Updated: Jan 8
Some parents are excited to transition their child to a toddler bed because it's a symbol that their baby is growing up. Others are a little apprehensive, either because they are worried it might not go so well, or...because it's a symbol that their baby is growing up. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, you may be wondering, "Is my toddler ready for a big bed?"
There is no magical age that is right for this transition. Every child is as unique as snowflakes are. In short, as a sleep consultant, my answer will always be to wait as long as possible. Preferably, after age 3 is best. Most children lack the ability to understand imaginary boundaries before age 3. The transition to a toddler bed is a big one, and it gives your child a new freedom.
If you have a really chill and laid back child, you may have no problems getting him to stay and sleep in the new bed. On the other hand, if you have a very curious or feisty child, he may just see this as an opportunity to explore the new freedom. Imagine that you were dropped off in your dream vacation spot but told you had to stay in the hotel room, would you listen? Ask yourself this: Given some toys and the direction to stay and play, how long can you leave your child in that room unattended before he leaves to explore or gets into something you don't want him into? If your answer is only about a minute or two...wait to make the toddler bed transition!
The above scenario is essentially what you are doing when putting your child in a toddler bed, except you're leaving him unattended all night long. Unless you need the crib for another baby on the way, there really is no reason to rush it. Even if there is a new baby on the way, consider using a bassinet or Pack n' Play for a few months and wait to evict your toddler from the crib until the baby actually needs to use it. You want to make sure that your toddler is old enough to understand how to follow a direction even when you are not there to reinforce it.
If your child is climbing out of the crib, don't assume you have to make this transition right now. For tips on how to avoid crib climbing, read this post: Toddler Climbing Out of Crib.
Tips for Toddler Bed Transition
When you are ready to move your child to an open bed, there are lots of things you can do to make sure its a smooth transition. Check out my E-Course Toddler Bed Transition Success to learn more about how to prepare and make this transition a successful one. The course provides more detail about readiness signs, preparation steps, step-by-step bedtime methods, and how to help your child learn to stay in bed all night!
If you want to read about our experience with moving Gideon to his big boy bed, check out this post: Winning the Toddler Bed Transition
The transition to a toddler bed is a big one, but it doesn't have to be challenging if you wait until your child is really ready and prepare him for the change!
~Ashley Bell, pediatric sleep consultant