When To Transition To Toddler Bed: 7 Signs Your Child Is Ready

✔ Research-backed

You may be curious about when to switch to a toddler bed as your child grows and can climb out without assistance. Toddler beds are safer and significantly comfortable for your child. The toddler may also sleep more soundly in the bed than they have of late in the crib.

Some toddlers may remain accustomed to their crib, and the shift to a toddler bed may come across as a challenge. The key concern in parents’ minds is to understand when to transition to toddler bed and how to make it as smooth as possible. Let’s start with a more fundamental question about when to move to a toddler bed.

In This Article

At What Age Can You Switch Your Baby To A Toddler Bed?

Ideally, transitioning your toddler from a crib to a bed should happen between 18 months and four years of age (1). The closer they are to three years, the better.

Although this is regarded as the ideal age to make the transition to a toddler bed, remember that each child is unique, and the right time for them to make the switch to a toddler bed varies on several other factors.

Discussed next are the signs that suggest your toddler is ready for the transition.

When To Switch To A Toddler Bed?

1. Your toddler is outgrowing the crib

If your toddler seems to be growing a couple of inches every few weeks, check if they still fit into their crib. If your toddler’s head and feet touch or are inching closer to the ends of the crib, it is definitely time to make a transition to a “big-girl” or “big-boy” bed.

Toddlers may outgrow sooner if you have a mini crib, which is smaller than the regular-sized ones. So be prepared and get them a comfortable and larger bed sooner than expected (1).

2. They are climbing out of the crib

Switch to a toddler bed when they begin climbing out of the crib

Image: Shutterstock

If your toddler is making attempts to climb out of the crib, getting a toddler bed is not your only option. You can try lowering the mattress as low as it can go; with some cribs, the mattress can be lowered almost to floor level. This will buy you some time to get your toddler’s new bed ready. But if you still find them climbing out, switch them into a safer bed sooner (1).

3. They are potty training

Both potty training and transition to a toddler bed are milestones in a child’s development. Therefore, doing them simultaneously may overwhelm children and cause regression, delaying both milestones.

It is difficult and unsafe for a toddler to climb out of bed at night whenever nature calls. So, if you are training your toddler to use the bathroom by themselves, it’s a good idea to move to a toddler bed first (2).

Pediatrician Dr. Bidisha Sarkar says, “If your child is almost potty trained, it’s best to prioritize transitioning them out of diapers before moving them into their new bed. On the other hand, if your child is not close to being potty trained, consider transitioning them into a toddler bed first. This will provide them with the extra space and independence needed for successful potty training.”

4. They are okay being unsupervised

Potty training implies that you are training your child to become more independent. But do you feel safe with the thought of your child waking up in the middle of the night and being unattended with their own devices?

If not, let them continue sleeping in the crib for a bit longer, ensure that the house is child-proofed at every hinge and turn, and have a baby or child alarm that lets you know when the child tries to get out of the crib. You can switch them to a toddler bed when you are comfortable with the idea of them waking up and using the toilet on their own.

5. They can understand “imaginary” boundaries

Cribs have rails, which are very clear boundaries. Check to see if your child is able to sense and understand imaginary boundaries. You could play a little game (something like mellowed-down hopscotch with just two or three boxes, for instance) to see if your toddler is aware of the space and boundaries around them.

You can also put them in the bed next to you and plop up some pillows around just to see how much they are moving around in their sleep. Make sure that you are always around when your baby is asleep on your bed with the pillows. If you find them having a safe sleep, you could experiment with a toddler’s bed.

But if the child is jumping out occasionally, they are not yet ready for a toddler bed. Rushing toddlers into the sleep transition before they know their boundaries will spoil their sleep and yours.

6. They are asking for their own bed

Your toddler may look at their older brother or sister and ask you for their own big bed. They may even take a dislike to their crib. If your child is able to verbalize a complex thought, such as wanting a bigger bed, they are probably ready for the change and well aware of their imaginary boundaries. However, don’t forget to take safety measures and be cautious.

protip_icon Quick fact
According to the American Academy Of Pediatrics (AAP), most children are happy to transition to bed and stay in it more willingly than they did in cribs (10).

