The BIG kid bed! (Cue the cheesy, dramatic drum roll.) I had SO many questions when our little human seemed about the right age to make the switch from crib to toddler bed. And Oh Lord, would that little blond bundle of curls and craziness STAY in bed at night? I was master of delaying the inevitable (and maybe I just wanted that little girl to stay little), but with baby number two on the way and a 2 ½-year-old, I knew the facts needed to be faced.
The come to Jesus moment arrived. Baby #2 had outgrown her bassinet. It was GO time no matter how I felt about it.
We made the transition from crib to toddler bed. I couldn’t believe it…the switch was smooth as butter. Angels trumpeted, skittles fell from rainbows and that little energetic ball of wonderful toddlerness stayed in bed and went to sleep.
But this transition was no random coincidence. There are reasons why she does not get out of her toddler bed (and hasn’t yet even once!). Further, she knows the minute it’s time to wake up in the morning and waits quietly in her bed for mommy or daddy to come get her.
There are a few solid tricks to a 100% smooth transition from a crib to toddler bed but no magic or fairy dust. I promise.
At What Age Should I Convert Crib To Toddler Bed Or Buy A New Toddler Bed?
When is the right time? There’s no big red flashing neon sign that suddenly shows up and says “Alert! Your toddler is NOW ready for a bigger bed.” (Wouldn’t that be nice.)
But there is a right time and a wrong time to switch from crib to toddler bed.
Statistically (just so you have a frame of reference), most kiddos make the switch anywhere from 1/ ½ to 3 ½. So, what’s right for YOUR toddler? Many parents might want to make the switch when their tiny escape artist begins finding his or her way out of the crib. This is actually the WORST time to make the switch because your little Houdini will absolutely get out of bed with a crib.
But have no fear! Getting out of the bed/crib can be avoided by teaching “sleep manners”. We’ll get to those shortly. First, you need to know if your toddler is ready to make the transition.
Is Your Toddler Ready To Make The Transition? Ask Yourself These Questions:
- Does my toddler have a sleep routine established? (Ex. goes to bed at 7 pm and wakes at 7 am.)
- Does my toddler sleep well (abides by sleep rules) and knows not to get up at night?
- Does my toddler wake up when it’s time to get up?
I know, I know. Now you’re shaking your head at me and saying, “Alice…I think you’re in wonderland again.” Haha. Good one. Let me assure you, it may sound like magic in a made up world but it’s not! Just a few SOLID tricks that work. We’ll get to that soon.
Of course, there’s all this societal pressure to have your toddler in a big bed WAY too soon. Don’t give in. Discard those smiley Facebook updates from Betty with her 18-month-old “all grown up!” in her big girl bed. There may be cute pictures now, but poor Betty is in for a world of a challenge that likely won’t be Facebook worthy.
When your little one is around 2 ½, then start considering a toddler bed and ask yourself the questions above.
Potty train before or after toddler bed?
We potty trained before switching out of the crib.
The con: Our toddler would cry out at night to go pee because she treated the toddler bed like a crib and would not get out.
The pro: She does not EVER get out of bed.
So actually…this has turned out VERY well. I looked ALL OVER Google and through my sleep and potty training books and couldn’t find out how to solve this (because she would cry out at night to be put on the potty) but with trial and error, we did it!
Here’s how we stopped the night crying completely and everyone sleeps ALL night:
Our toddler would cry out at night to go pee (not getting up from her toddler bed). BUT, when we put her on the potty, she hardly ever peed! She just wanted to hang out…4 or 5 times a night. A few times, we got up 8 times! It had to stop. It was nice she would not get out of bed but she was obviously using the potty as an excuse to get up.
So we put a potty with wipes set out and a night light next to her bed. We assured her that she could get out of bed without mommy and daddy’s help. The first two nights SUCKED. I was afraid she might pee herself! But, I had tapered her liquids like normal and cut her off two hours before bed. I kept reminding myself that every time we went to get her, she barely peed EVER. Night #3, we all slept the WHOLE night. The next night, she got up quietly and went potty herself. We hadn’t even known!
