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Learn how to transition your baby to a toddler bed when the time is right. When you’re prepared with these tips and tricks, making the transition from a crib to a toddler bed can be easier than you think!
Once your little toddler starts climbing out of her crib, it’s time to transition to a toddler bed!
I was determined to keep my daughter in her crib for as long as possible. She started climbing out at 27 months. I pulled out all the stops to try and keep her in that crib for a little bit longer (sleep sacks, turn the crib around backward, lower the mattress to the floor, etc.)
Each trick bought me a little bit of time but at 28 months I knew we needed to transition to a toddler bed. She started climbing out multiple times in the middle of the night and the crib was no longer a safe option.
I did a lot of research to help make the transition a smooth one. Since we transitioned her, I have also started the process of becoming a certified sleep consultant, so now I have even more tricks up my sleeve!
When to Transition to A Toddler Bed?
Wait to make the transition for as long as you can! Most sleep consultants agree to wait until three years old or as close to three as you can before transitiong to a toddler bed. At age 3, children understand boundaries better (even though they don’t always follow them). It’s easier to explain to a 3-year old that she needs to stay in her bed than an 18-month old.
So, wait as long as you can and make the transition as close to age 3 as possible.
It isn’t always possible to wait that long though! Sometimes toddlers start to climb out of their cribs at an earlier age, or parents need the crib for a new baby on the way. If that’s the case for you, follow these steps as closely as you can to help with the transition.
How 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:
- Toddler bed
- New sheets / pillows / stuffed animals
- Video monitor
- Okay to wake clock
- Baby gate or monkey lock
Here are the steps you can take to help transition to a toddler bed. Follow these tips to help make the transition go more smoothly!
Step 1—Get Your Toddler Involved
Before you even start the transition, start talking to your toddler and get her involved. Tell her what’s going to happen. Take her to the store with you and let her pick out new bed sheets, a blanket, or a stuffed animal. Making her part of the transition will help it go smoother for everyone!
Step 2—Make the Room Safe
Just like we wanted to make sure the crib was a safe space, now we want to make sure the room is safe too. Here are some ways to make the room safe:
- Anchor dressers and other pieces of furniture to the wall
- Remove items that your child could climb and potentially fall on
- Lock garbage can lids or remove them from the room
- Close closet doors and use knob covers if necessary
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.
STEP 3—Keep your Toddler Involved
Let your toddler be involved as you transition the crib out and the new bed in. Let her see the transition so she can process through what is happening. If you are converting her crib to a bed by taking off the sides, let her watch you do that too.
Make sure to not set it all up while she is at the park and surprise her. Keeping her part of the process can help her adjust more easily.
Step 4—Put a Toddler Gate or Lock on the Door
Now that the room is one big crib, we want to make sure our little toddlers stay in the room. Put a baby gate or monkey lock on the door to keep your child in the room in the middle of the night. It is not safe for young toddlers 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 when they were able to be up and about freely!
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—Okay to Wake Clock
Use an Okay to wake clock or Hatch rest and explain to your child that the clock will let her know when it’s time to come out of bed. 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 purple (her color choice) she can get out of bed!
Step 7—Bedtime Routine As Usual
Now that you have all your supplies and the bedroom and new bed is all set up, it’s time to make the transition! Do your bedtime routine as you normally would. 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.
What to Do When Your Toddler Starts crying
If your toddler cries as you leave the room, you can implement one of the sleep training methods. The Sleep Lady Shuffle AKA Chair Method is a great place to start. You can sit in the chair by the new toddler bed until your child falls asleep and repeat this, moving the chair every three days.
For some kids, you don’t even have to go through the whole process of slowly moving the chair out of the room, because they transition so well to the new bed.
Some children are more stimulated by having mom or dad in their room with them and the Sleep Lady Shuffle doesn’t go well. If that is your child, you can close the door with the lock or baby gate on it and do Cry It Out with your child. Some children are more stimulated by their parent’s presence and need to be alone in the room to fall asleep.
Try not to start new sleep props or bad habits by falling asleep in bed with your toddler or rocking her to sleep as she transitions to a toddler bed. Many toddlers will try to climb into mom and dad’s bed if they are able to, so decide now if this is something you are going to allow or not. Whatever you decide, be consistent!
How DO I Keep My Toddler in Their Toddler bed?
Keep your child in her new bed by setting clear and consistent boundaries. Explain to her that she has to stay in the bed until her okay to wake clock comes on in the morning. You can use the baby gate or door lock to keep her in her room as well.
If you don’t want to do the Sleep Lady Shuffle or Cry It Out, you can do the Supernanny method. With this method, you calmly walk you toddler back to bed after she wakes up and give her a kiss and cuddle.
If she gets out of bed more than twice, on the third time, you simply walk her back and put her back in her bed. This can go on for a while depending on your child. Some parents have reported having to put their toddler back to bed 100 times in one night!
How Long Does It Take to Transition To A Toddler Bed?
How long it takes your child to transition to her new toddler bed depends on your child’s temperament and personality. Some children will adjust quickly without any resistance. Others may take a night or two with a quick cry it out. With the Sleep Lady Shuffle method, the transition can take about two weeks.
Remember to praise your child when she wakes up in the morning for sleeping in her bed all night! Show her how proud you are that she is a big girl and how exciting that is!