Your child’s milestones are something to celebrate, and the crib to toddler bed transition is no exception. All parents experience this milestone differently—some with ease and others with a little more resistance.
Toddler bed age limit: When to Convert Toddler to Bed
The exact right time to make the transition from crib to toddler bed is different for every child and family. But no matter when it happens, you'll want to make sure that your toddler's new sleep space is safe and secure — and that you and your little dreamer have adequately prepared for the change.
While there's no hard-and-fast age for when to move your child to a bed, little ones generally make the switch from crib to toddler bed any time between 18 months and 3 1/2 years old, ideally as close to age 3 as possible, according to the guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Moving your tot to a toddler bed or big-kid bed with rails may be on the horizon if she's hit 35 inches in height or her crib's side rail comes up to about mid-chest level when she’s standing in it.
Put another way, the rail should be less than three-quarters of your child's height.
And it’s probably time to ditch the crib if your tot makes a jailbreak on a regular basis or repeatedly asks for a big-kid bed. However, if she’s still happy in the crib and isn’t climbing out, she can stay put.
Although reasoning with a toddler is not always successful, they are old enough to understand the boundaries you set and the consequences of leaving their toddler bed after going to bed.
However, like all things in parenting, there are no hard and fast rules. You may decide to make the transition earlier if your little one begins climbing out of their crib. It’s always important to do what’s best for your family.
Steps You Can Do To Help Your Child Transition From Crib to Toddler Without Problems
Figuring out your toddler's sleep setup probably won't feel as overwhelming as buying and setting up her crib did. But there are still a few important safety tips to keep in mind, whether you're buying a new toddler bed, converting her crib into a bed or moving her to a big-kid bed with rails.
Try a convertible crib
If the crib you painstakingly researched before your baby's arrival converts into a toddler bed, you can rest assured that your child's sleep space will continue to meet her needs for at least another year or two.
Convertible cribs are subject to the same safety standards as toddler beds and are generally designed to accommodate children up to 50 pounds.
Plus, there’s not a lot of complicated assembly in transforming them to toddler beds, though you may need some tools to do the job right.
In most cases, you remove one side of the crib, replacing it with the side rail that came with the original packaging and has a small opening your tot can use to climb into and out of bed.
Get the right size bed and mattress
If you're moving your toddler from a nonconvertible crib to a bed, you might be tempted to spring for a twin bed that will last your child for years to come.
But a toddler-specific bed is a better choice. It’s lower to the ground and the mattress is smaller (no less than 51¼ inches long by 27¼ inches wide), both of which make it easier for very young children ages 15 months and up to climb in and hop out without getting hurt.
Toddler beds are also designed to be used with a full-sized crib mattress, so feel free to use the full-sized mattress from your child's crib, if it's still in good condition.
The crib mattress should fit snugly — if you're not sure whether it's right, use the two-finger test. The mattress isn't a good fit if you're able to fit more than two fingers in between it and the bed.
Finally, remember that toddler beds are designed for children under 50 pounds. So once your child reaches that weight limit — whether it's a year from now or two or three — it'll be time to graduate to a twin bed.
To mark the occasion and help your child feel excited about the change, let her choose new sheets and kid-friendly bedding, and encourage her to personalize the new bed with a few favorite stuffed animals or a blanket with her name on it if you have one.
If you decide on a toddler or twin bed, enlist your child's help in picking it out.
Make sure the toddler bed comes equipped with safety rails
Safety rails serve the obvious — but still very important! — purpose of stopping your sweetie from rolling out of bed mid-snooze.
Convertible cribs and toddler beds are required to have side rails at least 5 inches taller than the top of the mattress. If you're using a bed without a built-in rail, be sure to install separate guardrails that are at least that tall.
Avoid toddler bed bumpers
Bumpers no longer pose a SIDS risk after your child's first birthday. But they don’t really belong in your little one’s bed because they're still not a great idea from a safety perspective — even after your child turns 1.
