Transitioning from Crib to Toddler Bed? Tips for Staying Sane!

little girl hiding underneath white bedsheets with her eyes and hands showing

The transition to toddler bed is exciting, scary, hopeful, and emotional…and don’t even get me started on the range of feelings the kids themselves experience during the process!

If you’re preparing to move your child into a big kid bed, you’re bound to have questions like:

  • When is the right time to transition them?
  • How do you know if they’re “ready”?
  • What happens if they won’t stay in bed?
  • What type of bed do they need?

If your mind is filled with questions like these – you are not alone. Luckily for you, we happen to have an outstanding community of parents to learn from.

Based on our own experiences,the advice of our fellow moms and dads, and lots of research, we’re giving you a variety of tips and suggestions to help you streamline the crib to toddler bed switch and make this milestone moment as smooth for you and your little one as possible!

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When is it Time for the Crib to Toddler Bed Switch?

At some point, most parents will find themselves asking, “Is my child ready for a toddler bed?” Unfortunately, there’s no black and white answer.

Every child and parenting style is different; it’s essential to figure out what works best for your family.

I’ll never forget the day that I walked into my baby’s room to see a full-grown toddler climbing out of her crib.

toddler attempting to climb out of his crib
When you find your toddler climbing out of their crib and you’ve already moved the mattress to the floor, it might be time to consider a crib to toddler bed transition.

I suddenly realized my baby was no longer a baby.

In her place was a monkey-like creature who had figured out that the confines of her crib were no longer competition for her stealthy skills.

That night, when my husband came home from work, I broke the news to him…it was time to transition to a toddler bed.

For me, the fear of my darling girl falling on her head mid-climb was enough of a reason to take on the crib to toddler bed transition.

You might choose another reason to transition to a toddler bed, such as those bulleted below.

Here are a few potential reasons you may consider the transition to a toddler bed:

  • Your child is anywhere between 18 months and 4 years old. Some researchers suggest waiting until closer to age 3, when kids are better prepared to stay in bed all night.
  • Per the American Academy of Pediatrics, children who are 35” or taller should be switched to a toddler bed
  • When your little one is potty training, a toddler bed can be helpful for potty training at night
  • You’re having another baby and want to use the same crib
  • Your child is asking for a big kid bed

What are the First Steps When You Transition to a Toddler Bed?

You can do lots of things to help prepare your little one for the big crib to toddler bed switch.

In our house, we moved the toddler bed into our daughter’s room before we were actually ready to start the transition. We let her check it out and get excited about the prospect of a new “big girl bed.”

When the time finally came to move her, she was more than ready to leave her crib behind.

We’ve also spoken to other community members to figure out which steps they took to help provide a seamless transition to a toddler bed. Some of our favorite suggestions include:

1. Reading Books About Moving to a Toddler Bed

Many of our fellow parents had the great idea to read their kids books about making the crib to toddler bed switch. We love this suggestion!

Not only does it allow for some great parent/child bonding over a good book, but it can bring your child a sense of comfort about the change that’s about to happen.

Here were some of the most popular books Undefining Motherhood parents recommended to make the crib to bed switch easier:

2. Child-Proofing Your Little One’s Bedroom

A toddler bed means extra freedom for your child. The question is, what will they do with that freedom?

If you haven’t taken the time to child-proof their bedroom, doing it before you start the transition to a toddler bed is smart. 

It won’t just keep your kids safe, but it will also help bring parents some extra peace of mind.

3. Purchase a Toddler Bed or Crib Conversion Kit

If you look at a manual with crib-to-toddler-bed instructions, the first thing it will recommend is buying the right type of toddler bed or crib conversion kit.

If you have a convertible crib, find out if it requires specific parts before converting it to a toddler bed. Check the company’s website or crib manual for further instructions on how to complete the transition.

There are several universal conversion products on the market that work for most cribs and are also great options for a full sized bed, including:

If you decide to go with a traditional toddler bed, make sure it fits into expert safety guidelines. These include finding a sturdy bed that’s low to the ground and has guard rails.

Here are some of our favorite options for safe toddler beds:

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Crib to Toddler Bed Instructions: What’s the Best Way to Handle the Move?

I know what you’re probably thinking:

“Please just tell me exactly how to make the transition to a toddler bed as quick and easy as possible!”

There’s not a right or wrong way to make the move into a big kid bed. What works for one child may not work for another.

What we can do for you is discuss some tips that have worked for us and other members of our parenting community.

1. Choose the Right Timing for YOUR CHILD

So, the mom down the street has been regaling you with tales of how her little one (who’s six months younger than your son or daughter) has already switched a toddler bed.

Please ignore Madame Mom Shamer.

Every child will be ready for the transition at different points. If your little one seems perfectly content staying in their crib, why force them into changing? 

Disregard what other parents around you are doing and stay focused on what works best for your family.