Most potty training sources will recommend that you switch to a toddler bed AND THEN potty train. But the timing does not work out. For most kids, 2 is just too young to transition to a toddler bed. Our little one was ready to potty train at 2 and did it WELL. In addition, (and most importantly) it would be WAY too much to handle (for everyone) if you switched out of the crib AND potty trained all at the same time. Honestly, I would recommend potty training at 24 months and making the switch to a bigger bed around 2 1/2.
Here’s everything you need to know about potty training:
Part 1: How To Potty Train In A Weekend And Be Done!
Part 2: Stress-Free Potty Training This Weekend, Everything You Need To Know
New baby on the way
I apologize in advance here because this advice will likely be the last thing you want to hear with all the ZILLION things needed to get ready for a baby! (On top of the anxiety of having another kiddo in the mix of life.) But here we go: it’s best to switch your toddler out of the crib *before* the new baby arrives. The reason (don’t hate me): because your child is FAR more likely to succeed in the transition without all the external chaos that comes from such a giant life change.
On the other hand, your toddler may not yet be ready or the right age. If so, hold off (we did). So, in a perfect world, make the transition from crib to toddler bed BEFORE the arrival of a new baby if at all possible. But, if your toddler is too young (like ours was) or doesn’t have a sleep routine and follow household sleep rules then it’s okay to wait.
That said, having baby #2 seriously shakes things up and that can be hard. We went through it too. Here’s my best advice:
New Sibling: How To Prepare Your Toddler For A New Baby!
How Do You Sleep Train A Toddler In A Toddler Bed?
The BIG question here that most parents fear (I sure did) is: will your child stay in bed after switching from the crib to a toddler bed? Further, what do you do when your child keeps getting out of bed? Let’s go over those “sleep manners”.
The BEST thing to do is to have your toddler sleep trained BEFORE switching from crib to toddler bed. Here’s how:
- Establish a bedtime routine Example: get in PJs, read a book, brush teeth, have your little one get in bed, sing a night song and read the night rules.
- Have a set bedtime and wake up time. Toddlers need at least 11 HOURS of sleep. This aids tremendously not only in your child’s development but their sleep development. Which means, sleep problems in adulthood are tied to incorrect sleep patterns during adolescent years, particularly those younger years. (Source)
Also, check out the Hatch Baby Rest Night Light to let your toddler know when it’s time to wake up. This is TREMENDOUSLY helpful.
- Read sleep rules. We have a dollar store bowl with fun candy from the latest Holiday and other fun things for the treat. In addition, we always do something fun if there’s a perfect night following all the sleep rules.
Our rules read like this:
At Bedtime We:
1. Close Our Eyes
2. Stay In Bed
3. Be Very Quiet
4. Go To Sleep
And Then We’ll Get A Treat!
- Set your toddler up for a successful night of sleeping
- Make sure there’s a quality nap during the day
Most toddlers take a nap around noon for 1-2 hours. Good ol’ Doctor Weissbluth says, “Sleep begets sleep.” Which may sound crazy but I’ve seen it with my own eyes. When your little one gets a good nap in during the day, chances are she’ll sleep well at night as well.
- Cut the sugar and the TV during the day
- Make sure you have a cut-off time for liquids (at least 2 hours before bedtimes)
- Avoid sleep in front of the TV, in the car and other places outside of designated bedtimes (for nap and for night) to ensure quality sleep all-around.
- Make sure there’s a quality nap during the day
If this sounds CRAZY or you are at your wits end with nighttime sleep, check this post out (because I’ve definitely been there): What To Do When Your Baby Or Toddler Isn’t Sleeping Through The Night!
Is There A Difference Between Bed Sizes? Toddler, Twin And Crib Size Beds
The crib mattress you have right now is standard for a toddler bed. So, when you buy any bed that is a “toddler bed”, you can just use your current crib mattress or buy a new one in the same size (like we had to because our baby was going to use the crib). A twin sized bed is larger and requires a larger mattress.
Some parents may think that upgrading to a twin is the way to go but use caution. Upgrading to a twin is not recommended for two safety reasons:
- The height of the twin could be too much for a safe fall.
- The bed should have a built-in and not temporary rail.
The great thing is, most toddler beds are super duper low cost. We bought ours for around $40 and Facebook Marketplace sometimes has them for free!
What Is The Best Toddler Bed?
