Recently, I moved my 3-year-old daughter to a big girl bed. It went a lot easier than I thought. But it got me thinking: How do you know when it's time to move your toddler to a big bed?
My husband and I decided it was time when our toddler was waking up every night for a glass of water, to use the bathroom or any other excuse to get some comforting. When we moved her to her big girl bed, she stopped waking up in the middle of the night.
We talked to Dr. W. Michael Brown, director of pediatrics at Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg, who offers these tips on moving your toddler to a big bed:
• "If they're trying to climb out, it's time to move." Brown says this is the No. 1 reason parents are forced to make the transition. Typically it's boys, between 15 and 18 months old, trying to climb out. But for any child at this age, be sure to remove the crib's bumper pads, lower the mattress all the way down and get anything out of the crib that can be used as a step (i.e. stuffed animals). Watch for any signs that the child is going for the rail. Falling from a crib is way worse than falling from a toddler bed, he says.
• Toddler bed or twin bed, it makes no difference. It's a matter of preference, not safety. But Brown recommends going straight to a twin bed if all things are equal. "The reason being, if you pick the toddler bed, the child won't fit there for too long and you'll have to buy another bed," he said.
• Protect them in the new bed. Easiest thing sometimes is to put the crib mattress down next to the new bed in case the child rolls out, Brown says. You can also use a mesh guard rail, but be careful if your child is large. Rolling against it could be uncomfortable.
• Make the transition easier. If your child isn't excited enough at the prospect, provide an incentive, like you did in toilet training. Brown recommends themed sheets or blankets (we did Dora the Explorer in my house), and talk up the thrill of being a big boy or big girl.
• "Sometimes they're just happy as they can be in that crib." Brown says he knows of some kids as old as 3, 4 or 5 years old who still sleep in a crib and that's totally fine. "As long as they fit and they're not trying to climb out, it's okay!" he says.