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Keep the Crib: 5 Signs Your Toddler is Not Ready for a Bed

Thinking of ditching the crib and moving your toddler to a big-kid bed? Hold tight! First read through these signs your toddler is not ready for a bed to make sure your child is ready.

Toddler sleeping in bed

Are you wondering if your toddler is ready to move from a crib into a bed? It is a question almost every parent asks at some point. Before you make the move, here are 5 signs your toddler is not ready for a bed.

Often, parents feel like they ought to transition to toddler bed simply because their child is a toddler now and no longer a baby.

Sometimes, the move is made because another baby is on the way and parents wish to avoid purchasing a second crib, which is understandable.

Other times, a toddler begins to climb out of their crib and the transition to a bed becomes a matter of safety and necessity.

And then, you have toddlers who are ready for the transition and move because it is time to make the change.

What Age is a Toddler Ready for A Bed?

Most toddlers are ready for a bed between 2 to 3 years of age. Ideally, the closer to age 3 the better.

If you can wait until your child’s third birthday or later, that is ideal!

Many families make the switch too early, when their child isn’t developmentally ready for the freedom that comes with a bed.

(Do keep in mind that most crib manufacturers advise moving a child at 35 inches tall. Some children hit that mark before age 3).

Toddler sleeping in bed

Why Wait Until Age Three?

Most sleep consultants, including myself, recommend waiting until at least three years old before making the switch.

The reason is because there is a vast difference in maturity between an 18-month-old and a 3-year-old. There’s even a large difference in maturity between a 2-year-old and 3-year-old.

A bed offers so much more freedom than a crib. Toddlers as young as 18 months or even a fresh 2 year old don’t quite grasp the concept of boundaries just yet.

It’s extremely helpful for your toddler to be able to understand and follow instructions when sleeping in a bed.

Simply put 3-year-olds are more likely to understand and listen to bedtime rules than a 2-year-old will.

Safety is another consideration. You want your toddler to be able to easily and safely get into and out of their bed.

If your toddler is under three but is attempting to climb out of their crib (or has succeeded!), there are a few things you can do to help stop your toddler climbing out of the crib. These may be worth trying before moving them to a toddler bed.

Even if your toddler is old enough to make the switch, it’s a good idea to wait if you’re headed into a time of transition. This includes moving, starting school, or welcoming a new baby.

Keeping your toddler in their crib can provide some much needed consistency and familiarity during a time of change.

Toddler playing in bed

How Do I Know if My Toddler is Not Ready for A Bed?

If you’re on the fence about making the change and wondering if your toddler is ready, read through these surefire signs your toddler is not ready for a bed. Then, hang onto your crib as long as possible.

1. Your toddler is not ready for a bed if they are struggling with sleep.

Is your toddler waking up too early in the morning, struggling going to bed, or waking up in the middle of the night?

Almost always, moving to a bed will only exacerbate existing sleep problems. Rarely will moving to a bed solve them.

It is better to work on your child’s sleep first, and then transition to a bed after sleep has improved.

Trust me! We experienced a major 3 year old sleep regression and 4 year old sleep regression with our daughter in her big bed.

Many toddlers also experience a 2 year old sleep regression. You do not want to make the transition during these regressions when sleep is already tricky.

child's nursery with crib

2. Your toddler is not ready for a bed if you cannot totally toddler-proof their sleep space.

A big kid bed means the freedom to get out of bed at will, so their room needs to be very safe.

Picture your child getting out of bed in the night while you are sleeping or in the morning before you wake up. Would their room be safe for them to explore on their own?

If dressers aren’t secured to the wall, or there is furniture they can climb on, hold off.

3. Your toddler is not ready for a bed if you are not in a season of life to deal with some challenging bedtimes.

Toddlers often explore their new freedom and push boundaries at bedtime during this transition.

Your bedtime routine will likely require extra patience and perseverance on your end for several nights.

If bedtimes are currently smooth and you need them to stay that way for the time being, now is not the time to make the change.

Sleeping Toddler

4. Your toddler is not ready for a bed if they struggle to follow instructions.

You will want your toddler to stay in their bed at bedtime. You will also want them to stay in bed until it is time to get up in the morning.

An okay to wake clock like the Hatch Rest can be helpful in this regard. But, they only work when toddlers are old enough to understand what is expected of them.

All toddlers push boundaries at times. But if it is a big struggle during the daytime, moving to a bed and adding new nighttime struggles is typically not a great idea.

5. Your toddler is not ready for a bed if you are transitioning in order to give their crib to a new sibling due less than 2 months from now.

If possible, put at least 2 months between moving your toddler out of their crib and moving a new sibling into the same crib.

It helps keep toddlers from feeling displaced by the new baby. Staying in their familiar and safe-feeling crib also provides consistency during a time of change.

If the sole reason you are making the transition is to avoid buying another crib, I understand! If your baby is due soon, I would suggest brainstorming other places for your newborn to sleep if possible.

Perhaps you could use a bassinet or pack n play until your toddler is mature enough to make the switch. I go over the differences between a bassinet vs crib here.

Sometimes it is helpful to know when to make a change, and sometimes it is helpful to know when not to make a change.

Lastly, if your toddler is sleeping great and you are tempted to transition just because they are a toddler, wait!

If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. Enjoy those easy bedtimes and great nights.

toddler sleep training guide mock up

If you’re ready to make the transition and want some help along the way, we have you covered. The Toddler Sleep Training Guide walks you through how to transition to a big kid bed and sleep training techniques that ensure it goes smoothly. Check it out here.

Amy Motroni