Making the move from a crib to a big kid bed is one of the most exciting times for parents and their little ones! But it can also be bittersweet. For a lot of parents, the crib is one of the last vestiges of babyhood there is, so saying goodbye is hard. Plus, kids are nice and secure in their cribs, and can't get out to roam the quiet house when they're supposed to be sleeping! But at some point, you'll recognize that the time has come to transition to a toddler bed.
When to Transition to a Toddler Bed
There is no set time to transition to a toddler bed, and every family will do it at different times and for different reasons! Some kids are ready at around 1 1/2, while others can comfortably and safely stay in their crib until they're 3-3 1/2. You want to look for that middle ground, when your child is old enough to feel safe and secure sleeping in a toddler bed, but before they've completely outgrown their crib.
The biggest consideration is whether or not your toddler is physically and emotionally developed enough to handle the transition and new sleeping arrangements. One of the biggest signs you'll notice, and which is a big sign it's time to make the switch, is if your child begins to climb out of their crib, or consistently tries to climb out of their crib.
This can present a pretty major safety concern, and you don't want to let it go on for too long at the risk of your child injuring themselves. Before switching, you may consider moving the mattress to the lowest level. If the mattress is at the lowest level and your toddler's chest is still level to the railing, it's time.
How to Transition to Toddler Bed
You don't need to make a big spectacle our of transitioning to a toddler bed - although you can if you want to! Some parents take their toddler to pick out their new bed, and involve them in the process. You should prepare your child by explaining that their crib is going away, and they'll be sleeping in a big kid bed now. Give them enough time to process this, a few days to a week, before making the switch. Before you transition to a toddler bed, make sure that you go in and completely toddler-proof their room.
Remember, they'll be mobile now, not confined to their crib when everyone else is asleep. They can easily get up and explore their room, so you want to make sure that heavy items are secured to walls, anything breakable is out of reach or removed from the room entirely, and outlets are covered and secure.
Getting Your Toddler to Stay in Bed
Many parents quickly discover that transitioning to a toddler bed is fairly easy - it's getting your child to stay in bed that's the hard part! It'll help to just accept that bedtime and nighttime is going to be a little exciting for a bit, as your toddler gets used to their new sleeping arrangements. Talk to your child about the rules, and set some ground rules for their new bed. Stay consistent in reinforcing those rules, and stick to your usual bedtime routine until they are acclimated. Again, make sure their room is safe, because they will absolutely spend some midnight hours exploring it once or twice!
If you're concerned about your toddler leaving their room and roaming the house, consider flipping the lock around on the bedroom door, or placing a baby gate at their door so they can't get out. You may also want to get a clock that changes from yellow to green when it's OK for your child to get out of bed in the morning. This will give them some semblance of control over the situation, and teach them patience while they wait for the (literal) green light. Most importantly, just stay consistent!
If they get up, quietly walk them back to their room and briefly say goodnight again. It may take a few nights, but they'll eventually get the idea.