Three things to consider when buying a toddler bed:
I didn’t want to spend a gazillion dollars on a bed our toddler would only use for a few years. Most toddler beds are designed to hold up to 50 pounds and “school-age” is about the right time to make the switch to a larger-than-toddler bed. So, if we were only going to use it for 2 years, cost was a major factor.
It’s nice to know that there are federally required safety standards for toddler beds. (If you want to read long, in-depth federal regulations, knock yourself out here.) And last of all, maybe you want to match the bed to that perfect shade of paint you obsessed over in that pregnant-nesting phase. Oh, didn’t that seemed like just yesterday!?
A few toddler beds to consider (with safety, cost and design all in mind). These have hit top toddler bed lists all over:
Orbelle 3-6T Toddler Bed
Price: around $79.
Colors: Dark Cherry, Dark Cherry, Natural, Light Pink, and White
Pros: Fantastic bed meeting safety standards for the price and looks pretty.
DaVinci Kalani 4-in-1 Convertible Crib
Price: around $179.
Colors: Cherry, Chestnut, Ebony, Espresso, Gray, Honey Oak, White.
Pros: Fantastic option if you want a solid crib to toddler bed transitional piece.
Dream On Me Emma 3 in 1 Convertible Toddler Bed
Price: around $122.
Colors: There’s 15! So pretty much anything you could imagine.
Pros: Dream On Me makes great products for a low cost. This one has rails at the end of the bed and that’s super nice. We purchased this brand (this is the bed we purchased) without end rails and I really wish we would have dished out a little extra cash for this Emma version.
Further Toddler Bed Related Considerations
- What kind of mattress is best for a child?
If you are needing a new mattress for your toddler bed (maybe you’re going to use the current one for a new baby), I would purchase the Pediatric 800 Toddler and Crib Mattress Sweet Dreams. There aren’t any reviews on Amazon for this bed but if you Google it, there are thousands elsewhere. Right now it’s cheaper on Amazon but I have seen the cost lower at Walmart. So, try a quick little Google search before going with Amazon. Our little one slept FANTASTIC on this mattress, it’s waterproof (so no extra pad required) and low-cost. We purchased a pricier mattress (the Dream On Me Spring Crib and Toddler Bed Mattress) because it has like 3,000 reviews on Amazon but it was just terrible. It bubbled up in the middle and felt like a cheap plastic water bed.
- Should a child have a firm mattress?
You can likely guess the answer to this one: yes and no. You should pick a mattress that’s not too soft and yet one that’s not too firm. Either extreme can just be too unsupportive and after time the mattress could bow, causing spine problems. I recommend the Pediatric 800 Toddler and Crib Mattress Sweet Dreams. It’s a fantastic, low-cost and quality in-between.
- Is memory foam good for toddlers?
Memory foam is not recommended. Innerspring mattresses (like the Pediatric 800) have much more support. Innerspring mattresses have much better skeletal support and take on moisture much better. Foam just does not have the proper support.
*Note: It is recommended to replace a crib/toddler bed mattress every 2 years. You can get by with keeping the mattress after a baby has used it but toddlers weigh more and wear the mattress out more quickly. Over time, these mattresses bow. Sleeping on a bowed (or worn) mattress could cause spine and sleep issues for your ever-growing little one.
What Bedding Is Needed For A Toddler Bed?
Likely your mini human has not yet had a comforter set (including a top sheet, comforter and pillow). Now you can upgrade! I had a hard time finding toddler sized comforter sets, so we just bought her a super cute pink fluffy throw from Target and a pillow, but all you need to do is Google “toddler comforter sets.” Which for some reason I didn’t, expecting them to be on the shelf at Target. Amazon has a wide variety of toddler comforter sets and Target has some seriously cute ones online by Pillowfort. And if your toddler doesn’t already have a big pillow, it’s time!
What Age Is Too Big For A Toddler Bed?
It’s good to consider how long your little one will be using the toddler bed after the crib to toddler bed transition and before making a purchase.
- How much weight can a toddler bed hold?
Each toddler bed has a weight specification. So make sure you check that before crawling into that tiny bed even if snuggling is tempting! Usually, a standard toddler bed will hold around 50 pounds.
- When should I move my toddler to a twin bed? How long can you use a toddler bed?
