Inside: You’ll find tips and tricks for making “the big move” – transitioning from crib to bed.
I’m not sure which is more terrifying: the day you bring the baby home from the hospital or the day you move that now-not-so-baby to a big kid bed.
Yikes. Nothing seems to elicit more parental fear than the freedom of baby – transitioning from crib to bed.
What is it about that move that makes our hearts stop?
Is it the new found freedom of a tiny human?
The terror and unknown of what they might do in their room?
Or the potential for sleepless nights… and who wants those again?
TRUST ME FRIENDS. It doesn’t have to be that scary. It can go smoothly. It can be a piece of cake. It can be a total walk in the park.
I’ve moved two kids into toddler beds at 18 months of age and I’ve lived to tell the tale.
A few things to note up front: I was pregnant during each of these transitions. Seriously pregnant. Third trimester pregnant. Our hands were “tied” and we had to transition at 18 months to get the crib cooled down for the new baby to take it.
Except with my 3rd: we still chose to move him at 18-month-old because it’s what we were used it.
YOU DO NOT NEED TO MOVE YOUR CHILD AT 18 MONTHS OLD. That’s not what I’m advocating. I’m advocating you find the best time to move your child for your family and go with that.
All of these are my own thoughts, ideas, and opinions on transitioning from crib to bed. As with all things parenting, please do what is best for your family. This is what worked for mine.
Busy Toddler’s Parenting Book is Here!
Busy Toddler’s Guide to Actual Parenting: From Their First “No” to Their First Day of School (and Everything in Between)
DISCLOSURE: Busy Toddler is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Read more about these links in my disclosure policy.
A few of the products that helped over the years:
1. Set the stage – get the toddler bed ready
Because our kids were only 18 months old when they transitioned, we went with a smaller toddler bed that sits low to the ground. We have this bed and absolutely loved it. In a perfect world, the kids could have gone right to a twin bed but at that little of an age, the toddler bed was perfect for us.
Plus, toddler beds make it a little less scary when (and I mean WHEN) they roll out…
2. Move the new bed into their room early
A few days before the big move, we put the bed into their room to get them used to it. We began identifying the bed as their bed. We read books in it, practiced NOT jumping on it, and made it a new part of life.
I really believe in this part of the transition. Get them ready, get them understanding something is coming, get them used to the bed. Basically, you want them to mark their new territory.
3. Let the toddler help with the move.
When it’s “time” for the transition to happen (aka move the crib out of the room), have the child be a part of the move. Make it a big deal. Make their help absolutely necessary to the process. Let them say their goodbyes. But make this a celebration!
This is the start of a new chapter for them. Honor what a big deal it is but without adding any fear logs to the fire.
4. Make sure the room is “Mobile Toddler” ready.
Your toddler is going to get out of bed.
Your toddler is going to play in their room.
Your toddler is going to have a mini toddler party in there.
What should you do? Get the room ready.
- Strap all dressers and bookshelves to the wall.
- Remove all highly distractible toys (for us, this was the activity table and loose kitchen food).
- Take out any toys that might they need your help with (think getting on and off a rocking horse)
- Get the potential dangers out of there, like low sitting table lamps and random cords.
- Do the world’s greatest job “baby proofing” the area.
5. Child proof the door.
This may be a tad controversial, but hear me out: We child proof the door and lock the kids in. Why? Because they are 18 months old and that’s way too little to be wandering around the house at night.
I look at it this way: they’re used to being trapped in a crib so being trapped in a room is already a huge step up – it’s also about enough independence to bite off in one day, in my humble opinion.
PLUS, this sets you up for success in training them to stay in their room and not wandering down the hall at 5:15 am to say “Happy Saturday”.
6. Start the transition with nap time.
We started all our kid bed transitions with at nap time instead of bedtime. Naps are heavenly, of course, but not as critical as a full night of sleep – to all parties involved. It’s a low commitment/low impact time to start.
