is your toddler ready to transition to a toddler bed? Get step-by-step instructions how to make the transition to toddler bed a smooth one.

toddler girl transitioning to toddler bed

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Making the transition from crib to toddler bed can feel daunting.

Let me walk you through the transition so your toddler can go from crib to big-kid bed with ease.

Want a way to incentivize your toddler or preschooler to stay in their bed all night long? Download my free reward chart to help your toddler stay motivated. Get the free chart here
toddler boy sleeping in big bed

What Age Should you Transition to A Toddler Bed?

I recommend waiting to transition out of the crib until your child is at least 3 years old.

It’s easier for a 3-year old to grasp the concept of staying in bed than it is for a 2 year old.

At age 3, children understand boundaries better (even though they don’t always follow them).

Here are some signs your toddler is not ready for a bed quite yet.

If your toddler starts climbing out of the crib before 3, first try our tips to help keep your toddler from climbing out of the crib. and try to hold them off a little longer.

How Do I Know My Toddler Is Ready for A Toddler Bed?

Here are some signs that your child is ready for a toddler bed.

They are:

  • At least 3 years old
  • Climbing out of the crib and the crib is no longer a safe place to sleep
  • Able to follow instructions
  • Understand visual cues, such as a toddler alarm clock
  • Follow boundaries you’ve established

Supplies Needed To Transition to A Toddler Bed

Before you make the transition from crib to toddler bed, you will need a few supplies.

Buying these in advance will help you successfully transition your toddler to a big bed:

How to Transition to a Toddler Bed Step-by-Step

Follow these tips to help make the transition go smoothly.

Step 1—Start the Conversation

Start talking to your toddler about her new big-kid bed to get her involved.

We want to get her involved and make it a big deal. Making her part of the transition will help it go smoother for everyone.

Take her to the store with you and let her pick out new bedding, bed sheets, a blanket, or a stuffed animal.

Many parents stop using a sleep sack and introduce a pillow and blanket for the first time when they transition to a toddler bed to help keep their toddler warm at night.

These can be fun items for your toddler to pick out at the store so they are part of the process.

Step 2—Make the Room Safe

The next step is to make sure their room is safe. With all their newfound freedom, your toddler may not sleep at sleep time.

Here are some ways to make the room safe:

You can have a little basket of toys or books in the corner of the room if you feel like your toddler will do well with them. But ultimately, you want to turn the bedroom into one big crib for the protection of your toddler.

toddler sitting at baby gate when transitioning to toddler bed

Step 3—Keep your Toddler Involved

Let your toddler be involved as you transition the crib out and the new toddler bed in.

She can watch as you convert the crib to a toddler bed, or build a whole new big-kid bed for her.

Make sure you don’t surprise her and set it all up while she is at the park one day.

Kids need to go through the steps in order to process it. They’ll adapt better when they do the motions with you.

Step 4—Put a Toddler Gate or Lock on the Door

Now that the room is one big crib, it’s a good idea to make sure your toddler stays in their room once they’ve transitioned to a toddler bed

Put a baby gate or monkey lock on the door to keep your child in their room in the middle of the night. Some parents also turn the door knob around so they can lock the door from the outside.

It’s not safe for some kids to have so much new freedom. We don’t want them to roam the house in the middle of the night so this is for their safety.

I have heard crazy stories about children getting into all kinds of things in the middle of the night.

Step 5—Have a Monitor Ready

Make sure you have a good video monitor so you can check on your toddler to make sure she isn’t getting into anything dangerous.

Some monitors allow you to talk through them, so you can remind your child that it’s time for bed, without having to go into her room.

Step 6—Use an Okay to Wake Clock

Kids have no concept of time.

Use an Okay to wake clock and explain to your child that the light will let her know when it’s time to wake up.

Depending on your child’s development, they may be able to understand this concept between 2 and 3 years old.

We love the Hatch Rest because it has a nightlight, sound machine, and okay to wake clock all in one. My daughter knows when the light is red it’s bedtime and when it turns green, that means go! (Wake up for the day.)

Step 7—Consider Using A Bedtime Pass

If your toddler is older (ages 3 and up) you can give them a bedtime pass.

This bedtime pass is good for them to either call you back to their room or for them to get out of bed one time for a sip of water, one last cuddle, a trip to the potty, or one final kiss.

Giving them a tangible pass helps give them some control over the situation but helps them know they can only use it one time. if your toddler is having a hard time making last-minute requests, this can be a great tip.

Create a bedtime pass with them during the day and let them help color it and decorate it. Then explain what the bedtime pass is for and role play with them using the bedtime pass during the day.

Step 8—The First Night

Now that you’re all set up, it’s time to make the transition to toddler bed.

Expect your child’s first night in a toddler bed to be a little bit more unpredictable than usual. Some toddlers adjust right away and do great!

Other children have an adjustment period and really explore their newfound ability to get in and out of bed. 

Step 9—Do Your Regular Bedtime Routine

Do your bedtime routine as you normally would. Read a bedtime story, tuck your child in with a few last cuddles, and tell her goodnight.

Leave the room like you normally would and then wait to see how your child responds.

Step 10—Have a Plan in Place

Make sure you have a plan and decide what your response will be if and when your child tests the boundaries.

Hint: if it doesn’t happen the first night, it will happen eventually! 

Then, have a consistent response each time your child gets out of bed.

There are toddler sleep training methods that are especially effective for this age group.

Need more help with your child’s sleep?

Introducing the Big Bed Blues Course

The Big Bed Blues course walks you through the process of getting your 2–5-year old to sleep in their own bed for 10–12 hours every night. End the power struggles and sleepless nights once and for all with the Big Bed Blues Course.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Transition to a Toddler Bed

How Long Does It Take to Transition To A Toddler Bed?

it bed depends on your child’s temperament and personality. Some children will adjust quickly without any resistance. Others may take a couple of weeks.

Make sure that you also have your toddler on an appropriate 2-year old schedule or 3 year old schedule so they aren’t going to bed overtired or under-tired.

How Do I Keep My Toddler in Their Toddler bed?

Keep your child in her new big kid bed by setting clear and consistent boundaries. You can get more tips in this post on how to keep your toddler in bed.

Is 18 Months too Early for A Toddler Bed?

Generally, yes, 18 months is too early to make the transition. Children this young just aren’t developmentally ready to understand the boundaries that are very helpful when a child has the freedom of mobility a toddler bed gives them. 

However, some young toddlers are determined climbers. There are things you can do to discourage climbing, like using a toddler sleep sack or turning the high side of the crib so it faces out instead of facing the wall. 

Should A 2 Year Old Sleep in A Crib?

A 2 year old who sleeps in a crib and doesn’t climb out is every sleep consultant’s (and parents) dream! Don’t listen to anyone who tells you that you need to move your child to a toddler bed just because they are 2 years old.

If you are consistent with your child and set clear boundaries, they will get used to sleeping in their new bed. If you have any questions about how to make the transition to toddler bed, leave them in the comments below.

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