Saying good-bye to your child’s crib is a big milestone, but a bittersweet one. There is no specific recommended age for transitioning to a toddler bed. Some parents do it as early as 15 months and others not until after 3 years.

Timing often depends on your child's physical skills—you'll want to make the transition to a bed before your intrepid tot masters the art of crib escape. 

When to Transition to a Toddler Bed

Over 90% of 18-month-olds sleep in a crib, but that gradually drops to about 80% at 2 years and 40% by 3 years of age.

After the first birthday, it’s wise to put the mattress all the way down and make sure your tot doesn’t have toys or bumpers to climb on. The top of the crib rail should be above his collarbones. And always have a soft rug or carpeting on the floor of the room (with a nonslip undermat), because falls from that height can result in serious injuries.

Generally speaking, if your toddler seems like she's plotting her first crib escape, or you've caught her vaulting commando-style over the railing, it's probably time for her to move her to a bed.

If you’re pregnant, it’s usually best to move your toddler out of the crib a few months before the new baby arrives (assuming your first child is old enough to be out of the crib). If it is already after the birth, you might keep your tot in the crib a while longer. But beware: if you move your toddler to a bed and the next week move the baby into her old crib, your tot may feel jealous—like you gave her beloved possession to the new intruder!

How to Transition to Toddler 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).

To boost her enthusiasm about the switch:

  • Make up little stories or read books about sleeping in bed.
  • Gossip during the day about what a good job she’s doing.
  • Take her shopping to pick out special sheets.
  • Make a special Beddy-Bye book that you can peruse together every day with pictures of family members (and your dog!) asleep in their beds.

The Big Challenge: Getting Your Toddler to Stay in Bed

Once in a bed, your toddler can pop out anytime she wants. So, you need to (1) childproof the room really well (including electric outlets, curtain cords and sharp corners), and (2) keep her from roaming outside the room at night.

Use a gate to keep her in her room. If she climbs over it, you may need to spend a little time training her to stay in the room or even close the door. Say something like, “Honey, this is Mr. Gate! Mr. Gate will help you stay in the room…so at bedtime, after we sing and read and say night-night…then we’ll close Mr. Gate…and he will help you stay safe and happy in your room all night.”

If your little gymnast climbs over the gate, you may need to close the door and put a doorknob cover on the inside of the door to her room.

Creating a bedtime routine can help your toddler wind down and learn they are expected to stay in bed. (For advice on routines, click here). You can also try Twinkle Interruptus, my favorite toddler bedtime "trick" based on patience-stretching. Good luck!

When did you transition your child to a toddler bed? How did it go? Got advice for parents getting ready for this milestone? Please share your experience in the comments section.

View more posts tagged Toddler, sleep