Growing Up (Or Out of the Crib) Is Hard to Do
Childhood is filled with many firsts -- first steps, first solid food and first day of school to name a few. But one of the biggest transitions for a toddler is moving from a crib to a “big kid” bed. Although this can be a scary transition for a child, it is one that can be made easier by following these tips to sleep in a new bed.
How to Help Your Child Transition to A "Big Kid" Bed
One Thing at a Time
Just like an adult would find it difficult to get married, graduate college and buy their first house all at the same time, toddlers do not adapt well when facing multiple “life changes” at the same time. If you are already in the process of another major transition, e.g., potty training or starting preschool, it is best to delay the crib-to-bed transition until you have successfully completed whatever other change you are making. Toddlers have quite a few different “firsts” in the first few years of their life and it is important not to overwhelm them with too much too soon. It is important to create healthy sleep habits at a time when you and your child are most likely to succeed.
Own the Process
Making your child part of the selection process of the new bed is a great way to allow them to take ownership in the transition and make the process fun. Give them the chance to pick out the headboard, the mattress, the sheets and other bedding. Bring them to the store with you or have them sit by you as you make the purchase online. If you worry that they’ll fall in love with something out of your price range, pre-select options for them for them to choose from.
It can also be helpful to move a child’s well-loved items from the old crib into the new bed with them. Familiar blankets, stuffed animals and pillows are all things that can smooth the transition.
Don’t Rock the Boat
Safety and placement are also important factors to consider when it comes to a child’s first bed. In the same way that a familiar blanket can be comforting to a child in an unfamiliar bed, it is often be helpful to place a toddler’s new bed in the same location as the old crib. This allows for their sleep surroundings to stay as similar as possible. However, this does create the possibility for a traumatic experience -- a toddler seeing his old crib leaving the bedroom could result in a less-than-positive experience, so think carefully before going down this road. No one knows your child better than you do, so use your best judgement when deciding how your toddler will react to this change.
It also important to invest in side rails and push the bed up close against the wall if possible, in order to prevent falling or rolling over in the middle of the night.
A toddler’s routine is incredibly important, especially at bedtime, and unfortunately, adding a new bed into the mix is a great way to throw it into chaos. Try to minimize the stress by altering the bedtime routine as little as possible. Consistency is key to sleep training, even for your toddler. Keep the same sleep schedule, read the same books and stick to the same general rules as before the bed switch happened. At first, the only change in regards to bedtime should be the actual bed. Consistency will help keep your toddler comfortable.
Change is hard, and seeing your toddler struggle with adapting to a new part of their lives can be especially difficult. Children may become clingy or difficult during this transition, and showing empathy is an important part of the process. Talk with your toddler about how you understand that this is difficult, and you yourself once had to transition to a “big kid” bed. Patience is a virtue; change does not happen overnight. But by taking the proper steps to insure the smoothest transition possible, you’re doing a great service to your child and yourself. There is no fail-safe way to transition from a crib to a bed, so remember to be patient with yourself, too. I know bedtime can be filled with both frustration and fun. Moving to a “big kid” bed means one night closer to the having an actual big kid. Try to enjoy the journey.