Of all the milestones a child reaches during the toddler years, making the transition from a crib to a bed is certainly one of the most visible. The room suddenly becomes more spacious, and you don't have to wrestle with those awkward bars. But before that happy time arrives, you'll want to know the signs your toddler is ready for a bed. After all, there's no point in rushing out to IKEA or Bob's for a new piece of furniture, only to have your child avoid it like the plague (or use it as their personal trampoline).
"Most children transition from a crib to a bed between two and three years old," Andrew Bernstein, MD, FAAP, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, explains to Romper. "Some children will push that earlier if they are adventurous climbers, while others are content to stay in a crib for as long as they can."
Each child has their own temperament, personality, and sleeping habits, so don't worry if your child is still cozy in a crib as they approach preschool time. You'll know they're ready to get out from behind the bars when they show one or more of these signs.
1. They're Eager To Be A "Big Kid"
A toddler's desire has a lot to do with making the switch, explains Dr. Bernstein. "Waiting until a child expresses interest will often result in a child who is more motivated to stay in bed and make it work," he says. Some 2- or 3-year-olds still feel more secure in a crib, while others can't wait to get into a toddler bed. If your child is starting to gripe about being in a "baby crib," or asking when they can have a bed like yours, you'll know the process is ready to begin.
2. They're Good Sleepers
If your child reliably goes to bed at the same time each night, falls asleep easily, and stays in there quietly till morning, that's a good indication that they're ready to make the switch. "A child who moves and rolls around a lot at night is likely to fall out of bed, and should maybe stay in the crib a little longer," says Dr. Bernstein. And when you do make the transition from crib to bed, a guard rail is a wise move.
3. They're About To Be A Big Sibling
Parents who are adding to their family often use this as an opportunity to move their older child out of the crib. If this is your plan, the best time to make the transition is six to eight weeks before your due date, advised BabyCenter. You could also let your newborn sleep in a bassinet for a couple of months while you encourage your older child to try the new bed. As they get used to the idea of a sibling, they may be more inspired to give up "baby" things like crib sleeping.
4. Their Room Is Secure
A new bed means new freedoms, so make sure you're ready for the reality that your child may get out of bed in the middle of the night, or wake up earlier than you hoped. "I stress making sure it's a safe transition," advises Dr. Bernstein. "The younger a child is when changing out of a crib, the more important it is to make sure there are no unsafe objects or situations available to the child if he or she decides to leave the bed." It may be a good idea to put a safety gate across the door at night if your child tends to roam. "There should also be soft materials on the floor next to the bed, in case the child rolls out," says Bernstein.
5. They're Physically And Mentally Ready
In order to make a successful switch from crib to bed, a child needs to "get in and out easily on their own, which usually means being good at walking and climbing up to the height of a bed," explains Dr. Bernstein. Many parents realize this by surprise the first time they walk into the nursery and see their toddler has climbed out of the crib by themselves. Even so, BabyCenter advised, you may want to ease into the transition by lowering the crib mattress for a time until you're sure your child is fully ready for a bed.
Your child should also be mature enough to understand that they're expected to stay in bed all night. Having a sleep training clock, which uses red and green lights to indicate when it's okay to get up, can help.
6. They're Toilet Trained
If you're among the lucky parents of a child who's mastered toilet training (or is almost there), that's a sign that they're mature enough to sleep consistently and safely in a toddler bed. Also, as Bernstein points out, "Nighttime toilet training goes better if children have easy access to the bathroom."
If you're considering transitioning your child from a crib to a bed, pay attention to these signs. Knowing that you and your toddler are ready for this big step can make the process easier for everyone.