Even though I'd like time to slow down and keep my “babies” forever, it's inevitable that the time will come to move them out of the crib and into a big kid bed. It can be exciting for your little ones, but also a bit frustrating for some parents. Watching my guy become fiercely independent and do things all on his own was rewarding, but also a hard pill to swallow as I realized I wasn't in charge anymore.
I've always had great sleepers. And when I tell people that, I usually get the response, "you're so lucky!". Truth is, it has nothing to do with luck, it was planning, preparation, and consistency that made it work.
WHEN TO MOVE TO A BIG KID BED
How do you know when it's time to upgrade your little one out of the crib and into a big kid bed?
“The biggest concern most parents have when it comes to making the crib-to-bed transition is safety. While most kids can easily make the transition between 18 months and 3 1/2 years, it really depends on your child. If at all possible, try to wait until your child is closer to 3 years old to give them a chance to develop the maturity it takes to stay in a big bed at night. If your child is climbing out of their crib, consider moving the crib mattress to the lowest level before moving your child to a bed. If your child’s crib mattress is on the lowest level and they’re still climbing out of their crib, it’s probably time to make the move, since your child could injure themselves as they climb out of or into their crib.” - Intermountain Healthcare
Let your child lead the way. You'll notice signs of readiness, but also try not to rush it.
For us, it was definitely Finn who decided he was ready. Around 2 1/2, we had to move into a temporary home before our first house was ours and because of space limitations, we moved Finn from his crib to a pack-n-play.
During that time, all the perfect sleep we'd had since he was a baby was out the window. Finn used to go down in minutes, slept 13 hours every night, and took naps daily. But once we got into the temporary space, and had him in the pack-n-play, we lost our rhythm. We went from sleeping peacefully knowing our baby was safe in his crib to being startled when our toddler was walking into our room in the middle of the night.
All that sleep goodness was gone and I was also worried about him hurting himself when getting out of the pack-n-play, or while wandering around the house at night.
So, it became glaringly obvious that once we moved into our new home, the first room I was going to tackle was his. He needed a space fit for a growing toddler that was all his, and it was time for a big boy room with a big boy bed.
TYPES OF BIG KID BEDS
Change can be hard for toddlers, so I wanted to make sure we made a space that fit Finn perfectly in hopes that he would eventually look forward to bedtime.
Including him while designing this new fresh space, made him excited rather than anxious about the changes.
When we first set up his twin bed, we put it in the room with his crib. After two nights of having him climb out of his crib, we knew it was time to switch to the twin bed. Although we loved the thought of saving money by using the crib mattress longer, we felt like a twin bed would make him excited about this newfound freedom outside crib life.
The more input he had in the space, the more he felt like it was his own. Finn has always found comfort in cozy blankets and soft materials, so we encouraged him to include his favorite Little Giraffe blankets in the room.
Allowing him to keep the items that have always been used to self-soothe made the changes feel less overwhelming.
Little Giraffe makes the most luxurious throws and blankets, Finn has had a favorite ever since he was a baby. So in this new space, we layered our most loved, soft, heirloom-quality pieces with his security in mind.
HOW TO SWITCH TO A BIG KID BED
“When you’re ready to make the switch, remember that tired, cranky toddlers are especially rigid and hate change. So, get your child used to the new bed by making it a routine place for quiet play or massage and napping during the day, times when she’ll be more flexible.
Your tot will have an easier time with the transition when you continue other familiar sleep cues (like loveys, white noise, your bedtime routine, lullabies and lavender).” - Happiest Baby
I have some tried and true suggestions for raising great sleepers from crib to big kid bed that you'll hear below. Here are a few tips we used to survive this transition. I'm that girl who researches everything but also likes to dive in headfirst. I have stacks of parenting books, I am a frequent Pinterest scroller and I have my mom-friends group chat at the ready always. If I were to combine everything I learned before the transition to give you ideas of the top 4 things you need to transition to a big kid bed, these would all make the list:
PATIENCE + COMMUNICATION
Okay, first thing, just go ahead and throw all expectations out the window. The ups and downs of this transition may take longer than expected and you will need a lot of patience while you and your toddler navigate this new normal. Make a plan, and stay positive and flexible. Your little one will most likely feel apprehensive about the change, but the tips below will help.
In most milestones, I always find better results when communicating clearly upfront. Then, as your littles make advances in their confidence and listening, you can reward that good behavior to encourage them to keep it up.
Establishing a solid routine, both day and night have always helped my littles be excellent sleepers. Continuing this method and not deviating from that schedule helped establish clear boundaries and avoid any potential miscommunications.
I think it's equally important to establish a successful daytime routine in addition to your nighttime routine. The more relaxed and rested your little ones are from the day makes the nighttime regimen that much smoother.
If your child is already sleeping poorly, eliminating the crib too early may worsen the issue. As Finn got older and his afternoon nap started to drop, I noticed a big change in his nighttime fussiness. It took a solid month for us to get back into a groove after he dropped that afternoon nap, so if possible, I would try to make this transition when your daytime sleep routine is still solid.
What do you do if your little one gets out of bed?
Your toddler will inevitably feel the need to explore his new space and his new freedom to roam. One solid piece of advice that always stuck with me, was whoever does the bedtime routine, is who needs to go in and explain that it's time to go back to bed. If you are constantly switching adults during the routine, it's too easy for your child to just ask for the other parent and you create a cycle of inconsistency. The trick is to stay committed and not deviate from your plan.
This might be the single most important reason we had a smooth transition to a big kid bed. Things that are familiar to your littles can bring great comfort to them. Whether it's a stuffed animal, a soft blanket, or even a specific sound machine, the real way to keep the transition smooth during this big change is to keep their favorite things close. Three things Finn could never sleep without:
AN OBNOXIOUSLY SOFT BLANKETThe softest, dreamiest bed you ever did feel is exactly what Finn needs to get his rest on. His love language is for sure touch, and he needs to feel uber cozy when he hops into bed. We have a Little Giraffe Big Kid blanket he sleeps on top of and then he has one layered over his comforter as well.
Dodge, Dodgie, Dodge Bodge, the beloved stuffed animal Finn has carried with him everywhere since he was a baby. In times of excitement, joy or tantrums, Dodgie has always been there to bring him comfort.
Whether it’s monsters in the closet or little monsters not wanting to go to bed, we reach for our DIY essential oil monster sprays. We have a spray bottle of our homemade monster spray and keep it on hand to use during our bedtime ritual. Spraying it inside closets, under the bed, and on his lovie and blankets really helps Finn drop off to dreamland. Of course, you can’t go wrong with Lavender’s aroma either. Its scent can help your little ones relax, and it promotes feelings of calmness.
What you need:
This is usually the hardest part for parents. You'll want to use a support or rail to prevent falling out of the bed at first. A foam support that slips under the sheet is a great solution. We loved it because it was hidden from the eye, and soft to the touch, making the transition easier. We also started with the bed against the wall so that it felt more like his crib. You can also layer pillows and stuffed animals to add an extra cushion of comfort and safety.
You'll also want to be sure to childproof the rest of the house in case they wander out of bed at night. Adding a baby gate to the doorway of their room will help contain them, especially if their room is on an upper floor. For us, the transition was seamless because we put in the work and helped Finn understand the expectations of this new freedom and his big boy space. We didn't rush it, we kept our established routine and included his favorite comfort items in the space, which allowed him the opportunity to feel ready, and more comfortable with the new normal. Wishing you luck as your little becomes a big in their new big kid bed.