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When to Transition to a Toddler Bed

When to Transition to a Toddler Bed

Ashley Rogers
transitioning to toddler bed

When to Transition to Toddler Bed?

You’ll be glad to know that the answer to this question is, whenever your kiddo is good and ready. There’s quite a variance in the age at which little ones transition from the crib to a toddler bed. Anywhere from 18 months to 3 ½ years is the typical range. There is the suggestion that you make the move around 3 years old, give or take. That recommendation is more to do with your babe’s climbing skills, though. Once your little one can scale the crib wall, well, change is inevitable, Mama. More on that later. Let’s begin at the beginning. If you’re supposed to make the change based on your own unique toddler, what are the signs they might be ready to switch it up?

Signs Your Child Is Ready for a Toddler Bed

Baby Climbing Over Crib Wall
Image Credit: BeaConfidentParent

By observing little one and listening, we can usually pick up on the indicators that point toward toddler bed readiness. Some factors under consideration are your kiddo’s age and size, whether or not climbing is a crib-safety issue for your babe, and if he or she is currently potty-training, among others. Keep reading for the details on each of these topics.

King-size Crib

We’ll start with the obvious. You can’t size up a crib. When the walls come down, it’s officially a big kid bed. When a little one is physically too big, it’s time to call it and ditch the crib. This is about safety and well-being. Just like all the decisions we make with our littles. Here’s the deal, I’m all about letting baby stay in the crib as long as they’re cozy. But when they’re inhibited from safe, comfortable sleep because they’re simply getting too big to fit and too heavy to lift in and out, it’s about practicality. Odds are your little one may even be a better sleeper in a new bed where they still feel safe and cozy but less restricted.


Another clear sign is when the crib has become a jungle gym. If your babe can climb out of the crib and they’re just not staying put, it’s probably time to transition to the big bed. That said, if baby still isn’t 3, you might want to first try discouraging the climbing rather than changing beds just yet. Here are a couple of ideas that could buy you a little more crib time. Walking your little one back to the crib without a fuss each time they come out or using a two-way monitor to deliver a firm no each time they begin to attempt to climb.

Training Time

If your little one recently started potty training, the crib can inhibit their ability to get to the bathroom in time when they wake in the night with the need. It can frustrate babe if they’re trying to do their part to wake up and go to the bathroom, but being stuck in the crib is keeping them from getting there. We want to remove obstacles to successful potty usage, and so a toddler bed helps give kiddo the ability to go.

Listen to Your Little

It’s worth reiterating, listen to your kiddo. If your little one is asking for a big kid bed and you both feel ready, there’s no reason not to give it a go. The idea of a new bed can be exciting for your little one. You can ride the coattails of that happy anticipation to make the transition a fun, stress-free event. Letting your little take the wheel on this one has benefits for everyone involved. Kids feel like they have some autonomy, and parents get to ease what is sometimes a difficult transition.

Sibling Rivalry

In this case, it can be parents who start to think about changing out of the crib before kiddo does. Especially in the case of an arriving sibling. Bear in mind that a baby who is still dozing off to dream in a crib may even need the security and comfort in some way, and that’s okay. Don’t let a new sibling make a big brother or sister feel displaced. If you need to do double cribs a little while, why not? Remember, the only real rule is that everyone is sleeping.

Choosing a Toddler Bed

Toddler Sleeping Peacefully
Image Credit:

You’ve evaluated your options and you’ve decided it’s time to take the leap. There’s no such thing as perfect timing and you could wait forever by idealizing the circumstances around this bedtime transition. You know yourself and your little one best and if it seems to you that you’re both ready, then go for it! Here are some considerations to make in choosing your toddler bed.

Get a Convertible

Maybe you already chose a convertible crib and now it’s simply a question of enacting the change. Usually, this means changing out the front wall of the crib for a toddler bed rail. Make sure that you check all the hardware connections when you disassemble and/or reassemble any type of crib or baby bed. Also, check the mattress. If you chose a two-stage mattress along with your convertible crib, it’s likely only a question of flipping the mattress to the softer side.

