By Alison Cupp Relyea
One of the biggest questions we consider as parents when thinking about our toddler’s sleep habits is when to transition from a crib to a toddler bed or a big kid bed. Having had three children who all transitioned at different points and on different paths, rest assured there is no right answer. A child’s readiness, family needs and space constraints can determine the natural time for your child to transition. The important thing is to keep some consistency to maintain good sleep habits through the change.
My oldest child moved into a toddler bed a month or so before his sister was born, at about 22 months, and my daughter stayed in her crib until she was nearly three years old. When her younger brother arrived, she moved directly to the bottom bunk of our new bunk beds. My youngest is extremely tall for his age and started climbing out of his crib at 18 months, marking the end of the crib era for our family. Some families try to retrain their toddlers after they learn how to climb out, but sensing my son’s determination, I was concerned about safety after two nights in a row and quickly transformed the crib into its toddler version.
As my children moved from crib to bed, a few things made the transition easier: high quality bedding, personal items and bedtime routines. The move from crib to toddler bed, whether the bed is a converted crib or a new bed for the child, is made easier because you can use the same bedding. The child then feels at home in a familiar environment at bedtime. If a child is moving into a twin bed, new bedding is a must, but involving a child in the bedding selection can help, along with keeping other elements of bedtime consistent. Often children are more attached to their favorite snuggly animal or blanket, and that can help offset the transition to a new bed.
Bedtime routines are very important during any transition, and during a change in sleep arrangements, they are particularly crucial. Before you consider moving a child, think about how you can ensure that the move goes smoothly. If you usually read to a child while he or she is already settled into the crib at night, consider starting bedtime books in a comfortable chair a few weeks before moving your child to the new bed. Any changes that can be made in advance to keep the bedtime routine consistent will help. The initial few betimes may take a bit longer than usual, but as long as you adhere to the same bedtime patterns you established while your child was in a crib, things should fall into place within a week or two. You will marvel at the growth of your child, not long ago a tiny newborn, now sleeping in a bed!