Making the switch to a Big Kid’s Bed

All too often I see parents switch their two year old child to a Big Kid’s Bed in order to free the crib up for the arrival of a new baby. I strongly recommend parents either buy a new crib if possible or borrow one from friends or family. Getting up throughout the night to care for your newborn is exhausting enough and the last thing a new mom needs is to be having to get up, even more frequently to walk her toddler back to bed. If your child is close to their 3rd birthday and you are soon to transition due to the arrival of a new baby, I suggest making the transition after the new baby arrives. Introducing a new baby into a toddler’s life can be stressful enough, so let’s keep them in their familiar surroundings as long as possible. If you have to make the transition before the new baby arrives, try to make the transition at least three months before Baby’s arrival.

Transitioning your child to a Big Kid’s Bed in an effort to correct poor sleeping habits is NEVER a good idea. If anything, these poor sleeping habits will only get worse once this transition occurs. Transitioning too soon is often a recipe for disaster!! At first, things may go smoothly, but soon Junior discovers that he can get out of his bed. Children this young don’t understand the imaginary boundaries that come with being in a bed. 

A crib has physical limits, there for the safety of a younger child who can’t grasp what it means to stay in bed. It’s very common for things to go smoothly for a few weeks or even months, but eventually, the thought crosses his mind to climb out of bed to get a toy or a book, and then it becomes a very slippery slope.

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Have a little Houdini on your hands? If your baby has mastered the use of the “Get Out Of Crib Free Card”, then it’s time to get creative on keeping him in the crib. Some tips to prevent Baby from climbing out of the crib are:

  • Place your child in a sleep sack. Both my girls slept in sleep sacks until they transitioned to Big Kid’s Beds for this exact reason!
  • Flip your crib around. If the crib has a solid side turn the crib around, so the solid side is facing the wall. If your crib has a lower side, turn it around, so the lower side is against the wall.
  • If your child still manages to climb out of the crib once you’ve tried these two methods, a video monitor with talkback action comes in very hand. Watch your child after you put him in his bed for sleep and if he starts to lift his leg over the crib rail, say a stern ‘NO’ on the monitor. Be prepared that this may go on for a while but, if you stay consistent, he will stop.

If he does manage to climb out, you will have to continuously place him back in his crib. It’s a tiresome task,  but you really want to avoid the child going into a Big Kid’s Bed too early!

When the time comes and the family has decided to make the big transition, I strongly encourage the parents establish “Sleep Rules” to accompany this new-found freedom. Sleep rules will set up the expectations that come along with the bed (i.e. When Junior is tucked into bed, he will stay in bed quietly until Mom or Dad come get him in the morning). 

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A lot of cribs convert into 3 different types of beds. I suggest starting by dropping the rail of the crib so the child can get a feel for what it’s like to be in a bed. I then suggest going right to a twin size as a toddler bed is the same size mattress as a crib mattress. Bed rails are great if you are worried your child will roll off his bed. Another trick is to put a pool noodle under the fitted sheet to act as a barrier so the child won’t roll off the bed. Make this a fun time- go shopping for new sheets and bedding! Get your child involved so they so they know this is an exciting time and do know that he’s taking an important step forward in his development and becoming a ‘big kid’. 

Now, if only adults had such exciting things to look forward to with growing up 😉


Lindsey Hennigar is founder of The Sleep Ranch and a Certified Infant and Child Sleep Consultant through the Family Sleep Institute. She helps exhausted parents and families get the healthy, restorative sleep they need. Your child can LOVE sleep!

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