I always ask these questions first when a client is thinking about moving their child to a big kid bed:
- Is your child over 2 1/2 years old (This is the typical age that most children have the cognitive ability to understand the rules such as "you must stay in bed all night").
- Does your child fall asleep independently at bedtime from a relaxed but awake state and without assistance?
- Does your child sleep through the night or put himself back to sleep when he wakes during the night without needing any help?
- Does he want to move out of his crib?
If the answer is YES, to all of the questions above then it is likely a good time to make the transition.
As with most sleep transitions there are choices-
- If you can do it safely, remove the front rail from the crib so your child can get in and out of the crib on his own.
- If the new bed will fit in the room along with the crib, during this stage have your child nap in the big bed and have your bedtime stories on the new bed.
- Then pick the big day where he sleeps in the big bed at night. Once he’s sleeping in his bed for naps and nights, you can remove the crib.
Cold Turkey Approach:
- Take the crib out and replace it with the new bed.
- Put the new bed in the corner of the room so 2 sides are against the wall.
- Install a safety rail on the side of the bed, not against the wall or put a pool noodle under the sheet to support him from rolling out.
My final recommendations with either method:
- Put some pillows on the floor in case he rolls out of bed during the night.
- Inspect the room for safety now that he will have full access to the room unsupervised.
- Consider putting a gate on the bedroom door for a period. This will act as a training method to help him understand that he has to stay in his bed. It will also be a safety measure to prevent him getting hurt if he decides to wander around the house in the middle of the night.
- Get him involved in the process by letting him pick out new sheets or a new bedspread. Have 2 or 3 Mom approved choices for him to select from.
- Introduce sleep manners (rules) and explain that after lights out he is expected to stay in bed.
- Make sure you are consistent and if he does get out of bed, walk him right back without a lot of talking or extra cuddling.
- Give praise in the morning for staying in bed and let him hear you brag about it to Grandma and friends.
- Don't start any new habits, like laying down in the bed, if you don't want to do this every night ... start as you mean to go on!!
It usually isn't a good time to transition out of the crib because your child is climbing out of the crib and is under 3 years old. Review the techniques outlined in my Tips to Keep your Toddler in the Crib blog before rushing into this transition too quickly. If there are other changes coming such as sleep learning, moving homes, removing bottles or pacifiers, then it is best to work on those changes first and stay in the crib a bit longer.
Written By: Michelle S. Donaghy