Looking find tips and tricks for making “the big move” and transitioning from crib to bed? Moving to a toddler bed might seem challenging, but it doesn’t having to be overwhelming (especially with a little guidance from a friend – that’s me). Enjoy this step-by-step guide for moving your child from crib to big kid 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 three kids into toddler beds at 18 months old
…and lived to tell the tale.
A few things to note up front: I was pregnant during each of these transitions, except for the last one because he was my last kid.
But those other two 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. We didn’t have space or funds to get a second crib.
You do not need to move your child at 18 months old.
That’s not what I’m advocating. I’m only sharing my kids’ ages because it gives context and paints a picture.
What I’m advocating is that 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.
I wrote a parenting book
Check out “Busy Toddler’s Guide to Actual Parenting” for advice from tabies to big kids
Products for transitioning from crib to bed
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A few of the products that helped over the years:
- Video monitors (which go to an app on my phone)
- Toddler bed
- Sleep sacks with feet holes
- OK to Wake Clock
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 had a toddler bed like this (ours isn’t made anymore) 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.
Our kid rooms are not large and spacious so this did make things tight for a few days, but it was well worth it.
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 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
Because my kids were 18 months old and that’s way too little to be wandering around the house at night.
I look at it this way: this toddler was used to being trapped in a crib so being trapped in a room is already a huge step up. That’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.” You’re welcome.
6. Start the transition with nap time
My husband and I 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 (probably) going to get out of bed. They are (probably) 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. Let them work it out
Your toddler just earned a ton of new freedom. Don’t panic 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.
And make sure you’ve got eyes in the room aka a video monitor (we love this video monitor 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 from a seasoned parent.
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.
Remember: they are (probably) going to play in their room.
But like every other phase, they will grow out of it.
For my family: It took my oldest about a month to stop partying. It took my middle almost a week. It took my 3rd born zero days and it’s been 5 years and he still doesn’t room party (seriously, still doesn’t move out of bed ever).
Every kid is different.
9. Be prepared that they may fall out of bed
It’s almost a guarantee that they will roll out of bed. They might even stay there and sleep on the floor. It’s OK.
I hear this question 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 into their room 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.
This part of the morning also gave me time to get a quick shower in without an audience. I cherish the memory of mornings where the kids were still safely in their rooms and I could shower in peace. Made me a better parent.
12. How to handle morning hunger
Tip: My kids wake up hungry and what often derailed morning play (and my quiet shower) was hungry bellies. So my husband and I started to leave them a small bowl of dry non-choke-able cereal (think Cheerios) to nibble on SAFELY when they woke up along with a water bottle.
This keeps them calm, quiet, and happy.
PLEASE ONLY DO THIS IF YOU FEEL IT IS SAFE.
REPEAT: Only do this with safe non-chokable cereal, under monitor supervision, and based on your decision, your child, and your safety rules.
It’s been 7 years since we started this and we still leave our kids “an offering” every night before we go to bed. It’s our offering to please stay quiet in the morning.
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 water bottle best for small toddlers and this water bottle for big kids.
- If you are transitioning AFTER potty training (or you are potty training soon): My husband and I 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? Also yes.
- 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 clock that lets tots know when it’s “ok to wake.” Ours is set to turn GREEN for when it’s a good time to start playing (but not yet leave the room – they wait for us to release them).
Frequently Asked Questions
It’s a big age range, but most kids transition between 18 months to 3 years old.
The ultimate decision of when will come down to your individual family.
Consider what’s going on in your life (do you have the mental space for this?), what’s going on in the child’s life (are they already in a big transition, like going to a new daycare?), and of course, child safety (are they finding new and exciting ways to climb out of the crib?).
Here’s more information from Nationwide Children’s Hospital on child safety and determining if a child would be safer in a bed than a crib.
If your baby hasn’t transitioned to a crib yet and that’s the information you need, check out this article from Dr. Mona (pediatrician) of Peds Doc Talk on transitioning from bassinet to crib.
Do whatever is best for your family! For my family, my kids weren’t tall enough to safely get themselves into a twin bed (or bigger). Many families go straight to a twin bed or larger. The goal always in parenting is (say it with me): Find the best path for your family.