Should You Graduate Your Child to a Toddler Bed or to a Regular Bed?
These days most cribs convert from a crib to a toddler bed and, even some convert into a twin or full-sized bedframe. This feature is very appealing to parents because cribs can be expensive, and it seems logical for them to put their toddler into a small bed.
If your child is pondering this thought, "Hmmm, I may try to get out of my crib. I'll put my leg up and test that a bit and see how my parents react", it is time for you to pay attention and possibly take action.
When a child starts to climb out of her crib, you must switch her to a big-girl-bed. It is not safe for her to be catapulting herself out of her crib! Believe it or not, it is a normal developmental phase for her to test boundaries and need to individuate.
I always say, your toddler does not punch-a-clock and decides to stop testing boundaries because it is bedtime. Bedtime is an excellent time for your kid to push back because there are some real and juicy rules to test out in a sleep routine. This is the time to hunker down on bedtime expectations, rules, and, most importantly, remain consistent.
Your child is growing mentally, physically, and spiritually and is ready for a larger space to sleep. Convert your child's crib to a twin-sized bed, and skip the toddler bed phase. Why?
Your child does not see her toddler bed as her awesome new big-girl-bed. Taking the side off of her crib does not register for her as "Cool, this is my brand new big-girl bed!". She may see the removal of the side of her crib like a big invitation from you to get out of bed! Kids can often interpret that action as "Wow! My parents must really want me to get out of bed! Woo Hoo! They took the side off! They made it easier for me to get out! Thank you!"
Your child may also be thinking, "They keep saying my crib with the side gone is my big girl bed, but it is my crib. My mattress is the same, my blanket is the same, and everything about it feels and smells the same. They must be nuts!" Because in her mind, it is still her crib. There is no significant change. You just opened the gate.
Moving from a crib to a twin-sized bed removes another unwanted step and another change for your child. If she is in a toddler bed, it will not be for long.
Convert the crib to a twin. Go out a bet a new bed. Choose a lower platform bed if possible, and if you cannot, buy a half box spring instead of a whole. Get a child-safe bedrail to protect her from rolling off her new bed. You do not need a negative experience with this positive change. She now has more room to find how she loves to sleep and what makes her feel good!
Use a small mesh railing, so your child does not roll out. A child-safe railing is also a visual boundary, and that is less of an invite to hop out. Some parents like a foam bumper, but with that choice, there is less of a visual boundary. It is essential to establish big-girl-bed rules from the very beginning.
If you have time to plan, think all about the steps you need to take and prepare her. I would talk to her about the exciting change around a week before the move, not months. Talking about it for too long can create anxious feelings as it is unknown. It is a lot of time to create what they think it will be like, and that does not always match up to what it will be. A week is a reasonable amount of time to prep, not have to worry, and be excited! It is a much different story if your child has jumped, and you will need to act fast. Do not panic. Order your mattress and take the steps you need to create a safe sleep space for your child.
Remember to remove the crib from the room entirely if you are switching to a big bed. Leaving it in the room can cause some sadness, and your child may gravitate to what is old and familiar (Don't we all?!). If you are making the big move, make it and commit.
Here are some important things to think about:
What is your bedtime routine now?
Could you lock it down a bit more and be more consistent?
Do you envision that your routine change at all now that there is a big bed?
Where will the bedtime books be read? - In bed or a chair?
What are the big-girl-bed rules?
What are your expectations with the new bed and sleep behavior?
Establish the rules and expectations from day one and stick to them.
I advise moving a child to a big bed between the ages of two and a half and three years old. A child has a higher capacity to understand big-girl bed rules after the age of two and a half. If your child is younger, not to worry! Remember, the behavioral aspect of sleep is always an essential part of learning.
If you have already chosen a toddler bed or you still want to, it is fine. You have not made a bad choice. Just be mindful of your child's size and be aware of when it is time to make the next move to her big-girl bed.