As with any toddler milestone, transitioning your child from a crib to a toddler bed can be an exciting but stressful time for both you and your little one. You might worry your child will experience a regression in their sleeping habits or potentially fall out of a “big kid” bed. Not to mention if the transition includes moving their bed out of your room entirely. If you’re wondering what age you should get a toddler bed, you’re right to feel as if there are a lot of variables to consider.
The good news is that there’s no one-size-fits-all age to trade out your kid’s crib for a tricked out Paw Patrol bed. But if there’s no exact age for this milestone, how will you know when your child is ready to graduate? The easiest answer is that you can start preparing for the transition when they can no longer fit comfortably in their crib. Comfort with the decision, for both parent and toddler, is key.
Christine Stevens, a certified sleep consultant, tells Romper that parents shouldn’t feel pressured into transitioning their toddler out of a crib. “There should be no rush to put your kid into a big kid bed,” Stevens says. She recommends that parents consider changing beds after their child turns 2 1/2 or 3 because it’s easier to successfully communicate your expectations to them.
Children younger than age 2 might have a hard time understanding what it means when you tell them to stay in their bed. In fact, when children transition into a toddler bed, sometimes they don’t even realize they can get out by themselves, says Dr. Craig Canapari, a pediatric sleep physician and the director of Yale Pediatric Sleep Center.
Also, parents should rest assured that there’s no such thing as transitioning “too late.” Rather than using age as a rigid benchmark, Stevens suggests that you assess your toddler’s current bedtime routine and sleeping arrangements. “I’ve met plenty of children that were 3, sometimes 4 years old, that were still sleeping in cribs because they were sleeping well,” she says.
“I usually ask parents, ‘Who is this for: you or the child?’ If it’s the parent kind of pushing for it, and if your child is sleeping really well, why mess with a good thing?” Stevens adds.
If you’re worried your little one will lose all their good sleeping habits after the switch, you should know it’s normal for toddlers to have sleep regressions at 18 months old and again at 2. Alanna McGinn, a certified sleep consultant, told Today’s Parent that while moving your toddler from a crib to a toddler bed can certainly contribute to a sleep regression, the transition isn’t likely to be the primary cause of one.
If your child is already starting to “crib jump,” Stevens identifies that as another reason parents may want to get a toddler bed. Parents concerned about their toddler falling out of the opening in the new bed should rest assured that they are designed to be low enough to prevent injury, Canapari says. If your toddler's bed seems too high, you can always buy a guardrail to avoid late-night tumbles.
If the move to a big kid bed is ultimately not working out, the switch doesn’t have to be immediate or permanent. Try transitioning them in increments, such as keeping the toddler bed in your room if that’s where the crib was.
“If the child is struggling, you can always just put them back [in the crib],” Canapari tells Romper.
"There’s often a feeling when you do these things as a parent, ‘Okay, we’re doing this, it’s totally irrevocable; we can't change our minds about it. That’s not the case — you can. Leave yourself the option, if things don't go well,” he says.
Most of all, Stevens says parents should remember that their child is an individual and will be ready for a toddler bed in their own time. Before you know it, your toddler will be dreaming in their own bed like a big kid and your worries about the transition will feel like a long-ago dream.