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When is it time to transition to a toddler bed?

When is it time to transition to a toddler bed?

Learn when is the right time to say “goodbye crib, hello toddler bed!”

One minute your newborn is a perfect little burrito in the center of the crib, the next thing you know they’re racing from one end to the other, and using the bars to hop and jump and wiggle like a maniac. Yup, your baby is rapidly growing, and the time for cribs won't last forever. (Especially if it looks like he’s about to propel himself out of the crib with each hop.) Shop our full selection of toddler furniture here

Why a toddler bed instead of a twin bed? Well, toddler beds have several features that make the crib-to-bed transition easier for little ones:

  • Crib-like comfort: Toddler beds are the same, familiar size as cribs, which can help reassure little ones during the transition.
  • Space saving design: The smaller bed size is convenient if you’re short on space in your kid’s room (one word: toys).
  • Includes safety rails: Many toddler beds come with side rails to help prevent your child from rolling off the bed when asleep.
  • Low to the ground: Should rollouts happen, there’s less chance of a serious injury with a toddler bed since it’s not as high as a twin bed.
  • Better value: Typically, toddler beds cost less than twin beds, plus many cribs convert into a toddler bed (you may need to buy a conversion kit), which also means you can reuse your mattress and crib sheets.

Still, picking the right moment for this transition can feel tricky. How do you know if your child is ready to make the move? For one thing, consider your child’s age. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children switch to a toddler bed as close to their third birthday as possible. While age is a major factor, there are a handful of other signs that your child is ready to transition to a toddler bed:

climbing out of the crib

If you’ve ever awakened to find that your child has already climbed out of their crib, that's a crystal clear indication that it might be time for a toddler bed. Little escape artists could easily slip, fall, and get hurt when you’re not in the room to help. Even if they aren’t hurt, they could simply cause chaos for you in the morning, and nobody wants to wake up to discover a toddler tornado has wrecked the living room. Of course, that’s one of the concerns parents have when it comes to toddler beds—their child could get up without supervision—but when your baby is climbing out of a crib, that consideration flies out the window: Your little one can already get free and roam. The difference with a toddler bed is that, as part of the transition, you’ll know to take extra precautions against nighttime (or early morning) shenanigans.

potty training (or getting there)

Children going through overnight potty training are good candidates for toddler beds. If they've mastered toilet use during the day, it's probably time to help them do so at night. A crib could prevent them from getting to a toilet when they need to go.

begging for a big-kid bed

Some little ones will tell you when they want to leave a crib. If your child asks for a big kid bed, that signals they'll experience emotional benefits from switching over: pride about being a big kid, a feeling that you’re really listening to them, and increased comfort at bed time.

running out of room

Physically outgrowing the crib is another clear sign that a child probably needs a bed. Can your child's head and toes touch opposite ends of the crib when lying flat? Has their height reached 35 or more inches? If so, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using a toddler bed.

welcoming a new sibling

Do you have another baby on the way? Is your child at least 18 months old? If so, your family might benefit from getting your child into a toddler bed. There’s no reason you can’t have two kids who are both in cribs if you want or need to, but many families find it convenient (and money-saving) to be able to hand-down the existing crib to the new baby. If you haven't seen any indications of readiness from your child, it might be wise to go slowly. Start the switch well before your new baby comes home—we’re talking a few months here— so that your child won't feel like the change is too abrupt.

How many signs should you see before switching?

It's really up to you! (No signs? Stick with the crib a bit longer so they are a bit more ready and it is more likely to go smoothly.) Not all changes in behavior suggest an urgent need to run out and purchase a toddler bed. However, crib escapes do indicate that you should get your child into a bed as soon as possible to avoid injury. Once a child knows they can leave their crib, they're likely to do it again. Other signals might not be as important. For instance, a tall toddler might enjoy curling up in a safe and cozy crib despite being a little big for it. In that situation, they might even resist switching. Give them a bit more time before you make the switch and follow their lead.

You’ll want to do a bit of additional childproofing before the transition too. Though your home is likely childproofed in many ways already, there are some things to double check if there’s a chance your child could be bumbling around at night.

  • Check the room for hanging or loose curtain cords, exposed outlets, or sharp corners without padding and address accordingly.
  • Secure any furniture so that it won't fall on your child. (A lot of nursery furniture comes with anti-tip kits to protect curious climbers.)
  • Lock any windows, too. (As for your little one's door, locking isn’t a good idea, and that's a big fire safety hazard to boot.)
  • If you don’t already have a baby monitor with a camera, now might be the time to get one. Checking it in the night could help soothe any fears you have and notice whether your child is staying in bed.
  • Remove super noisy toys (especially ones that talk!) before bedtime. (This one’s more for the safety of your sanity than anything else.) Though it’s not necessarily a problem if your little one plays a bit during the night, loud toys are disruptive to others’ sleep and can keep kids awake longer.

While some cribs can convert to a bed with a few quick changes, not all do. If you can't get your hands on a toddler bed right away or aren't ready to fully transition, you can try removing the crib mattress and placing it on the floor. Slumbering there will give them practice sleeping in an unenclosed space, but it will also reduce fall risks. Toddler beds often come with rails; even when they don’t, you can purchase rails separately. They’re inexpensive and easy to install. Additionally, even if your child does manage to wriggle out of bed while fast asleep, they’ll be so close to the floor that they won’t get injured.

Moving to a toddler bed is quite a milestone both emotionally and practically. Not only is it a sign your baby is growing up (sniff!!), it may mean some extra work for Mom or Dad, at least at first. Choosing when to switch to a toddler bed can be tricky, but checking for signs of readiness can guide your decision.

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