Photo by: iStock

Is It Time for a Big Kid Bed?

by Kathryn Walsh of "Mamapedia"
Photo by: iStock



The move from a crib to a big kid bed is one of those transitions that you’ll probably take harder than your child will. After all, it’s a marker of the end of babyhood. But it can be an exciting change too, as long as you time it carefully. We talked to a few childhood sleep experts about how to make the transition without losing sleep.


Timing is Everything
Even if you’re eager to move your 2-year-old into a bed, try to delay the change if you can. Macall Gordon, the certified Gentle Sleep Sleep Coach behind That First Year, advises holding off on this transition until your child is around 3 years old. “Before this time, they don’t have the cognitive skills to command their bodies to ‘stay in bed,’” she says. “Parents who move a child too early find themselves without options to keep their little one IN the bed.”

That’s advice echoed by Mylee Zschech, Child Sleep Consultant at Little Big Dreamers. “The ideal time to transition to a big bed is from 3 years onwards,” she says. She sees parents moving their kids out of cribs to make way for new babies, or because they’re climbing out of their cribs. But neither of these is a good enough reason to make the change, she says. Moving your child out of the crib because a new baby is coming may cause the child anxiety and insecurity, and you may be able to thwart a crib escaper (like by lowering the mattress or dressing the child in a sleep sack) without rushing the big change.

“Wait until your child asks for the bed, because then they are at an age where the transition can be discussed in detail,” Mylee says. A child who is old enough and mature enough to ask for a new bed can probably understand your instructions around the importance of staying in bed all night.


How to Make the Move
Once your child reaches 3 years old and shows interest in making a bed change, involve him or her in choosing the bed linens and deciding where to position the new bed. (Restless sleepers who are used to the security of a crib are prone to tumbling out of a bed, so you may want to start out by placing the mattress directly on the floor.)
Minimize disruptions to your child’s sleep by keeping your bedtime routine the same, suggest both Mylee and Macall, but offer plenty of reminders about the rules of sleeping in a big kid bed. “Clear, but appropriate limits (i.e. you can get out of bed once for a drink or to go to the bathroom), and helpful signals (e.g. a wakeup clock that can tell the child when they can get out of bed in the morning) will help set everyone up for a smooth transition,” says Macall.

Even with clear rules, you can count on your child showing up in the living room at 10 p.m., just to see what’s going on. “It is important to be consistent with responding to this behavior,” Mylee says. “Reminding nightly about the sleep rules is important, as well as having rewards for following them. When your child does get out of bed return them consistently to the bedroom without talking to them.”

Above all, try to remain patient and remind yourself that some boundary-pushing is normal during this time. “Ultimately, as parents it is important to remember that moving to a bed is a big transition,” Mylee says. “Children go from a small cozy crib to a big spacious bed. This can take some time to get used to and it is important to acknowledge this in how the big transition is handled.”



Kathryn Walsh is a freelance writer specializing in parenting and travel topics. Her work has appeared on mom.me, TheBump.com, and USAToday.com.

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