Transitioning a toddler to a “big kid bed” from their crib can be very challenging. This is a huge change for the child who has known nothing other than their crib. To a toddler, the crib signifies security and safety.
Their whole worlds can feel upturned by the switch to a regular bed if the shift is not done properly. Here are some things to consider before beginning this important transition.
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1. Do: Make Sure they’re Ready – Don’t: Rush the Process
Is your child climbing out of the crib every night?
This can be an important sign that they’re ready. While most kids make the switch to a regular bed around 1½ -3 ½, age shouldn’t be the only criteria you look for. Some kids take longer than others and some progress very quickly.
Try to avoid pressuring them and wait until they’re really ready to cope with this big change in their lives. Avoid making this transition when there are other major changes going on in your child’s life.
Potty training, a new sibling, moving to a new home or room, starting preschool or daycare, or a new pet can all add a lot of stress to your toddler’s life, and it’s best to complete this process when it’s the only thing you both need to focus on.
Above all, try not to pressure them. Be patient and wait until they’re ready. Look at things from the perspective of their little world – if you’re like any other parent you probably had them sleeping in that comfy baby crib mattress that was the best around when you got it. Now, you’re asking them to give it up for this new giant bed – if you pressure them or show your frustration, they’ll just get scared.
2. Do: Make them an Active Part of the Process – Don’t: Make all the Big Decisions for them
Toddlers love attention and to feel included. Make them feel like this transition is all about them. By letting them choose their or bedspread, your child will feel like they have a say in this process.
They will be less likely to resist the change and more likely to accept it if they have their favorite cartoon character bedspread to sleep on.
3. Do: Consider Comfort and Safety – Don’t: Ignore these Important Factors
Most toddlers have favorite blankets, stuffed animals, or toys they sleep with. Make sure these comforting items make it to the new bed to help make your child feel as secure as possible.
Consider the safety of the new bed – have you purchased bed rails to keep them from falling out? Nothing will harm your efforts more than if your child associates their new bed with getting hurt. This may be a good time to install nightlights to help them feel less fearful at night.
4. Do: Ease Into It – Don’t: Expect It to Happen Overnight
When you buy your child’s new bed, it can be tempting to immediately get rid of the crib and expect them to sleep in their new bed right away. However, you can help provide a smooth transition by setting up their bed next to their crib for the first few nights and letting them adjust to the presence of it.
Next, you can try putting them down for naps in the new bed. Once they’ve accepted the bed as a safe place, then they’re ready for the next step: getting rid of the crib.
Some kids will cry and become very upset at the sight of the crib being moved out. You know your child best- would it be best to have it moved out while they’re away, or could they handle watching it leave?
5. Do: Keep the Routine – Don’t: Change Any More than You Need to
It’s especially critical to make sure you keep following your usual bedtime routine with your toddler at this time. If you usually read bedtime stories or sing songs with them, make sure you keep doing these things as if nothing has changed.
If you upset the routine, your child may be more likely to experience separation anxiety, which will really thwart your efforts. By following the routine they already know, you’ll help foster the sense of safety and security that is desperately needed during this stressful time.
6. The Final DO
Remember, this is a huge change for your toddler. Try to be empathetic and patient while you help guide them towards sleeping in their new bed. By keeping these tips in mind, you’ll help steer your child towards happy and healthy sleeping habits.