My best advice: keep repeating the same phrase: “Stay in bed and fall asleep” as you kiss them good night and shut the door.
This won’t probably work at all, but it’ll make you feel better.
The truth is: they are going to get out of bed. They are going to play in their room. They may stand at the door and cry. That’s the reality. This is new and a little scary. This is something they have to learn to handle.
7. Don’t cave. Let them work it out.
Your toddler just earned a ton of new freedom. Don’t freak out as you watch this unfold. Embrace it. Let them explore. Let them figure out what to do with the freedom. Let them get the lay of the land.
Odds are, they will fall asleep…eventually. Or they may skip a nap or two. Just make peace with that fact now.
My son at 18 months playing in his room instead of napping. This was his 2nd nap attempt in his big boy bed.
And make sure you’ve got eyes in the room aka a video monitor (we love this one that goes to an app on our phones).
This way, you can watch them while keeping your distance. Try your best to stay out unless things take a dangerous turn – which they shouldn’t since you did a bang up job child proofing the room.
8. Start bedtime earlier.
This was the best advice I got before we started transitioning our oldest. Factor in a little play time at night. If 7:30 pm is the normal bedtime, plan to get them into the new bed by 7. This might last for a while, but eventually, the novelty will wear off and they’ll fall asleep without having a bedtime party.
They are going to play in their room.
But like every other phase, they will grow out of it. Took my son about a month to stop partying. Took my daughter almost a week. Took my 3rd born zero days and it’s been 2 years and he still doesn’t room party. Every kid is different.
9. They will roll out of bed. They might sleep on the floor. It’s OK.
I hear this a lot: “But what if they roll out of bed?”
Well – you can carry them back to bed or let them rest on the floor. My oldest son was great at climbing back into bed even at 18 months old and was a deep sleeper (so it wasn’t scary to move him).
My daughter couldn’t care less and spent three sleeps on the floor before figuring it out on her own (she’s a little scarier to move and could wake up so we let her stay on the floor. Sleep is sleep.)
10. Set up boundaries and enforce them
This is the hard stuff in parenting. I can’t tell you what your boundaries around bedtime will be, but whatever you pick: honor and own that.
Lay down the boundaries ahead of time. Follow what had been the family protocol for sleep time.
Just because they now sleep in a bed doesn’t mean you need to change how you’ve always parented them at night and bed time. What has worked for you in the past can keep working for you now.
11. Don’t rush in in the morning….
Don’t rush in to get them in the morning. If you feel comfortable with it, let them learn to play a little and be content. It helps build strong independent play skills and self-entertaining skills.
My kids woke up hungry so my husband and I leave them a small bowl of dry non-choke-able cereal (think Cheerios) to nibble on SAFELY when they wake up. This keeps them calm, quiet, and happy. PLEASE ONLY DO THIS IF YOU FEEL IT IS SAFE. Full disclosure: we call this The Offering (please please stay quiet in the morning and play….). It works.
Other tips that have helped us:
- Leave your child with a sippy of water. This helps avoid nighttime “I need water” batters. We like this one best for best time water.
- If you are transitioning AFTER potty training (or you are potty training soon): We put a toddler potty in the room with the kiddo on a waterproof mat with a towel (and some wipes for our daughter). Weird? Yes. Did it help make them independent and not need to wander the hall at 2 am or wake me up at 5:30 am to pee? 100%.
- Need your child to be able to turn on the light? Get a light switch extender (these are so cool for kids!). They make a different one for each light switch type.
- Night lights are great for some kids, not for others. We love this kind of one that displays stars on the ceiling – nice and peaceful without being too bright.
- Blankets are really tough still at this age so we used these sleep sacks as a wearable blanket (there are feet holes!). 10/10 especially because kids look like flying squirrels when they run in them.
- If you have an early-waker, try a toddler alarm clock that lets tots know when it’s “ok to wake.” Ours is set to turn GREEN when it’s a good time to start playing.