Transitioning to a Big Kid Bed

Sleep. It’s a word most parents of young children only dream about…if they ever get the chance to dream. You never realize how much you need it until it’s taken from you by a tiny, crying human that you happily invited to live with you. Thankfully, as infancy gives way to toddlerhood, it becomes more and more common. A couple of extra hours here and there and suddenly you’re feeling like your old self again, when BAM! Transition strikes again. Your bouncing boy is climbing the crib rails or your dreaming daughter is suddenly up all night. Welcome to the toddler bed.

Our daughter was doing neither, so maybe we’re just crazy. We recently moved to a new house and with her third birthday fast approaching, and a little brother on the way, we decided it was time for transition. We found a beautiful, white bed. She picked out a new quilt and some pillows. Then it was time to catch some Z’s. But suddenly, our typically snooze-all-night baby was up every hour. By 3 a.m., we were seriously rethinking this big-girl bed idea. The next morning, all three of us looked like something out of The Walking Dead.

After a few sleepless nights, I hit the books, the web, mommy friends and a pediatrician friend. Their advice all started the same, “This is completely normal.” It turns out my little monster isn’t the only one that crawls out of bed all night or cries hysterically when you leave her alone in her room.  In fact, most families go through this little rough patch too. And it has everything to do with freedom. Children love the new-found freedom that a toddler bed brings, but they can’t help but test the limits. And on top of that, being all by themselves with no sides to keep them safe can probably feel pretty scary.

So how can we get them to fall asleep in their new big-bed digs without losing our minds? It’s going to take some time and a lot of patience. Here are some tips I’ve picked up:

Are They Ready?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that children between the ages of 18 months and 3 years are typically ready to transition into a big-kid bed. But the AAP also says it’s best to keep your toddler in a crib for as long as possible. Ways to tell if they’re ready to move include: climbing out of the crib, being potty trained, or if they’re starting to express a desire to move into a big-kid bed.

Stick to the Routine

Before you make the big transition, be sure your child has a regular bedtime routine.  Then follow that exact routine when you move your child to the new bed. While it is tempting to lie down with your toddler as he falls asleep, this habit is hard to break once started. Keep things as normal as possible to ensure a smooth transition into the new bed.

Movin’ On Up

Try to make the move as fun as possible. Involve your child in the selection of her bed as well as the new bedding. Then when she’s moved in, make a big deal about showing guests her new bed.

Choose the Best Bed

Choose a bed that is best for your toddler. While beds designed for toddlers are colorful and fun to look at, your toddler will outgrow it quickly. If you choose a twin or double bed, make sure you attach a guardrail so your child can’t roll out of bed. Children should not sleep in the top of a bunk bed until they reach 6-years old.

Timing Is Everything

Don’t overwhelm your child with too much change all at once. If there are other big events going on in his life, moving to a new bed might not be the best decision. It’s important that your child feel safe and not scared. For example, don’t combine the move with his first day of preschool or the birth of a new sibling. Instead, transition him in to a big bed a couple of months in advance.

Even after all the planning, chances are you’re still going to have a few sleepless nights at first. Just remember that this is a big move for your child. When the tears start, stay calm. Comfort your child and remind her that you’re always near. You can try sitting on the bed or holding her hand for a few minutes while she calms down. If your child keeps getting out of bed, try to be as boring as possible. Don’t talk a lot, use a calm voice and simply say, “It’s bedtime, you need to stay in bed.” Then put her right back in. The key, like most parenting, is consistency.

It may seem like forever to an exhausted parent, but soon your little one will be back to bed and so will you. Good luck and sweet dreams to come!

Categories: Little Ones