The first time you catch your toddler swinging his leg over the side of the crib, or the moment you realize the baby has outgrown the bassinet and needs to move into big sister’s crib, marks the beginning of your toddler’s transition to a big-kid bed.
By Louise Gleeson
The transition can be smooth and quick, or bumpy and drawn out. The experience is different for every family and sometimes even varies from one sibling to the next (it certainly did in our house!). Here are my best tips for making things easier and more fun for the whole family:
Make it a big deal
Let them pick out new bedding and choose a new nightlight. With my kids, we always picked out a new stuffed animal or doll and told our little one they should help their friend get comfy in the new bed, too.
We used a safety-approved bed rail to prevent nighttime rolling and made sure all of the furniture in the room was secured to the wall. We also used a safety gate across the open door to prevent night wandering.
Stick to the routine
If it was bath, book and bed for the crib, follow the same order when it comes to the big-kid bed. Avoid accidentally establishing a new routine by lying down with your child until they fall asleep. If your child asks you to stay, be prepared to set some kind of timer. In our family, we read one book together on the bed and then it was lights out.
Choose the timing carefully
Make sure your child is healthy and happy and in a good sleep routine before making the switch. If they are phasing out naps, it might not be the best time to make a change. Pick a week you are able to tire your little one out, so that when they climb into their new bed they are ready to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Watch the clock
Delay tactics may ramp up as they make the transition, so be prepared. Bring a small glass of water to their room before they ask. Choose a book before bedtime negotiations begin. And have a plan in place for how you want to deal with your child getting out of bed. We celebrated in the morning, if our little one stayed put, by putting a sticker on a big-kid chart.
Most importantly, remember this is a transition for you, too. Whenever we took down our crib, I would find myself standing in the space it left, thinking of the weight of sleepy heads on my shoulder, koala bear legs wrapped around my hip, and outstretched arms over railings each morning. Take a photo of your little one in their crib and put it in a frame beside a photo of her first night in a big-kid bed. It’s a moment they may not remember, and one you won’t want to forget.
Louise Gleeson is a freelance writer, blogger and mother of four who makes it her mission to find quiet moments in the chaos.