How do you know when it’s time to switch from a crib to a toddler twin bed? Here’s everything you need to know about making the big move, plus some helpful tips on making the transition easier for everyone involved.
Whether your toddler still enjoys their crib or is trying to get out of it at any opportunity, there will come a time when he or she is ready to move on to a more massive bed. But when will that time come, how do we know it’s not already here, and most importantly how to make the move as smooth and as safe as humanly possible? Here’s what our research on the subject has produced.
Unlike other developmental milestones in early childhood like starting to eat solid foods or learning to use the potty, the move to a larger bed doesn’t really involve any signs indicating readiness on your child’s part. The overriding concern, as is the case in most toddler-related decisions, is safety. As a rule of thumb, if your kid can climb out of their crib on their own, it’s time to make the switch. In fact, you should move your kid to a bed before they can climb out of the crib and possibly get injured.
For most kids, the ability to climb over the crib rail comes between the age of 18 and 24 months, or when they are around 35 inches tall. Of course, it goes without saying that some babies are more agile than others and might try climbing out sooner than that. If you see your baby attempting to climb out, you should take that as a dangerous warning sign that the time to switch has come. On the other hand, you may never see your baby trying to get out, and they may arrive at that idea while you’re asleep, or otherwise indisposed, so make sure to move them preventively even if they don’t have a particularly adventurous spirit.
If you can monitor your kid while they are asleep – during their afternoon naps for example – it’s perfectly fine to let them stay in the crib past the age of 24 months. Just make absolutely sure you can react in case of an attempted escape. However, if you can move your child to a larger bed earlier, it’s probably a good idea to do so because experts say that the older kids get, the more emotionally attached they become to their material belongings – beds included. This may lead to a more difficult transition later on.
Another significant factor that determines the time of the move to a more massive bed for any child is the imminent arrival of a sibling. If your child is still very young – under the age of 18 months, you might want to consider getting another crib, or borrowing one for a few months until your older child is ready to move. If the reason for the transition is the arrival of a younger child, your older kid may not have any interest in moving out of their crib to accommodate this stranger. It can be a sensitive time for any child, and you want to make sure they don’t feel like they are being displaced for, or replaced with a new kid.
If you can’t get a second crib, or your kid is at the right age range for making the move, start preparing them for the transition a couple of months ahead of time. The idea is to get your older kid comfortable with their new sleeping arrangement as soon as possible, so that the crib may become more of a ‘neutral territory’ in their mind, rather than being thought of as their possession that they have to give up for somebody new. A couple of other great tricks to get your kid’s mind off the crib are taking it apart, moving it somewhere your kid won’t be able to see it, or filling it with blankets, stuffed animals and cushions – thereby making it a temporary storage unit rather than a desirable sleeping spot.
Whatever the reason for the switch may be, it’s a good idea to do it at a time when nothing of significance is already going on in your kid’s life. For example, try not to make the move if your kid is currently giving up their pacifier, changing their babysitter or child-care arrangement, or going through potty training.
Once you’ve covered all of the factors mentioned above and you’re sure that the time is right, you’ll need to decide what kind of bed you want your kid to sleep in. There are different approaches to making the switch more comfortable for your kid, and some parents merely take out the mattress from the crib and put it on the floor for a while. Of course, this strategy is not feasible if a younger sibling is waiting for the spot in the crib, so if that’s the case, you’ll probably want to go straight for a twin mattress or spring for a toddler bed if you have some extra cash.
Toddler beds are excellent, as they are usually lower to the ground and can sometimes accommodate mattresses of different sizes. Another cool thing about them is that they come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, like castles, cars and other things that might appeal to a toddler. That being said, toddler beds are by no means a necessity in terms of safety. Many parents just put in a removable guardrail on a twin-sized bed to make sure their toddler doesn’t fall out of bed overnight.
If you don’t go for a car-shaped toddler bed, you can always let your kid pick out their sheets, comforters, and pillowcases and personalize their sleeping area with their favorite stuffed animals. However, don’t be surprised if your kid ends up not wanting to sleep in it even if they like the way everything looks. It might seem odd for an adult, but it can be very stressful for a kid this age to change their bed and sleep in an unfamiliar place, especially if the crib they know and love is right there in the same room.
As is the case with any transition, it will help if you establish and adhere to a bedtime routine that is predictable and well-known, to eliminate any extra variables. This routine can be a bedtime story, praying, talking about your child’s day or any number of other activities as long as it is a soothing and relaxing experience for your child which will leave them wanting to go to sleep. A bedtime ritual such as this will give your child something to hang on to during this transitional period, allowing them to feel more grounded even if there is a significant change underway.
In the end, remember that moving your child from a crib to a larger bed is an essential milestone in your life as a parent too. It’s another one in a long list of signs that your kid is growing up. This might be an emotional time for you and don’t be afraid to embrace that emotion. Remember the first time you put your little baby into their crib and how long ago that feels like. Your baby is getting older, and this is an important step in their development, so cherish this moment; however hard it may seem.