7. A new baby is on the way

Transition to a toddler bed if a new baby is on the way

Image: Shutterstock

It is generally advised that your child should be over two years in order to transition to a toddler bed. So, if your toddler is not of age yet, consider letting them sleep in their crib a little longer and buying a bassinet or a co-sleeper for your newborn.

But if your toddler is over two years, tell them about the transition and start the process at least a month or two before the baby arrives. Make the shift fun for your toddler, but don’t let them feel pushed or pressured. Excite them about being an older brother or sister with a bigger bed.

If they are not yet willing to make the transition, let them continue sleeping in the crib.

When Not To Transition To A Toddler Bed

Moving your toddler from a crib to a toddler bed is a notable milestone in their growth and development. However, there are specific conditions and signs when you may choose not to transition your toddler to a toddler bed. These include (3) (4):

  • When your child is sick or too scared to sleep alone
  • They are unable to self-control, self-soothe, and fall asleep on their own
  • If the arrival of the new baby is near, but your toddler is not developmentally ready yet
  • If your toddler is in the middle of the potty training process
  • If your toddler has just started going to daycare
  • If your family is moving

Safety Tips For Toddler Beds

Once you are sure that your toddler is ready for a bed of their own, consider taking the following precautions to keep them safe and sound.

Safety tips to follow when switching to toddler Beds

Image: Shutterstock

1. Bed safety

A new bed of their own is a new experience for the toddler. While they may be excited about the idea of a new big bed, they are still kids who need a bed that keeps them safe (5) (6).

  • Get a JPMA certified toddler bed that is steady and sturdy.
  • Check the joints of the bed and the safety rails regularly. It is best to do so every night and tighten anything that needs to be right away.
  • It is recommended not to use an upper bunk bed or a raised bed for children below six years of age.
  • Do not put pillows or heavy sheets in your toddler’s bed.

2. Portable bed rail safety tips

Portable bed guard rails are helpful when your child transitions from a crib to a toddler bed. The following tips might come in handy (5).

  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions while setting up and using portable bed rails.
  • Do not use portable bed safety rails in a crib.
  • Be sure to fix the guard rails firmly between the mattress and the frames to avoid potential gaps.
  • Look for an approved certification while purchasing.

3. Placement of a toddler’s bed

Choose the place for a toddler bed wisely

Image: Shutterstock

Here are some quick pointers to bear in mind when choosing a place for the bed (5).

  • Avoid putting one side of the bed against a wall. While putting the bed against the wall may be an efficient use of your child’s room space and may even seem safer, the gap between the mattress and the wall may be unsafe for a toddler.
  • If you are placing the headboard against a wall, make sure that there are no gaps. Do not place more than one pillow and a blanket on the bed.
protip_icon Quick fact
Don’t put the bed under or near a window. Also, avoid getting a bunker bed or raised bed for children under six years of age (11).

4. Child-proof the house for safety

Toddlers love to explore, so there is every possibility that your child is up and about while you are asleep (6).

  • Make sure that your child’s room is safe now that they can climb easily out of bed.
  • Inspect your house to make sure that bookshelves, drawers, cabinets, tables, and cupboards are well-secured.
  • Keep dangerous items such as electronic devices, switchboards, cleaning products, medicines, cosmetics, sharp kitchen tools, or anything small that can be swallowed, are out of the child’s reach.
  • Bar the top and bottom of the staircases and the windows with safety gates.
  • Use a baby monitor nevertheless so that you will be alerted when your child wakes up.

Tips To Make An Easy Transition To A Toddler Bed

1. Know your toddler’s readiness

Do not push your child to transition to a toddler bed. Remember that at this age, your child has new experiences and elements of surprise every day. Too much change too quickly can be disturbing and stressful.

  • Look for the signs of your toddler’s readiness to transition from a crib to a bed.
  • Let them know why they need to sleep on a toddler bed – they are too big for a crib, a new baby brother or sister needs the crib, etc.
  • Ease them into the idea of switching from a crib to a toddler bed. Give them a few hints and often talk to them about using the new bed.

2. Pick out the best toddler bed

Begin by looking for the best toddler beds online or at departmental stores.

