While infants will outgrow their SNOO and need to relocate to the crib at 6 months, it can be harder to know when your growing bub is ready to trade their beloved crib for a toddler bed—and what toddler bed to tuck them into. For help on all fronts, check out our guide to buying the best toddler bed.

What is a toddler bed?

A toddler bed is the perfect transitional sleep space between the cozy crib and a twin size bed. A toddler bed holds the same size mattress as your crib, but without the confines of the surrounding rails. Plus, toddler beds are lower to the ground than traditional twin beds for easy comings and goings. Unlike bassinets and even cribs, toddler beds are suitable to sleep in for several years. Depending on your space—and your child’s growth—a tot can remain in a toddler bed until up to around age 5.

When to transition from crib to toddler bed?

The general rule of thumb: If your tot seems like they’re plotting their first crib escape—or you’ve already caught them vaulting over the side—it’s time to introduce the toddler bed. If your tyke is not a wannabe escape artist, be sure to make the move when…

PS: If your tot is younger than 15 months old, the safest sleep spot for them is still the crib. (Check out Dr. Harvey Karp’s detailed how-tos on moving your baby out of the crib and into a toddler bed.)

Why use a toddler bed instead of a twin bed?

Toddler beds offer a similar cocoon-like feel as the crib your little one has grown accustomed to, which often makes the transition from crib to bed easier. Plus…

  • Toddler beds are low to the floor, making for easy and safe in-and-out access.

  • Many toddler beds include a guardrail, which helps keep active sleepers safe.

  • You can continue to use your bub’s crib mattress and crib bedding. (Some mattresses features a firm side for babies and a cushier side for toddlers.)

  • If you purchased a convertible crib, there’s no need to buy more furniture right away.

  • A toddler bed’s smaller footprint means more floor space for play.

  • You can quickly transform a convertible crib to a toddler if suddenly faced with a crib-jumper.

Toddler Bed Must: Familiarity

Trading your tot’s completely enclosed crib for a semi-enclosed toddler bed is an effective way to feed their innate need for consistency. And for the ultimate in familiarity, start with a convertible crib that you can eventually transform into a toddler bed. This way, the look, feel, and experience of the new toddler bed is almost identical to the look, feel, and experience of your tot’s cherished crib.

Toddler Bed Must: Safety

It can be scary for toddlers and their grownup to wave bye-bye to the safe enclosure of the crib! That’s why it’s super-important to buy a toddler bed that meets both of your stay-safe requirements. Look for the following toddler bed safety must-haves:

  • Guardrails: These are almost like half-walls affixed to the sides of the toddler bed to keep your tot from rolling to the floor.

  • Low to the floor: Make sure your toddler bed of choice is easy for your child to get in and out of to minimize their risk of falls.

  • Properly fitting mattress: A toddler bed is built to hold a crib mattress, which should fit snugly into the bed frame, with no gaps between the mattress and the frame. If you can place more than two fingers between the mattress and the bed frame, it’s not a proper fit! To ensure the safest fit, it’s a good idea to buy your mattress from the same manufacturer as your toddler bed or convertible crib.

  • Hidden hardware: This’ll prevent accidental PJ snags and scrapes.

  • Safety certifications: Make sure the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) hasn’t recalled the toddler bed you’re considering. (Learn more about toddler bed recalls.)

Toddler Bed Must: Durability

It doesn’t matter if your child’s bed is timeless, trendy, whimsical, or themed, all toddler beds must be sturdy. After all, your child’s new toddler bed needs to be strong enough to support parental cuddles, tot bouncing, and oodles of imaginary play! (My bed is a boat! It’s a rocket! No, it’s a magic carpet!) Look for a toddler bed that’s crafted with a strong wood, like sustainable New Zealand pine and features a metal spring base. Durable, solid wood plus a spring base can withstand the raucous toddler years way better than particle board or a wood-slat grid. Finally, seek a bed frame that’s sealed with a non-toxic, water-based finish that won’t easily chip.

Toddler Bed Must: Non-Toxic

The safest, non-toxic toddler beds around are constructed of 100% solid wood, feature a water-based finish, and are BPA-, formaldehyde-, lead-, phthalates-, VOC-free. VOC stands for volatile organic compounds. Certain baby cribs and toddler beds can off-gas these toxic chemicals that may irritate your tot’s eyes and respiratory tract. (Look for toddler bed that meets or exceeds Greenguard Safety standards.) 

Toddler Bed Must: Timeless Design

Children’s tastes change. One day they’re all about race cars and the next day it’s choo-choos. Give it a week, and dinosaurs will rule your tyke’s room. That means, buying a piece of furniture based on a child’s right-now tastes could be a costly mistake. A better idea: Choose a classic piece of furniture that seamlessly blends into any fad or decor choice. And save the themes for your decor! (Need some kid room inspo? Check out these toddler room ideas for your nursery grad.)

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.