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girl in white dress standing on bed after transitioning from crib with pregnant mom beside her

Leaving the crib behind can be scary for both kids and parents, but it doesn’t have to be. The transition from crib to bed can be made easier for everyone with some advance planning and preparation. 

Tips For Transitioning From Crib to Bed 

1. Timing is Everything:

I always recommend holding out as long as possible before moving your little one from crib to bed. Ideally, waiting until your child is 2.5-3 years of age, will allow him to understand the rules that go along with sleeping in a big kid bed. Of course, if your child is climbing out of the crib, it’s a safety risk and you need to speed up the transition. Likewise if you need the crib for a new addition, it’s best to start trying to transition a few months before you plan to need the crib. Often, I’ve worked with families where the parents have decided that since their child isn’t sleeping well, they might as well transition him into a bed. I cannot stress enough that transitioning children to a bed when they are experiencing sleep issues is a bad idea that will likely make things worse. The best thing to do in this situation is to put the change on hold and do some sleep training as needed and when your child is sleeping normally again, revisit the switch to a big kid bed.

2. Routine, Routine, Routine:

In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a big believer in the importance of routines to sleep. Before you begin to transition your child from crib to bed, make sure there is a consistent bedtime routine in place to help him feel secure and safe no matter where he sleeps. Once the bedtime routine is established, you can add a few extras for the new bed – a toddler alarm clock, a bedtime routine chart, and some firm limits. Your child WILL get out of bed. The new freedom of being able to get out of bed whenever he wants is just too tempting for toddlers to resist. You need to have a plan to deal with this behaviour. I tell parents to explain to their children what will happen if they get out of bed (going straight back to bed with little interaction) and following through EVERY TIME will eventually lead to success. The first night, you may have to return your little adventurer to bed many times, but if you are consistent, the nighttime adventures out of bed will end in a few nights. 

3. Parents Need A Plan:

Before you start the transition, you need to sit down with your partner and develop a plan so that you’re both on the same page. Go over all the “what ifs” and problem solve before they happen. What will you do if your child calls out to you 10 times in the night? What if they keep coming out of their room? How will you handle it together? Having a plan will make it easier for you to be consistent, which will make the process much easier for everyone.

4. Prepare Your Child and Their Room:

Finally, you need to talk to your child about the transition. Let them know that they’re going to be getting a new bed, and that there are new rules about staying in bed. Involve your child in the process – have him pick out new bedding for his new bed. Get him to practice putting his favourite stuffed animals to bed. Model the new bedtime routine including instructions about staying in bed. Make a big deal out of sleeping in a “big kid bed”. The more excited your child is about the transition the easier it will be. You should also take the time to ensure that your child’s room is safe for an unsupervised child in the middle of the night. You can forego the bed frame entirely at first putting the mattress directly on the floor, or you can put a bed rail up along the side of the bed (with mesh so it’s not a suffocation hazard) to stop your child from being able to roll out of bed). Other safety tips include always shutting his door at night, installing a childproof handle on the closet door, anchoring any furniture to the wall, and removing sleep distracting toys from the bedroom. The crib to bed transition is a big step, but there don’t have to be issues because of it. With preparation and consistency your child can and will transition into a big kid bed with ease.  
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