Outside of your arms, your child’s crib is one of the safest places in the world.
But as infants grow into toddlers, sleeping in a crib can become an accident waiting to happen: Toddlers start climbing over the edge of their crib when they’re between 18 and 24 months old. And when this happens, it might be time for parents to start shopping for a big-kid bed.
Swapping their crib for a new toddler bed is a big transition for many kids. So, parents, it’s up to you to decide when your child is developmentally ready to leave their old crib behind.
If you’re unsure where to start, this article will review all the signs parents need to recognize and how to transition their child from a crib successfully.
Should a Two-Year-Old Child Sleep in a Crib?
Parents with children approaching two years of age should begin to assess their toddler’s sleeping arrangements. While some two-year-olds are fine in a crib, other same-aged toddlers might begin climbing over the safety railing.
If your toddler sleeps well in their crib, you might decide to wait a little longer. As the parent, you get to make the big decision on when to transition. Some toddlers aren’t ready for the freedom to get up independently, and with a big kid bed, nothing is stopping a curious tot from getting into trouble if they wake up before their parents.
If unsure about what’s best for your little one, talk to your child’s pediatrician about the safety of cribs versus beds. Your pediatrician might recommend taking extra steps to address your safety concerns, such as putting up a baby gate at the bedroom door or strapping furniture to the wall with safety brackets to prevent anything from tipping over.
That way, when you decide it’s time to transition to a toddler bed, you can rest easy, knowing your child (and home) is as safe as possible.
When to Convert: Crib to Toddler Bed
A crib is perfect for a growing baby, but once your little one realizes they can climb over the edge of the side rail, it no longer acts as a safety barrier. That’s because if your child were to fall, they could be seriously injured.
But the age when climbing begins varies from toddler to toddler. Some will climb out of their crib months before their second birthday, whereas others may be perfectly content in their crib until they are three.
However, once your toddler is about 35 inches tall, they’re big enough to get out – even when you have the crib mattress in the lowest position.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends moving your child to a new bed when they are 35 inches tall or when the side rail height comes up to their chest.
While safety is the number-one reason to make the crib-to-toddler bed transition, there are a few other indicators that your child is ready for a new sleeping arrangement. If you notice any of the following developmental signs, it’s time to consider switching to a toddler bed.
Sign #1: Your Toddler Can Play Safely Without Supervision
Even at a young age, some children can play safely by themselves. Toddlers who can play independently for a few minutes to half an hour (with a caretaker in a nearby room) are likely ready for a big kid bed.
If your child’s go-to activities for independent play consist of sitting on the floor and looking through their books or playing quietly with their toys, they can likely handle remaining in their toddler bed overnight.
Sign #2: They Have Mastered Potty Training
Potty training and converting from a crib to a toddler bed are two major steps in a toddler’s life. But taking these steps simultaneously can be too much for a little one. However, if parents time these two transitions, so they support one other, the march from infancy to childhood goes more smoothly.
While you don’t necessarily want to get a new bed when your child starts potty training, when they feel confident hitting that milestone, it might be the perfect time to move on to the toddler bed.
During the advanced stages of potty training, your child will need to get out of bed to use the bathroom independently — making a toddler bed a must-have for easy potty access.
Sign #3: They Ask for a Big-Kid Bed
Some toddlers will simply ask for a new bed! If so, think about the source of this request so you can navigate these transitional waters while still understanding the root of their desire:
- Maybe your child has witnessed an older sibling or cousin showing off their big-kid bed, and they want one too
- If they attend daycare, they might have already been exposed to sleeping in toddler beds or cots
- Maybe they want to feel more grown-up because your family has welcomed a new baby into the home
Whatever the reason, if your child asks about moving out of the crib, it’s time to start looking at toddler beds and mattresses.
How to Keep Your Toddler in Bed After Transitioning from a Crib
Now that you’ve decided getting a big-kid bed is a good idea, you might be wondering how to keep your toddler from getting out of bed whenever they feel like it. After all, parents need their rest too!
Regardless of whether your child is likely to crawl out of bed late at night or wake up too early in the morning, you’ll need to establish some bedtime rules.
At night, stay consistent with the bedtime routine. Have them go to sleep at the same time every night and make it clear that bedtime is for sleeping — not bedtime playtime, like setting up a game with their stuffed animals.
If they get out of bed repeatedly, continue to bring them back to their room, tuck them in, and remind them it’s time to sleep. It’s crucial to remain consistent with bringing your child back to bed. Otherwise, they may continue to push boundaries and leave their room in the future.
To help them stay in bed in the morning, consider getting an “OK to wake” light or clock. Tell them they can only get out of bed when the clock lights up or turns a particular color.
Most parents find it easier to change to a toddler bed with clear boundaries. But, as this is a big transition, there might still be a few road bumps.
4 Tips for Making the Transition to a Toddler Bed Easier
While younger children adapt to change quickly, the first few weeks might still be challenging. After all, your child has the freedom to leave their bed anytime their eyes open!
