When to make the switch from a crib to bed:
• Your child is at least 2 ½-3 years old. This is the average age a child has the cognitive ability to understand what it means to “stay in bed all night long”. They do not always understand the invisible boundaries of a bed. The crib boundaries are very obvious. So wait as long as you can!
• She has mastered the skill of putting herself to sleep at bedtime and getting herself back to sleep when she wakes during the night without any help.
• She’s climbing out of her crib easily and frequently. However, don’t immediate give up on the crib and move to a toddler bed as soon as your child starts to climb out. Some other things you can do are make sure the mattress is on the lowest position, remove all crib toys and bumpers or anything else they may use to climb out, remove all furniture and toys on the outside of the crib so they don’t fall on it if they do climb out, don’t make it worth it for your child to climb out by giving her something she wants after she gets out of the crib, catch her right when she’s about to climb out and firmly say, “No climbing!”. You can also try putting your child in a sleep sack so they can’t hike their leg over.
How to make the switch:
The Cold Turkey Approach:
• Remove the crib and put the new bed where your child’s crib was or place it in a corner of the room so she still feels safely contained.
• Install a guard rail on the side of the bed that’s not against a wall.
• Arrange a few pillows on the floor in case she falls out.
The Gradual Approach:
• Start by leaving the crib railing down, with a stool at the side so she can get out by herself.
• Arrange some extra pillows on the floor for safety.
• If you can fit the new bed and the crib in the same room, you can start with reading books on the bed or have him nap in the bed. Once she’s sleeping in her bed for naps and nights, you can remove the crib.
Some other things to consider:
• Put a gate on the bedroom door, at least at the beginning, as both a training device and a safety measure. It is just not safe for a young child to wander the house at night.
• Make sure the room is 100% safety proof now that she can get out of bed.
• Throw a “Big Girl Bed” party the day you plan to make the switch. Let your child pick out the new sheets or a quilt and get the bed all set up. Then invite friends and family over to celebrate this milestone. Include cake and balloons to make your child feel special and excited about the new bed.
• Explain the privileges but also review the rules. Make sure she understands that you will still put her to bed, but then she is expected to stay there.
• Be consistent from day one. If she gets out of bed, take her right back. And don’t get into the habit of laying down with her or you may get stuck there for months, maybe even years.
• Reward her in the morning for staying in bed: give her lots of stickers and let her call Grandma and Grandpa to share how proud she is.
What if there is a baby brother or sister on the way?
This is the most common reason parents make the switch. If your older child is not at least 2.5 you may want to consider borrowing or buying an extra crib. If that is not an option, transition your child to the bed at least two months before the birth of the baby. You want your older child to feel settled into her new bed before bringing home the new baby.If it’s possible to completely take the crib down during these couple of months, that is ideal. If you wait to transition her until after the baby is born, wait at least 3-4 months. You do not want your older child to feel she is being replaced.