It might feel like it happened overnight but the time has come to transition your once cuddly little baby who used to sleep in your arms into a big kid toddler bed, or is it?
Many parents tend to make this big transition too early and sometimes for the wrong reasons. Are you experiencing bedtime battles with your toddler? Multiple night wakings? Do you hope that by transitioning them into a toddler bed it will magically take away all your problems? If this is what you’re thinking then I urge you to pause for a moment and make sure that the time is right before taking on this big step. In most cases making this move too soon can land you with a new problem, a toddler that thinks it’s a fun game to come out of their bedroom to find Mom and Dad only adding to your previous issues.
So when should you move your toddler to a big kid bed?
1. How old are they? If they are less than three years old and especially if you aren’t having any issues with their sleep, I would highly recommend waiting until their third birthday. At three years of age toddlers have the mental maturity to understand the consequences of getting out of their bed and roaming around the house. They are also better at understanding expectations and can follow clear instructions much better than say a two year old.
2. If you have a baby on the way and you need the crib for their arrival, don’t rush in taking their crib away. If it’s an option, buy or borrow a crib from a friend or family member. It will only be a short time that you will need both but it could help in making the transition much smoother for you. If this is not an option, then try to start the transition process a few months before the new baby arrives or when the new baby will start to use the crib. You want to remove the association of losing the crib to the new baby making its arrival in the household. You also want to make sure that you can dedicate enough time to have a smooth transition. The crib should ideally go unused for a couple of months, before the baby arrives and starts sleeping in it.
3. If you have a crib jumper, their safety is a concern and you’ve tried all options to stop this behaviour, then I would agree that it is best to move them into a bed for their own safety.
So how do I transition them?
1. Make a big deal about them getting a new bed, new sheets and the fact that they are growing up into a big boy/girl. Get them involved in the process of setting up their new sleeping area. Let them pick out their bedding. TIP: Give them 2 choices that you can live with, that way you will be happy with whatever they pick.
2. If possible, throw them a little party celebrating this big change in their life. I know this may sound over the top to us as adults, but it can really help to get them excited and proud of themselves. Have a couple friends/family over, have a special little cake and sing a silly song.
3. Follow the exact same bedtime routine as you were doing when they were sleeping in the crib. Nothing should be changed so that it sets the expectations of them that sleep is to follow the end of the routine, not new fun bedtime shenanigans!
4. When you say your final goodnight, turn off the light and leave like you always do. Don’t say “don’t jump out of bed” or “stay in your room”. This thought may not have even crossed their mind before you pointed it out to them!
5. Don’t lay on the floor until they fall asleep. If you have never done this before, don’t start now unless you want this to become the norm. Toddlers catch onto things very quickly and will start to insist on this every night at bedtime.
6. Make sure that all of their bedtime needs have been met before tucking them in; visit the potty, have a sip of water, last hugs and kisses. This will help you if they decide they want to start using these as stall tactics for going to bed. You know that their needs have been met if they decide to come find you after you’ve said goodnight. The only one I might let them do one more time is a visit to the potty, but that is it!
7. If they start to test the waters and leave their room, quietly take their hand and walk them right back to their room. Don’t say anything or even make any eye contact, just simply tuck them back into bed and leave the room. They may try this a few times but if you don’t give any reaction to it other than putting them back to bed they will soon realize that it isn’t getting them anywhere and that it is a boring game not worth playing.
8. In the mornings if they are having a hard time staying in their room until their normal wake-up time, buy a toddler clock which teaches them to stay in their bed until the appropriate time. You set the time to when you would like them up, at which point the clock changes colour from blue (night time) to yellow (morning) often accompanied by a picture of a moon and a sunshine letting them know that it is now okay to leave their room for the morning. TIP: Let them have a few successes in the morning before moving the time. For example if they are waking up at 6am and you want them sleeping until 7am, start with a wake-up time of 6am and celebrate their success for a few days. Then move to 6:15am for a few days etc. Sharing the success will motivate them to stay in bed until it is time. Some great toddler clocks are the Gro Clock and the Zazoo Photo Clock although there are many other options out there that can work just as well. A less expensive option is to simply put tape over the minutes of a digital clock and teach your toddler about “Magic 7”. “Magic 7” is when we go to bed, and “Magic 7” is when we get up in the morning.
9. If they have slept without any wake-ups during the night and without leaving their room, reward them in the morning immediately for their job well done. Create a small treasure chest of objects from the dollar store that they can choose from. Instant gratification works best for 3 and under rather than collecting points every day for a larger item.
At the end of the day it can be a process making this change but if you are consistent with your encouragement and routines, your toddler will soon grow to love their new bed and sleep! Congratulations on this big change to you and your child, they are growing up and it’s a new phase of their independence.
I hope that you found this helpful, please feel free to comment below with questions. Do you know someone else that could use this information? Pass along this newsletter to share the information 🙂