new baby on the way, know that toddlers can get upset when their new sibling gets to sleep in their crib. “To them, it’s like the baby has come along and is taking over,” Michi says. If you have the time, transition your toddler into his new bed well before the baby arrives. This way, he won’t feel like he’s being kicked off of his turf.
Emphasize the excitement
Enlisting your toddler’s involvement is a sure-fire way to make his bed more appealing. Let him choose his own special sheets and blankets, and have him help you make the bed and move his stuffed animals over to their new home. And don’t forget to mention the best part: Now you can cuddle up next to him while reading his favorite bedtime stories.
Beware of late night strolls
Where there’s freedom, there’s a toddler ready to explore. Your child no longer has crib bars blocking him from the outside world—so chances are he might get up and wander. If it happens, escort them back to bed while reminding him that it’s time for sleep. Likely, he’ll stop after two or three days once he’s gotten used to the change.