Someone important (I do not pretend to know who) said, “being a mother is learning about strengths you didn’t know you had and dealing with fears you never knew existed.” This sums up my toddler’s crib to bed transition pretty well. I try to appreciate each milestone, but there was something about my toddler having complete access to our house that kept me up at night. Plus, she was a great sleeper. As working parents, we needed that to continue.
The first step in making the transition is determining if your little one is ready. I knew it was time for our daughter when she climbed out of her crib not once, but three times in one night. She also looked visibly cramped in the crib. So, after lots of research and tears (hers and mine), we successfully made the transition.
I think it is important to mention that every child’s timeline is different, so do not rush your little one. If your toddler is comfortable, safe, and not a climber, experts say it is fine to let them sleep in the crib past the age of two. You will know when the time is right.
Here are some tips that helped us make the transition:
Hype that bed up like it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread
During the transition, I was her biggest cheerleader. I ooohed and awwed at the new bed, which helped build excitement and curiosity. We talked about why she needed a big girl bed. We set a date for when it would happen. We also watched “JJ gets a new bed” on repeat for a few days…. Thanks, Cocomelon. Bottom line—talk with your toddler about the transition and make it an exciting event.
Don’t reinvent the wheel
Resist the urge to make everything new. For example, I do not recommend buying new blankets, new stuffed animals, new décor, etc. The transition can be scary, so familiar items will make your little one feel safer.
Develop an evening routine
This is such an important part of the transition. If you have an established routine – great, do not deviate from it. If you are implementing one with the new bed, I would start it a week or so before you actually make the switch. A consistent bedtime routine helps your little one feel grounded.
Our routine looks like this:
- Head upstairs (or to your little one’s designated space) around 7 PM
- Bath time (we do a bath every other night)
- Change into pajamas, brush teeth, and brush hair
- Relaxation time for about 25 minutes – we read books, play with her stuffed animals, and/or watch a short show.
- Read one last story before she gets into bed (she’s obsessed with In My Heart by Joe Witeck); sometimes we read it 2-3 times before she’s officially ready for bed.
- Tuck her in and say good night about 10-20 times
- Mom and dad leave
Assess the room for distractions and safety issues
In a perfect world, the above routine is executed with precision. In reality, we do the best we can. She usually gets out of bed after 2-3 minutes. She roams around her room for a bit—opening closet doors, fiddling with stuffed animals, and sometimes she will cry for mom and dad. We address this behavior two ways: 1) we put her back in bed without saying anything (this took some time for us to get used to) or 2) we will let her tucker out until she eventually falls asleep. This encourages self-soothing, which experts say is key to a healthy toddler sleep schedule.
If you choose to let your little one have full access to their room, be mindful of any distractions or safety issues. For example, remove their toy bin and make sure any drawers they can access are empty. For safety purposes, make sure there is nothing accessible that could hurt them. If your child has a lock on their door, turn the doorknob around. The last thing you want is your two-year-old locked in their room alone!
The best transition is one that works for you and your family. This is not an exact science, so remember to be patient with yourself and your little one. Show empathy when your little one expresses frustration and/or anxiousness toward the process. During this, be sure to tell your little one how proud you are of them and how big they are. Remember to pat yourself on the back too! Your mama heart will need it.