  • Predetermine whether you want the bed to last just a few years or until your child reaches teenage (7).
  • Make sure to buy low-lying beds.
  • It is best if bigger beds have safety rails around them.
  • Some parents begin the transition with convertible cribs. The front panel is removable and can give your toddler the impression of sleeping in a bigger bed within the comforts of a crib.
  • Go for beds that are certified safe.

3. Allow your child to accessorize

Bedroom makeover for toddlers

Image: Shutterstock

Excite your toddler about the new “big-girl” or “big-boy” bed that they are going to have. Allow them to add what they need to feel comfortable on the bed.

  • Take your toddler shopping to the bed store with you or have them help you pick out their new bed online. This can get them excited about using the new bed.
  • Get their help with the bedding and the sheets. Take their help every step along the way.
  • If you are up for it, how about a complete bedroom makeover? After all, you may have to get a new floor plan to make room for the bigger bed. Find your child’s favorite theme like Disney, Frozen, or Paw Patrol, and whip up the appropriate decor.

4. Introduce the bed in stages

Children get attached to their sleep environment quickly. They may love their crib, so asking them to move to a toddler bed overnight is not practical. Take it one little step at a time.

  • Don’t force your child to climb into the bed as soon as you set it up. First, ask them to pick out their favorite stuffed toys and place them on the bed.
  • You can have them read to the toys or start by using the new bed as a reading nook.
  • Slowly include the bed in their everyday naps.
  • Once your child is comfortable with their bed, ease them in on your child’s bedtime routine.
  • You can try the “fade-away” strategy and stay there with your toddler until they are okay with falling asleep by themselves.

Hillary, a mother of two, writes about her experience of transitioning her two-year-old daughter Amelia from crib to ‘big kid bed’ when expecting a second child. She says, “She absolutely LOVES her big girl bed. I started napping her in it about two weeks before we made the full transition. I wanted to let her get used to her new big girl bed, and we were waiting for Dad to finish the bed rail. There really haven’t been any issues with her getting out of her bed through the night or any fighting at bedtime (i).”

5. Establish a bedtime routine

Toddlers require a minimum of ten hours of sleep. Sticking to a clear bedtime routine will help them fall asleep sooner, even in a new bed (6).

  • Set a standard time for bed.
  • Announce that it is nearly bedtime about 30 minutes ahead and ask your children to get ready.
  • Help them relax with a quiet activity; you could have a warm bath, read a book, or sing a melody.
  • Avoid activities like watching TV or playing video games at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
  • Make the bedroom cozy and comfortable, not too warm, or too cold.
  • Make their room a calm sanctuary. Establish a rule that the bedroom is for sleep and not for play.
  • Dim the lights and use a bedside lamp.

Emily Norris, a mother of two from Essex, England, shares her experience transitioning her younger one to a toddler bed. She says, “On the first night that we put him into his big boy bed, we kept his bedtime routine exactly the same as it has always been. It was a bath, books, singing, a little cuddle, and a rock, and then I placed him on his bed. However, he got up soon after I left the room and followed me to the outside. Later, I put him on his bed again, and sat on the floor with my back to him because he was really trying to get my attention. I said, ‘It’s bedtime now.’ And I literally sat there waiting for him to go to sleep. Once he did fall asleep, he went all the way (ii).”

protip_icon Quick fact
Avoid lying with your child in bed if they cry. If you do this a few times, it might become a habit. So try alternative methods to be empathetic.

6. Be empathetic and tell stories

Although it may seem like children want to “grow up” and behave like adults, reality may vary. After all, they are kids.

  • Be empathetic with your toddler while they transition to sleeping on the new bed.
  • Tell them instances from your own experiences and how you adapted to the change when you were a child.
  • Children love stories and learn easily from them. Read to your toddlers about others who have made a happy transition from the crib. You can find plenty of stories and books online.

7. Be Patient

Give your toddler enough time to settle in. Be ready for some ups and downs along the way; just when you think that they are getting the hang of sleeping in their big beds, you may find your toddler calling for you in the middle of the night (1).

  • Don’t let the little setbacks get you anxious. Children may well sense your anxiety, rather be confident in them that they will be able to make the transition.
  • Be consistent. Stick to your toddler bedtime routine, and don’t give up.
  • Expect a two- to three-week transition. No matter how well you have practiced, be prepared for some midnight wakes.
  • Keep encouraging your toddler. Give them small treats or an extra story if they stay in bed the entire night.

