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  • Taylor Scott-Wood

Transitioning to a Toddler Bed: A Guide for First-Time Moms

As your little one grows, so do their sleeping needs. Transitioning from a crib to a toddler bed is a big milestone for both you and your child. It can feel a bit daunting, but with a little guidance, you’ll navigate this change smoothly and confidently. Here's everything you need to know about making the switch! 

Let’s grab a coffee and dive in!

When to Switch: Recognizing the Signs

Every child is different, but there are a few common signs that might indicate it's time to transition to a toddler bed:

  1. Climbing Out of the Crib: If your little adventurer has figured out how to climb out of their crib, it's time for a safer option. Before switching, try lowering the crib as much as possible, no canopies or items that hang over their crib as they can use it to pull on, remove any furniture and items close to the crib that may be dangerous of they fall on. If you catch them trying, not to laugh or have a big reaction, the more you react/engage, the more they’re going to want to keep trying!

  2. Potty Training: If your child is potty training and needs easier access to the bathroom, a toddler bed can make nighttime trips simpler.

  3. Age and Size: Ideally, we want babies/toddlers to stay in their crib until 3 if you can safely. They already have so much independence and need the boundaries of their crib. 

What to Switch Into: Choosing the Right Bed

Once you decide you’re ready to transition from crib to a big kid bed, the next question that parents often ask is what kind of bed should they transition into? There are a few options when it comes to toddler beds:

  1. Toddler Bed: These are smaller and lower to the ground, often designed to use the same mattress as the crib. They’re a great transitional option.

  2. Twin Bed with Rails: If you want something that will last longer, consider a twin bed with safety rails. This gives your child more space and can grow with them.

  3. Convertible Crib: Some cribs convert into toddler beds by removing one side. This can be a cost-effective and familiar option for your child.

How to Switch: Making the Transition Smooth

When you're ready to make the switch to a toddler bed, I recommend having a short countdown of 3-5 days. Create a little countdown calendar where each morning you cross off a day and use this as a chance to talk about the transition together. This can build excitement and help your child look forward to the change while reinforcing that their sleep routines and expectations will stay the same.

Here are some examples of how to talk about it with your toddler:

  • "I’m so excited for you to sleep in your new bed in 3 days! We’ll do our bedtime routine like always but then we’ll read you a book and tuck you into your new bed instead of putting you in the crib.”

  • “What’s happening in 2 days? Yes, you get to sleep all night in your new bed!”

  • “It’s okay if you’re nervous about trying to fall asleep in your new bed. What do you do in your crib right now to fall asleep?”

  • “Tonight is the night we are switching you to your new bed! At dinnertime we’ll go over our sleep rules again and make sure you feel ready. And remember, mommy and daddy will be here for you.”

  1. Involve Your Child: Let them help pick out the new bed or bedding. This can make the transition more exciting and less scary. Have them “help” as you take down the crib and set up the new bed. Involving your child in the process makes them feel like a key part of the team and can make the transition smoother and more enjoyable for everyone.

  2. Maintain the Routine: Keep bedtime routines consistent to provide a sense of security. Familiar bedtime stories, songs, and books can help. If you don’t have a bedtime routine yet, check out my free guide here!

  3. Start with Naps: Begin by having your child nap in the new bed to get them accustomed to it before transitioning to nighttime sleep. If they don’t end up napping because of this, thats 

  4. Safety First: Ensure the room is child-proofed. Remove any hazards and consider placing a gate, “door monkey”, or closing the bedroom door if your child tends to wander. Think of your child's room as a giant crib, ensuring all furniture is bolted to the walls, no cords are exposed, distractions are put away, and ensuring the room is safe for them when they are alone.

What to Expect: Navigating the Adjustment Period

The transition to a toddler bed might come with a few bumps in the road, and that’s okay! Transitioning to a toddler bed is a big change, and it's essential to be prepared for any sleep disruptions that might come with it. These disruptions can turn into new sleep habits if not addressed properly. So, it’s crucial to have a mental plan of action in place.

Think about how you will respond if your child gets out of bed repeatedly. What will you do if they start requesting you to stay in the room longer and longer? How will you handle a 5am wake-up when your child leaves their room and acts like it’s time to start the day?

These are important “what ifs” to discuss and plan for ahead of time. Make sure you and your partner are on the same page and communicate about how to handle these scenarios. Remember, one of the keys to successful sleep for young children is maintaining boundaries. Be prepared to be their calm and confident leader during this transition.

Here are some common bumps along the way:

  1. Nighttime Wakings: It's normal for your child to wake up and explore their new freedom. Gently guide them back to bed and reassure them. 

  2. Resistance: Some children might resist the change. Be patient and give them time to adjust. Consistency is key.

  3. Celebrating Success: Celebrate the small wins! Praise your child for staying in their bed and make a big deal out of it to reinforce positive behavior.

All of these bumps are a great reason to have a plan in place before you make the switch. Ensuring you respond the same way each time will provide important consistency to get through the transition.

Additional Tips: Making the Move Easier

  1. Comfort Items: Allow your child to bring a favorite stuffed animal or blanket to the new bed for comfort. Or even let them buy a new one as a “safety buddy”

  2. Nightlight: A nightlight can help ease any fear of the dark and make the new bed feel cozier. 

  3. Rise to Wake Clock: If your toddler is constantly waking up early AND getting out of bed, try a rise to wake clock! It’s a light that signals when it’s bedtime, almost morning, and when they’re allowed out of bed for the day. Best part, you can set it to your families schedule! I have a product I highly recommend, if you’re in Australia, New Zealand or the UK, send me an email and I’ll send you the link plus a discount code!

  4. Gradual Transition: If your child is particularly resistant, consider a gradual transition where they spend part of the night in the new bed and the rest in the crib.

  5. Reward Chart: I love when parents have a reward chart for their little one BUT it's important that we don’t introduce it with extremely high expectations on night one. We will start with small, achievable goals with the reward chart then as they develop some consistency, make the goal bigger. Examples of small goals to start: “you fell asleep without mom or dad being in the room”“mommy and daddy only had to come in once last night”. The power of praise can also be just as powerful if not more than a physical reward, tell them you’re proud of them and that they did such a good job, it really helps encourage them.

Remember, this transition is a big step for your little one. Patience, consistency, and a dash of creativity will make it a positive experience for both of you. Before you know it, your toddler will be happily snoozing in their big kid bed, dreaming big dreams!

Transitioning to a toddler bed is an exciting milestone, but it can also come with its challenges. If you need personalized support or have questions about making this change smoothly, I'm here to help. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with me for expert guidance tailored to your family's needs. Together, we can ensure your little one enjoys a restful night’s sleep in their new big kid bed!


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