When it comes time to move into a big-kid bed, there’s bound to be some anxiety, and not just from your toddler! Sleep routines have become almost sacred, and the thought of messing up something that’s working might keep you awake at night. Still, if your toddler is outgrowing her crib, you have a new baby on the way, or your toddler is showing signs of being ready, it may be time to take the leap—right under the covers of a comfy new bed.
Be aware that this is a big change for your toddler. You will guide him and reassure him through this process, which will not happen overnight. Your toddler has come to trust his parents for his routines, and you must teach him to sleep in his bed just as he learned to sleep in the crib—one night at a time.
What Kind of Bed is Best?
That will depend in part on the amount of space you have, and your toddler’s sleeping habits. Many families choose a toddler bed for the small scale and safety rails. Be sure yours conforms to Consumer Product Safety Commission Standards. However, another option is to purchase a twin or double mattress and a low frame. If you can buy such a larger bed, you can use it as your child grows up. Additionally, there will be room in the bed for you or your partner. This is great for story time and when she is ill. You can even put the mattress on the floor, to lessen concerns about your toddler falling from bed. No matter what you choose, have a good look at your childproofing, as your toddler will have access to more of her room without supervision.
One Night at a Time – Tips for Successful Nights
Expect good nights and less-good nights as your toddler learns to love her new bed. The most important thing you can do is offer consistency and flexibility, just as in establishing any new routine. If you stay relaxed about the new bed, chances are pretty good your toddler is going to pick up on your mood and want to snuggle in. Here are a few tricks to win your toddler over:
Read stories about big-kid beds. Your child will love seeing himself in the stories. My Own Big Bed by Anna Grossnickle Hines, Too Small for my Big Bed, Amber Stewart
Let your child choose the bedding. Especially if you’re buying a larger bed, take your child shopping for bedding and let her choose the color or theme of the covers she’ll get to cuddle under.
Stick to the routine. Don’t change other parts of the bedtime routine.
Offer rewards. Extra snuggles in the morning, or extra stories when your toddler sleeps in his big-kid bed will be rewards he’ll remember. Sticker charts can help an older toddler track his progress.
If it’s not working, take a break. It’s better to go back to the crib and stick to a normal bedtime routine (and get some sleep) than to fight it out nightly. Your toddler will want to try again soon.
The Most Important Thing to Remember
No matter what you do, maintain a positive approach and consistent sleep routines. “Be sure to relieve your child's night-time anxiety by helping him develop a healthy attitude about sleep,” says Dr. Sears. Remember that you’re teaching lifelong habits. By maintaining sleep routines, and reinforcing your child’s sense of security, bedtime will soon be peaceful again.