Go Traditional

The traditional toddler bed is like a mini version of a twin bed. Parents may choose this option because the size of the bed can help keep kiddo feeling cozy like they did in the crib, while still giving them more space to stretch out and sleep comfortably in their growing little bodies. Again, if your crib mattress is a 2-in-1, it should fit any standard size toddler bed and you can change to the cushiony big kid side. You can also specifically a purchase toddler bed mattress to ensure a proper, safe fit.

Try a Twin

Some parents decide to skip the race-car or mermaid shaped toddler bed and go straight for a twin, or larger, bed and simply put a bed rail in place. Typically, we want to keep a toddler low to the ground, so that any potential falls are from a lesser height. So look for a low twin bed frame. Also, you may consider putting a pad or cushion of some kind just beside the bed to soften the impact a bit in case little one does take a tumble.

Pool Noodle to the Rescue

Here’s a bonus toddler bed tip for you. This is a transition trick that I loved with my own kids. With the toddler safety rails in place on whatever type of toddler bed you’ve chosen, you can also put a couple of swimming pool noodles under the fitted sheet closest to the edges of the mattress. My littles were fairly wild sleepers. But the pool noodles served as a kind of barrier and reminder all at once. Their fast-asleep little bodies would encounter the pool noodles first before getting anywhere near the edge. I won’t tell you there were zero tumbles, because they’re wild awake too, but their bumps and bruises were from other adventures rather than from falling out of bed at night. Plus, even when it’s time to take down the rails, the noodles can stay as long as you need. It’s a super easy, inexpensive, extra safety measure that I hope will help your family too!

Toddler Bed Safety

To make sure you’re up to date and in the know, you can read the full report on toddler bed safety for yourself at the Federal Register. Toddler bed safety is different from crib safety because our kiddos are growing and changing in so many ways, right along with their safety needs. Basically, the idea at this stage is to avoid entrapment and keep littles from falling. You’ve already got my best tip on preventing falls above and you should also check that any toddler bed or rails you purchase are JPMA certified. To avoid entrapment place the head of the bed against the wall, away from windows, cords of any kind, heaters or vents, electrical outlets, and/or lamps. Also choose a headboard and footboard of solid design to avoid getting little getting hung up or caught on these pieces.

Tips for an Easy Transition

Keep it Casual

If your little one is asking for a toddler bed and ready to make the switch, let the transition be as fluid and easy as possible. Share in your little one’s excitement, but let it be go-with-the-flow. Stick to the same bedtime routines and be positive about the new sleep arrangement. Our babes definitely pick up on our moods and emotions. If your little senses from you that all is well and good in this transition, they won’t even know to be nervous.

Make a Big To-do

Yes, this is the exact opposite of the suggestion above. Here’s why. Kids are different. Maybe your babe needs a little more pomp and circumstance to feel good about the new bed. Do a surprise big kid bed unveiling to make the event exciting or throw a small family party to celebrate the move. Pizza works wonders in creating a fun family night in our house. Make it a special event for your tiny one in the way that’s right for you and you just might turn bedtime into a dream come true.

Round of Applause

Whatever method ends up feeling right for you, make sure to praise your babe for a job well done. One thing that kids especially love is being bragged on. Compliments and praise are ultra important to toddlers when delivered genuinely for merit worthy behavior. It’s positive reinforcement at its best. It can feel as good or even better to hear parents commenting to each other on how they’ve noticed a little ones stellar bedtime habits. So make it a point to point it out in front of your little one. As always, give attention to the behaviors that you want to foster.

Closing Comments

Now we’ve got the overview on when to transition to a toddler bed and how to do so safely. Don’t rush it, though. If baby isn’t quite 3, and even if they are, or if they’re having any sleep difficulties at the moment, there’s no reason to forge ahead just because there’s an arbitrary time frame. Remember, the time frame we’re talking about in this case is really two full years. If they’re happy in the crib, let them sleep in the crib. Babies are individual, unique humans, and we want to foster that. Let your little lead the way, and you can be sure the decision is the right one.

© 2020 Think Differently About Kids

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