Dr. Sarkar adds, “Transitioning your one-year-old from a crib to a toddler bed can feel overwhelming. It is crucial to approach this process gradually and patiently. Remember to offer ample positive reinforcement when your child starts sleeping in their grown-up bed. Rewards like hugs, kisses, or stickers can greatly assist during this period. Additionally, involving your child in choosing and decorating their new bed can foster a sense of ownership and enthusiasm for the transition.”

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Do two-year-olds sleep in cribs?

Yes. Although the transition from crib to toddler bed may be made earlier, it is recommended that a toddler sleeps in their crib for up to three years (8).

2. Is a full-size bed too big for a two-year-old?

The bed size for your two-year-old toddler may depend on their weight and growth. A bigger bed might be a better option if your toddler is healthier and growing at a fast pace. However, ensure to secure the bed for their safety.

3. How long do toddlers sleep in a toddler bed?

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), toddler beds are made for children less than or equal to 50 pounds in weight. Hence you should shift your child to a bigger bed if they weigh more than the recommended weight limit (9).

4. What is the best bed for a toddler?

You can opt for a toddler bed or a twin bed with safety rails. Convertible cribs that can act as either a crib or a toddler bed may also be considered. They allow you to remove one side of the crib, giving the toddler the freedom to get in and out of bed, without losing the familiarity of their crib (3).

5. Are there any risks associated with switching to a toddler bed?

There are no substantial risks associated with the transition to a toddler bed. However, you may face some resistance from your toddler initially. They may have trouble sleeping or throw tantrums frequently. Feel free to return them to their crib in such cases, as they might not be ready yet. You may wait for a few weeks before trying again (3).

You may think of moving your baby from a crib to a bed after 18 months, but there is no definite answer as to when to switch to toddler bed as each child may reach milestones at different ages. If a toddler is outgrowing his crib, is progressing with potty training, and you have worked on childproofing the house, it may be the time to make the transition. It is a gradual process, and you need to be patient with your child. Change is natural for a growing child, and you should introduce it in a pleasant way to make it memorable for them.

Infographic: Transitioning To A Toddler Bed

After your baby reaches certain milestones and grows above a certain height, it is safe to transition them to a toddler bed to avoid any mishaps. Go through this self-explanatory infographic to know if it is the right time to go shopping for a toddler bed.

transitioning to a toddler bed (infographic)

Illustration: Momjunction Design Team

Key Pointers

  • Transition your toddler to bed when they are between 18 months and four years of age.
  • Ensure taking the safety precautions to keep your baby safe.
  • Learning the dos and don’ts will make the transition easier for your little one.
when to swtich to toddler bed_illustration

Image: Stable Diffusion/MomJunction Design Team

It’s time to move your baby from a crib to a toddler bed. Learn when and how to make the switch in this helpful video!

Personal Experience: Source

References

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.

1. Is Your Toddler Ready for a Bed?, Sleep.org.
2. Moving from cot to bed, Raising Children Network.
3. When to Transition From Crib to A Toddler Bed; Sleep foundation
4. How to Get a 2-Year-Old to Stay in Bed; ChildrensMD
5. Safety Tips for Bassinets, Play Yards, Toddler Beds, and More, JPMA.
6. Moving Your Toddler from Crib to Bed – Health Encyclopedia, University Of Rochester Medical Center.
7. Toddler Beds, Berkeley Parents Network.
8. When Should I Transition My Toddler From a Crib to a Bed?, Intermountain Healthcare
9. Toddler Beds Business Guidance & Small Entity Compliance Guide, CPSC
10. Big Kid Beds: When to Switch From a Crib; AAP
11. Moving Your Toddler from Crib to Bed; Stanford Medicine

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Dr. Elna Gibson

Dr. Elna GibsonMBChB, MMed, Paeds

Dr. Elna Gibson is a general pediatrician. She did her MBChB and specialization as a pediatrician in South Africa at the University of Pretoria. She obtained MMed Pediatrics (masters) with distinction in 1993.As a young specialist, Dr.
Read full bio of Dr. Elna Gibson