5 Signs Your Toddler is Ready for a Big Kid Bed | Happy Littles Sleep Consulting
Updated: Apr 5, 2018
I was the mom who said my kids would sleep in cribs until they emerged on the other side of puberty. With twins, cribs brought order to an otherwise chaotic existence. At the end of the night when I was physically, mentally, and emotionally spent, my husband and I would place the boys into their cribs and they would go to sleep and stay asleep for eleven to twelve hours. This gave us the space and time to reflect on how much we love them, clean up, prepare for the next chaotic day, and sometimes to even make and eat dinner just the two of us. Why would we ever want life to change?
I started to hear the horror stories from friends with toddlers. Their stories appeared on parental advice forums and in Facebook Mom groups. I was horrified. It seemed like the transition from crib to bed meant the end of the era of sleep! Was this a second newborn stage of some sort that no one tells us parents about for fear that human existence will end? Toddlers everywhere were refusing bedtime, refusing to stay in their beds, climbing gates to escape their rooms, roaming their houses in the middle of the night, and attempting to wake their parents before the sun had come up! Further evidence that children should stay in cribs until they move out to live on their own!
The fear of the crib to bed to transition had been mounting in our household for at least a year when Henry began attempting to climb out of his crib during naptime. Henry is one of the most lovable, musically inclined, intelligent, and energetic toddlers you’ll meet. But motor coordination has not been an area he has excelled in, so I was the most nervous mother watching him attempt to do this on the baby monitor. After a week of attempting to escape instead of napping, he was getting pretty close and I couldn’t take it anymore. Naptime was no longer a mental break for me, and he wasn’t sleeping and he needed that nap. Not only that, but I was so worried his brother was going to jump on the climbing bandwagon as well. So I decided to make the transition to toddler beds.
The build up to the actual transition was stressful and I just knew that our restful nights were about to come to an end. We bought them each their own toddler bed, talked to them about what the sleeping rules for our family are, and crossed our fingers.
The first night in toddler beds we did our regular bedtime routine, tucked them in, reminded them of the rules, gave goodnight kisses and left the room. We held our breaths as we watched on the monitor with our palms sweating and hearts racing. Nothing. Neither boy moved a muscle and both went right to sleep! Figuring it was a fluke, we braced ourselves for naptime the next day. Still nothing. Right to sleep they went! By bedtime the second night we forgot to even watch them on the monitor as soon as we left the room. An hour after bedtime we realized we hadn’t heard a peep from them!
So why did this transition go so well for us when I was convinced we were doomed? I didn’t realize it at the time, but there are some telltale signs that your toddler is ready to transition to a toddler bed. Turns out we were showing most of these signs and despite not knowing it, we were ready for the transition.
If your toddler is showing you these signs, you may be ready for the crib to bed transition too:
SIGN #1: Your toddler sleeps through the night. If you have healthy sleep habits you can rest assured that your child will be able to make the transition fairly smoothly. If your toddler is already refusing bedtime, waking up one or multiples times during the night, and/or waking up at super early hours in the morning, now is not the right time to transition to a bed. Transitioning when sleep is already compromised will only intensify your already existing sleep issues. An overtired child is much more difficult to get to sleep so make sure yours is well rested before making any changes!
SIGN #2: Your child is around 3 years old. If your child is younger than 3, the transition from crib to bed can definitely be messier. Kids who are 3 tend to have a greater understanding of how to follow rules. Many children younger than 3 years old have trouble understanding sleep rules. The longer you can wait, the better they’ll understand.
SIGN #3: Your child isn't yet 3 years old but understands rules. Is your toddler able to follow your rules without constant reminders? For example when you are about to cross the street, does your toddler grab your hand and say “We have to hold hands when we cross the street!” Or, if you say, “ok what do we have to do before we cross the street?” does your toddler answer correctly? Many older toddlers take pride in knowing and following the rules without being told. If this is your toddler than take comfort that they should be able to follow sleep rules as well. I’m not saying they’ll always stay in their bed for all of their naps and every night, but this is a skill that will definitely help.
SIGN #4: Your toddler is attempting to climb out of the crib and you’re concerned about safety. You know your child best so this sign is less straightforward. I knew that Henry would not safely be able to climb out and was pretty sure he’d land on his head. But, if you have a more agile toddler watch on the monitor to see what they do. If you think they can escape safely, let them. Don’t engage in the “catching you in the act” game where every time your toddler attempts to climb you run in to stop him/her. This becomes a fun game for your toddler very fast but is not a fun game for parents. Once your toddler is out of the crib go in to the room, put him/her back in and firmly say, “we don’t climb out of our crib” and leave the room. You may have to do this many times but if your toddler does not display the other 3 readiness signs above this is the best way to delay the transition. With consistency and patience this will eventually send the message that climbing out of the crib isn’t fun and they’ll stop.
SIGN #5: Your toddler is asking for a big kid bed. If your toddler has an older sibling and wants to be a big kid too, this can be a sign that you’re ready for the transition. Start to talk about the transition and your family’s sleep rules to gauge if your toddler will understand to stay in bed.
If your toddler is exhibiting most of these signs, your transition will most likely be smooth. There may be a few nights when you first make the switch that they need some help remembering the sleep rules but if you stay consistent they will learn fast. Don’t forget to toddler proof your child’s room before the transition. No matter how smooth your transition, there will be a time when your little one explores their room on their own. Remove any loose cords, strap furniture to the wall, remove any choking hazards, and lock windows. If you don’t want them re-arranging drawers and closets then use child safety locks. Remove all toys and books from the room if you think your child will play instead of sleep. Last, consider what your child will do if he/she does wake in the middle of the night. Will they roam your house alone? Place child safety locks on cabinets with cleaning supplies or other poisons. Consider a gate on their bedroom door or the top of the stairs to prevent unsupervised middle of the night roaming through your entire home.
No matter what, try to remain calm during the transition and trust your parental instincts! If I survived the transition with twin boys you can too! If you’ve already made the transition and things aren’t going well I can help! Contact me for your free 15-minute “get to know each other call” right away!