Moving your toddler to a “big bed” can be a big decision and some parents aren’t sure the right age or the best approach for making the switch. Sometimes a toddler needs to move into a big bed because there is a sibling on the way and some need to move because they have discovered the joy of jumping out of the crib! No matter the reason, there are some ways to make it a little easier on everyone.
Moving to a Big Bed…Don’t Jump When They Do!
Toddlers are often moved out of the crib too early. Jumping from the crib is usually the main reason. If you have a toddler who is jumping, don’t rush to make the move. If your toddler is “good” at jumping from the crib, meaning doesn’t hurt him or herself, you can try a few tricks of your own before deciding if a move is needed. At bedtime, tell your little one that he must stay in the crib at bedtime.
When he jumps out (which he will!), calmly return him to his crib and remind him that he must stay in the crib. You can repeat the rules the first 4-5 times that he jumps out, after that, return him to the crib without saying a word. For many toddlers, after a few nights of this, it becomes boring and they stop.
Now, if your toddler is jumping from the crib and getting hurt, then it is likely time to make the switch. Crib tents are no longer recommended, so it would be better to move to a big bed if your toddler is jumping out and getting hurt. If you are moving a toddler because you have another baby on the way, wait as long as possible to make the move. Many parents want to have the new baby’s room ready in advance, so would like to have the crib prepared. However, newborn babies very rarely sleep in a crib, so hold off on transitioning your toddler unless you plan to put the baby in the crib immediately.
If none of the above are concerns for your family, then it is best to wait until your child is closer to three years old to make the move to a big bed. There are a lot of new responsibilities that come with a new bed, and a three year old has a better ability to understand what will happen if they don’t follow the “rules” at bedtime. When you have decided to move your child, make it a fun experience. Let your child pick out new sheets or help make the bed. Tell a bedtime story about a child moving to a big bed and in the story, include rules about staying in bed all night long.
Once the move is complete, many children will stay in their bed for the first few nights or even weeks, but at some point, will realize that they can get out of the bed and even the room! Once this happens, quietly and calmly return your child to the bed and remind him that it’s bedtime and he must stay in the bed all night. Do this the first three times each night and then return him to the bed without saying a word. It may take several nights for your child to stop coming out of the room, but if you remain consistent and don’t allow it to become a game, your child will stay in bed for the night.