The signs are clear — it’s time for the awaited toddler bed transition, but doing it right can take some trial and error. Take it from a triplet mom.
The moment I have been dreading for months has arrived. I can no longer contain my triplet 2-year-olds in their cribs. Two thirds of them are climbing out of their cribs and destroying the room. The one child who cannot climb out has declared her crib as party central. The two monkeys go straight into their crib after they have destroyed their entire bedroom with such fun activities as opening the shades, emptying drawers and dumping diapers. I find them like this on a daily basis, screaming and cheering as they bounce up and down in one crib together. This is how I knew I could no longer wait to make the transition to toddler beds. Here are some toddler bed transition tips from a triplet mom.
1.WAIT AS LONG AS POSSIBLE
If your child is climbing out of his crib and wandering around the room, it is time to switch to a big-kid bed. Climbing in and out of a crib puts your child at high risk of falling and getting hurt. However, if your child is content in his crib and has made no attempt to escape, don’t rush to make the switch. Alaba Robinson, M.D., pediatrician and physician at Mercy Health, says the signs can tell all, and when your toddler begins climbing out of his crib, it may be time for the switch.
“If your child can put his leg up over the crib or if his chest is above the rail when standing in the crib, it’s time. Typically, kids are ready to transition between the ages of 2 and 3.”
My oldest son slept in his crib without trying to climb out until he was almost 3. Eventually, he became too tall for a crib and he had an easy transition to a twin bed.
2. CHOOSE THE RIGHT TIME
Many parents transition their kids to a twin or toddler bed because they need the crib for a soon-to-be arriving younger sibling. If possible, try to make the transition to a big kid bed when there are few other transitions going on in your child’s life. Starting a new school, potty training, moving or the arrival of a new sibling can all be reasons to delay the switch.
“The transition should be fun and come during a peaceful time in your lives,” says Robinson. “If there’s lots of change going on, such as a move, starting at a new school or a new baby in the house, hold off until things have settled down.”
If you do have a new baby arriving and need the crib, consider starting shortly after you find out you are pregnant, using a bassinet for Baby for a few months, or purchasing a second crib.
3. MAKE IT THEIR OWN
If you decide it’s the right time to make the switch, get your child excited about his new bed. Purchasing new bedding and pillows can make his new space more welcoming and exciting. Consider updating his room with new big-kid decorations, too or buying fun pillowcases with his favorite cartoon characters on them.
“Take your child bed shopping and tell him that this will be his big-boy or big-girl bed,” says Robinson. “Let him play a part in picking his sheets, blanket and comforter to build anticipation.”
4. CREATE A SAFE ENVIRONMENT
Whether your child was climbing out of bed before the switch or not, he will have more freedom in his bedroom than they had in the past, and it is important to make sure they are safe during rest times.
“Make sure you do a gentle transition,” says Robinson. “Kids do really well with talking to them about what’s going to happen,” she adds.
If your child were to climb on his dresser or bookshelf, it could tip forward and cause an injury. Bolt dressers, bookshelves, changing tables or any other furniture to the wall to create the safest environment for your toddler. Put away breakable items, cover outlets and clear the room of any hazards.
If your child can open the bedroom door, consider installing a door knob safety cover or gate so that he can’t wander the house freely if he wakes up earlier than you.
“Make sure that wherever they are, it’s a safe environment,” Robinson continues. “By this age, most people have baby-proofed their homes, but this is a great opportunity to double check. You may wish to consider putting a baby gate at your door of your child’s room for extra protection.”
5. BE CONSISTENT
Transitions can be difficult for toddlers, but they are easier when parents are consistent. Most parents worry that once their child transitions to a big kid bed, he will stop sleeping well. For the best results, lay your child down when he’s tired and ready to rest.
According to Robinson, if your child does decide to get out of his bed, keep calm and stay positive. A little positive reinforcement can go a long way.
“Kids love attention, and they will come out of their rooms and want to play or have extra cuddles,” she says. “We either negatively or positively reinforce their getting out of bed. My big tip, if a child gets out of the bed, is to not make a big to do of it. Keep things quiet, hold his hand and walk him back to his room. Do this consistently. Children love attention even when it includes strong messages to go back to bed,” she adds.
If you followed a daily routine before laying your child down in his crib, continue it. If not, try starting a daily routine that might look something like this: take a bath, put on pajamas, read a book, brush teeth and visit the restroom, have some snuggle-time and then it’s off to bed. When your child knows what to expect, he will know that it is not playtime and it is time to rest.
“When you move from the crib to the bed, things will change, like the layout of the room, for example. Keeping the bedtime routine maintains continuity and kids like that,” Robinson adds.
Transitioning from a crib to a big-kid bed is a big deal! It is exciting, fun and sometimes challenging. Parents can help their kids with this milestone by being supportive and giving positive reinforcement. Praise and reward your child for making it through each night, for taking a nap and for following rules. Before too long, the crib will be a thing of the past.