Transition from crib to toddler bed

What to Expect When Moving Your Toddler to a Big Boy/Girl Bed

So you have a perfect Moms on Call baby…who is somehow already a toddler and ready for a toddler bed. Your first question is, perhaps, “How did it happen so fast??” I can’t answer that one. I still have difficulty accepting the ugly truth that time is a thief. But – I do hope sharing my experience helps others who are gearing up for the big move.

Written by Moms on Call Consultant Sydney Smith, BSN, RN

A few months ago, my husband very casually asked, “When will we stop rocking Foster?” Just like that, thinking about moving my oldest to his big boy bed changed. What was once simply a next step, a fun chance for me to spice up his nursery and something I assumed my little lover of sleep would tackle with ease, was now an emotional hurdle for me.

When to make the move to the toddler bed?

Here are a few reasons to move your child from their crib to a bed.

  • Climbing out of the crib.
  • Showing interest or asking for a big bed (more common with younger siblings seeing an older sibling in their big bed).
  • They are simply too big for their crib.
  • To make way for a baby sibling. **I caution moms facing a close age gap not to do this too soon just because we need another crib. I found it very nice to have a contained, sleeping toddler who was very accustomed to his routine and still napped. This was important to have while I was trying to adjust to being up at night with a newborn and trying to nap myself during the day. If your soon to be big brother or sister will be under the age of 2 when the new baby arrives, use a pack and play for new baby for a while or spring for another crib.

First things first.

Before you make the transition from crib to bed, the first thing you must do is childproof their bedroom. Dressers anchored to the wall, cords not exposed, no small toys, etc. Then, change the doorknobs so they lock from the outside and lock them in their room. (for more on this…read on.)

Parents are eager to give tips! Here are mine.

1. Prepare, but don’t overhype

I was fully expecting him to explore his new freedom and maybe even have to remind him that it was time to sleep, not play. I even put away or hid toys/toy baskets to make his room a bit more boring than usual.

What I was not expecting was the PANIC that he experienced when it was time to close the doors. This kid told everyone willing to listen that he was going to soon sleep "in a big boy bed with no sleep sack and no paci, just my blanket" (said at an incredibly fast speed), and then when the time came...sheer panic. He was hyperventilating. I looked at my husband on the other side of the door like HUH?!? We went in and told him it was really no big deal, just another bed in his room. We would still be down the hall, etc. After that, I broke my own rule and stared at the monitor, watching his little eyes blink until they blinked closed, and we didn't hear a peep from him until 7:10 the next morning.

I’m not sure, but I think I perhaps overhyped this big boy bed thing. It really isn’t that big of a change. Same room, same house, same bedtime. Different mattress. I think he was expecting something big and scary to happen when we closed the doors. We shrugged our shoulders and gave a “no big deal, I’m not worried” pep talk, and he was fine. So, the moral of that story…don’t overhype. Remember, Confidence is contagious. Confident words and confident faces!

2. Consistency is key

Stick to a bedtime routine. The routine doesn’t have to differ much from the bedtime routine with a crib. Tell your toddler it's time for bed (we are not asking if they are “ready for bed?”) that they can choose for daddy or mommy to read 2 books, sing a song, and tuck them in. Say out loud, "I'm going to close the door to keep you safe. I'm not coming back in, and Daddy isn't coming back in. We're going to sleep, too! I love you, and I know you are going to sleep so well in your bed tonight. I'll see you in the morning!" Toddlers are not developmentally able to handle overexplaining. You’re setting the expectation that they are safe and loved, and they will see you in the morning, just like when they were in their crib. No need to over-explain.

If they wake up and try to leave their room, don't engage. If they sleep on the floor half the night, it's no big deal. We go in in the morning and say, "You silly goose. You have this awesome bed, and you chose to sleep on the floor. Maybe you will want to sleep in it tonight! I'm not worried!" and move on. Can you imagine (especially the pregnant mommas) how ridiculously sore you would be if you slept on the floor all night? Kids aren't like that. They are practically made of rubber. They’ll get the idea.

3. Close and lock the door

To some, this sounds insane. But! If you think about it, a childproofed, locked room simply becomes a big crib. He slept in a crib for 3+ years, and this is a larger, safer space for him to sleep. Also, firefighters highly recommend this because you know where your child is at all times if there ever is a reason you need to find them and get out of the house quickly.

A friend of mine with a super well-behaved toddler woke up to their house alarm going off at 4 a.m. because their toddler had walked out the back door to get a toy on their back porch. They have a pool...I was sick to my stomach when she told me. She was fine, but it could have been a very dangerous situation for her. She's not bad, but she's 3. A recent client's little boy got into their garage, and Lord knows what he could have gotten into out there or what if they had left a garage door up!

4. Be careful with new habits

Toddlers can convince us to do so many things to stall bedtime…I want some water, I need to potty, 1 more book, crack the door, bathroom light on, lay with me, rub my back, and the list goes on. Decide what you are going to do each night and stick with it.

Moms on Call provides simple, sensible parenting resources to sleep, feed, laugh, and love birth through toddlerhood. If you are looking for additional support, MOC Certified Consultants are here for you.

View all of Moms on Call’s safety product recommendations on our Products We Love and Toddler Toys & Safety pages. Our Online Video Courses and books are also great resources with safety tips throughout!

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