They can be tempting for curious climbers, who might take a tumble if they try to use the bumpers as stepping stones to get out of bed. So it’s best to avoid having bumpers in your toddler’s bed entirely.
Check that the hardware is firmly secured
Whether you're converting your crib or buying something new, a thorough safety inspection is always a good idea. Confirm that hardware like bolts and screws are firmly secured and that the sides and slats have tight, sturdy joints. Sharp edges, rough spots, or areas that could pinch your tot are also no-go’s.
Place the bed in a safe spot
Make sure your toddler's bed is positioned away from any potential hazards that could lead to injury. Place the bed at least 2 feet from any windows, heating vents, radiators, wall lamps or window blind cords.
And speaking of blind cords, it's best to either avoid having them in your child’s bedroom completely if possible or tack them far up and out of reach.
Prepare the space for nighttime wandering
It's not uncommon for your toddler to want to explore her room (and beyond) now that she has free rein to get in and out of bed as she pleases.
So before her first night sans crib, review the babyproofing basics to make sure the space is safe: Anchor furniture in your toddler's room to the wall, cover exposed electrical sockets, install childproof latches on chests of drawers, and move any potentially hazardous objects (like cords or tall lamps) out of reach.
Also lock windows and any doors that lead outside (or to the basement).
If your toddler doesn't already sleep with a night light, consider putting one in her room. The better she's able to see, the less likely she is to sustain a bump or tumble if she decides to get up in the wee hours.
Think about putting a baby gate outside your child's bedroom door too (at least at night) and one at the top of the stairs if she sleeps on a higher floor.
While you can't stop her from roaming around her room, you'll rest a lot easier knowing she doesn't have the run of the entire house (especially areas where cleaning products, medications or other potentially hazardous materials are kept). This is particularly important if your tot is in the habit of wandering around at night or even sleepwalking.
Don't change the bedtime routine
Put the bed in the same space where the crib was, if possible. And if the bath-books-bed formula for transitioning to sleep worked before, stick with it. Mixing up the bedtime routine will just mix your child up.
Praise your tot for practicing good bedtime habits
A helpful solution for controlling your child's roaming habits might be a sticker chart. Give one sticker for each night she stays in bed. By the end of the week, reward her with a special treat, like an extra story at bedtime or a favorite family outing.
Remember, toddlers love pleasing you and doing things for themselves. Helping yours learn to love a big-kid bed should be a win-win situation.
How to Keep Toddler in Bed When Transitioning From Crib
Start by making the room distraction-free. Before going to bed, ask your little one to put their toys away so they’re not enticed to get out of bed and play.
Once your little one goes to bed, eliminate the noise and distractions near your child’s bedroom. Distractions can encourage your child to climb out of their bed and leave their room to see what’s going on.
Signs Your Toddler is Not Ready For a Bed
A strong indicator that it’s time to transition to a toddler bed is if your child has healthy sleep habits in the crib and you have a bedtime routine with independent sleep skills and a regular, predictable sleep schedule.
As I mentioned above, if your child becomes an escape artist or may harm themselves in the process of trying to get out of their crib, it may be time to start the crib to bed transition.
Also, pay attention to questions from your little one if they ask why they’re sleeping in a different bed than you or their sibling. It might be time for a big kid bed!
Find The Right Toddler Bed For Your Child
Transitioning from a crib to a toddler bed is a big step, but it's nothing you and your sweetie can't handle. As long as you set up a safe, toddler-friendly sleep space and stay consistent with your bedtime routine and rules, you should both be set for sweet, crib-free dreams.
Each family has their preference, but choose something safe for your child to get in and out of. If your crib converts to a toddler bed, start there. A convertible crib gives reluctant kids the comfort of their crib while offering them the first-time freedom of a toddler bed.
When you are ready to buy a toddler bed, start with one that has rails. If the bed doesn’t have built-in rails, add one to a twin bed. Each child is different and may easily transition, but it’s safe to use a rail in the beginning while your child gets used to the bed.
Connect with us in our VIP Group to meet like-minded parents and caregivers.