2. Ease Your Little One Into the Switch

Our daughter doesn’t always adjust well to big changes. For this reason, I was feeling all sorts of parenting anxiety about getting her into a big girl bed.

What worked well for us was to make the switch slowly. Instead of pulling her out of the crib cold turkey, we started by napping in the toddler bed and keeping her in the crib at night.

After a few days of this, she was so excited about the bigger bed that she started asking us to sleep in it at night.

This might not work in every situation, but allowing kids to adjust to a new routine slowly might be a comforting option.

3. Make It Fun for Them

I’m not too proud to admit that I’m all about bribing my children occasionally. This logic can come in handy during the transition to a toddler bed!

Before you make the big switch, why not take them shopping for a new blanket or sheets for their new bed? You could even let them pick out a new stuffed animal to snuggle with.

By making them a part of the experience, they’ll feel more excited about the new sleeping arrangement.

4. Consider a Nightlight

Being outside of the crib can sometimes leave kids feeling uneasy about their room. The space can feel so much larger than before, and they might become scared of things that go bump in the night.

If this is the case for your little one, a soft, dim nightlight can help them feel more comfortable about their surroundings.

5. Talk to Your Child about the Change Ahead of Time

This tip is helpful whether you’re transitioning a child to a separate bed or converting their crib. Reading books and talking about the change can help them know something is about to be different.

Children deserve our respect in understanding when change is coming.

Don’t make the change sound big or scary, but help them get excited. This is especially important when converting a crib because there’s no way to transition slowly.

Our founder, Katy, told Jack that his crib was going to become a “big kid bed,” but reiterated that it would still be the same bed. He was excited that he could get into it himself, but was fully prepared to see it look different.

Showing your child photos of converted cribs ahead of time can really help them visualize the change, too.

Keeping Your Toddler in Bed, and Other Crib-to-Toddler-Bed Problems

During the transition to a toddler bed, crying is common (usually from the child AND the parents, if we’re honest!).

The transition from crib can be overwhelming, so you want to make your child feel comfortable. Choosing how you manage crying and sticking to your method is important for helping your child learn to fall asleep during this transition.

Here are some of our suggestions to help when you experience problems with the change.

(1) Reassure Your Child As You Feel Comfortable

If your child is crying in their new bed, many experts suggest returning to their room and calmly reminding them that they’re okay and it’s time for bed.

The time you wait while they cry is up to you. For some families, returning frequently to their room works well, while others prefer to space out their visits.

(2) Calmly Guide Wandering Littles Back to Bad

When your child continually leaves their bed and comes out of their room, it’s helpful to guide them back to bed.

If this still isn’t working after several attempts, you can always let them know you’ll need to close their door if they can’t stay in bed.

(3) Use an “Okay To Wake” Clock

When our daughter first started sleeping in her big girl bed, she would wake up around 5 am every morning – no fun!

If your child suddenly becomes an early riser, you might want to invest in an “Okay to Wake” clock for their room.

(4) Maintain A Consistent Bedtime Routine

One of the best things you can do to foster good sleep habits is to create a good bedtime routine for your child.

Your routine should include activities such as a bath, teeth brushing, pajamas, reading a book, etc.

Once you’ve finished each night, and your little one is snug in their bed, gently remind them that they need to stay in their big kid bed until morning (or until the green light comes on if you choose to use an “Okay to Wake” clock).

Good, consistent habits are essential during the transition to a toddler bed.

If you do the same things every night, your little one will eventually realize that this is the new normal. Hopefully, they won’t fight the process as much.

Don’t Forget to Make the Transition to a Toddler Bed Fun!

Sure, the crib to toddler bed switch comes with a heavy dose of rules, requirements, and anxiety for both parents and wee ones.

Despite this, it’s crucial to keep in mind that this is a huge milestone moment for your child. The transition to a toddler bed shouldn’t be all rules and regulations.

This is an exciting change for your little one – treat it like the big deal it is!

Let them have fun with the experience and take a moment to enjoy the change right along with them! Celebrate with them when they spend their first successful night in bed. Let them know how proud you are.

Remember, they’re only little once; make tons of good memories anytime you can!

Do you have any of your own tips and tricks to help with the transition to a toddler bed?

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Transition to Toddler Bed FAQ

When should you introduce a toddler bed?

Most parents transition between 18 months and 4 years old. Some researchers suggest waiting until closer to age 3, when kids are better prepared to stay in bed all night.

How do I get my toddler to stay in bed all night?

Set clear boundaries around bedtime with your child to help them understand the importance of staying in bed. Many families love using an “Okay to Wake” clock to tell their child when they’re allowed to get out of bed.

How long does it take to transition to toddler bed?

If you’re transitioning to a separate bed, you can transition your child at their own pace, moving naps to the new bed but remaining in the crib at night until your child is ready for a full transition. When using a crib conversion kit, prepare your child ahead of time and make the switch all at once.

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