When your toddler is around 50 pounds, has reached the weight limit for the toddler bed, is school age (around kindergarten) or asks for a bigger bed.
How To Prepare: Switching From Crib To Toddler Bed
Finally, what you’ve been waiting for! Now, we are going to get into those tricks to making sure your toddler has a 100% smooth transition when switching from crib to toddler bed.
- Before making the transition, have a bedtime routine established
We begin getting ready for bed after dinner at 6:30 pm. Her Hatch light/sound maker turns on and we all know it’s time to begin the routine and be in bed by 7:00 pm. Toddlers thrive on routines and they are MUCH more likely to behave with a set routine.
- Have a set bedtime and wake-up time
Toddlers need at least 11 hours of sleep. Our little ball of fun gets tired and sleep crazy around 6:30/7 pm. This is important: to prevent your toddler from getting up out of bed, have a morning routine and rules set. Our rule is: no getting up out of bed before the Hatch light is on. At night, it’s a sound machine and in the morning it turns a light on at 7 am. Daylight Savings doesn’t even affect this routine. So we just keep with the 7-7 no matter the change.
- Sleep rules
Have sleep rules ready for the new bed! We framed these and make them look as crazy fun as possible. She even loves reading them to her animals and putting them to bed. Use stickers and fun things. Create a sleep chart and give a star for sleeping well. Our sleep rules:
At Bedtime We:
1. Close Our Eyes
2. Stay In Bed
3. Be Very Quiet
4. Go To Sleep
And Then We’ll Get A Treat!
Make sure the treat is worth it. We have a dollar store bowl filled with candy from Holidays (which is a GREAT way to delay Holiday candy binges), something fun for the morning and we also keep toys in a basket that she can only play with after a good night of sleep.
- Transition when life isn’t too crazy
Hold off if you’ve JUST had a baby, you’ve recently moved, or anything major has happened. It can add a lot of stress for you and your little one. If you do the transition when life isn’t as much of a sh*&$# show (whenever that is), it’ll be much easier.
- Keep the crib in the room
If your toddler gets up, put him or her back in the crib right away. Try not to give any attention to the action. Toddlers CRAVE attention, good or bad. Mechanically pick your little one up and put her in the crib or back in the bed. This is key. After a few days, your child will understand! Make sure to talk this through when it isn’t sleep time (like before or after bed). “The big bed is so fun! I’m so proud of you for being in your brand new big bed! We only get to be in the big bed when we follow the sleep rules and stay in bed.”
- Make it a BIG deal
Some kids may be wary of losing the bed they’ve slept in since infancy. This makes sense. Avoid the feeling of loss by making the “big kid bed” something awesome. Have your toddler pick it out, talk it up, and make it a big deal.
Helpful Sleep Products & Recommendations (Top Picks)
Sound machine & time-to-rise light
Hatch Baby Rest Sound Machine, Night Light and Time-to-Rise. I can’t recommend this thing enough! The Hatch is a great sound machine and “time-to-rise” light. The light can be set in a variety of different colors and various noises. Our Hatch light is programmed to turn on a white noise for nap time at the same time every day and bedtime. At 7 am, a soft light turns on telling our kiddo it’s time to get up! This has made a WORLD of a difference.
We’ve bought three different toddler beds at various price points. The BEST one by far is the Pediatric 800 Toddler and Crib Mattress Sweet Dreams. It’s firm but not too firm, waterproof (so no water resistant pad needed) and feels like it’s made very well. Our little girl sleeps great on it.
Dream On Me Emma 3 in 1 Convertible Toddler Bed. This bed is safety certified, low-cost, looks nice comes in 15 colors AND has rails on both ends. We have the version without rails at the bottom (to cut cost) and I WISH we would have purchased this one.
Switching from a crib to a toddler bed can be nerve-wracking but it doesn’t have to be. There are a few tricks to having a 100% smooth transition. Once you have a sleep routine established (ex. 7:00 pm – 7:00 am), your toddler is sleeping well abiding by sleep rules and wakes up only when it’s time to get up, you know the path is clear. Get ALL SORTS of excited about picking out a bed and marking it on the calendar! Until then, work on those skills and be consistent. Before you know it, your little 2 ½ to 3 ½ year old will be all grown up in her own big bed!