Most toddlers will take advantage of their ability to get out of bed, but it’s up to you to create a healthy bedtime routine. Follow these four suggestions to ease your child into their sleep space comfortably.
Tip #1: One Change at a Time
If possible, plan the transition around other major changes in a toddler’s life. Too many changes at one time can feel overwhelming for young tots, who may struggle to adapt to everything all at once.
Introduce your toddler to their new bed when life is relatively calm. If your child needs to adjust to starting daycare, getting a nanny, or having their parents return to work, it’s not time to transition to a toddler bed just yet. Wait until they are comfortable with the new changes before introducing a new sleeping arrangement.
Sometimes, this doesn’t feel possible. For example, if you’re welcoming a new baby into the family and need to use the crib for their younger sibling, your child will have to get used to sleeping in a toddler bed before the new baby arrives. Stay one step ahead and begin transitioning into the toddler bed months before the baby is due.
Tip #2: Start with Naptime
If your toddler is anxious or cautious about new things in life, consider starting them out with naps on their new bed. That way, you can maintain the same bedtime routine until they’re ready to fall asleep in the big bed at night.
You can explain to your child that the toddler mattress is a fun “treat” that can only be used sometimes, like for naptime. Over time, you can begin transitioning into sleeping there throughout the night.
A quick tip: You can still have the crib mattress in their bedroom for sleeping at night, but once they get used to the toddler bed during naptime, you should stop using their crib altogether.
Tip #3: Let Them Choose the Bedding
Help your child get excited about their new sleeping space by letting them choose the sheets and blankets themselves. When they decide how their bed is decorated, they can feel more invested in the experience and excited about the change!
Tip #4: Talk It Out with Your Child
One of the best ways to ease any transition for your two or three-year-old is to talk to them. Whether you’re making the crib-to-toddler bed shift because of a change in your family or simply because your child is getting bigger, talk to them about the experience.
Let them know that you believe they’re ready for a bed. Create clear boundaries around what they can have in the bed with them — such as their favorite stuffed animal or a picture book — and when they can get out of bed.
Treat this discussion as an ongoing, open forum. You want your child to feel comfortable about expressing their needs or worries. Maybe, through talking, you find that your child just feels safer in their crib — allowing you to find a way to replicate that feeling with their big-kid bed, like adding rails.
What to Look for When Buying Toddler Beds
Transitioning from a crib to a bed is a big deal for your child and parents, so it’s essential to ensure everything is perfect for a good night’s sleep.
When choosing a bed for your toddler, there are a few things you’ll want to consider, like design, comfort, safety, and mattress quality.
Here are three crucial features to examine before buying a new toddler mattress and bed:
Feature #1: Low to the Ground
Parents should choose a bed frame that’s low to the ground or sits directly on the ground. Lower beds are safer for children to get in and out of while also encouraging independence.
A bunk bed isn’t a good option for toddlers, even if the bottom bunk is low to the ground. The problem is that your child might climb to the top bunk when no one is around, which puts them at risk of falling.
You can also put a kid-sized memory foam mattress onto a foundation base to keep them close to the floor for safety and skip the bedframe until your child is a little older and ready for a twin bed.
Feature #2: Healthy Mattress
Your child’s mattress should be safe and healthy, featuring a breathable fabric without introducing toxins into their sleeping environment.
The Essentia Grateful Bed Jr. is an organic kid’s mattress designed for toddlers, older kids, and teens, so your child can use it as they transition from a toddler bed to a twin bed. It’s a six-inch mattress made from Essentia’s patented Beyond Latex™ organic foam and a certified organic Hevea latex support core.
Natural and organic all the way through, these mattresses minimize your child’s exposure to volatile organic compounds (VOCs), a type of toxin found in traditional mattresses. And, with a 20-year warranty, you can count on Essentia’s long-lasting mattress quality.
Alternatively, if you have a convertible crib, the high-quality LaLa organic crib mattress is breathable, firm, and supportive – comfortably supporting your toddler as they drift off to sleep. This is an excellent option for parents who expect future family additions and plan to reuse their convertible crib.
Feature #3: Safety Features
In addition to a non-toxic, supportive mattress and a design low to the ground, your toddler’s bed should have guardrails to prevent them from falling. Parents can add safety rails for additional peace of mind for beds without this feature.
Just make sure the frame doesn’t have sharp corners or edges – you never know when a little monkey will start jumping on the bed!
A quick tip: Since your little one will be able to peruse their rooms by themselves, make sure to kid-proof every aspect by fasting furniture to the wall, covering electrical outlets, and removing choking hazards.
Figuring out when to convert your child’s crib to a toddler bed comes down to what’s suitable for your family.
But remember that little ones can start climbing over a crib’s side rail once they’re 35 inches tall, so that may be when it’s time to consider getting a new bed — especially if they’re the type that loves to climb!
Every parent’s goal is to create a safe environment where their child can sleep each night peacefully. Whether you need a crib, toddler, or twin bed, a supportive, non-toxic mattress and a quality frame will ensure that everyone in your home can rest easy.