When it comes to making the transition from a crib to a big-kid bed, there are two questions that need to be considered. The first is when? and the second is how?. Now, if you’re reading this on my website, chances are that you came here looking for some advice as to teaching your little one the skills they need to sleep through the night. If that’s the case, then the answer to the question of when? is, quite simply, not now! There are two reasons why I say this. The first is because there really isn’t a rush to get your toddler out of his crib and into a bed. The theory that your child grows too attached to his crib, making the transition to a bed more difficult is just wrong! The second reason is if you’re about to start sleep training, there is going to be a period of adjustment as your toddler learns to fall asleep independently, and that’s enough change as it is. During the sleep training process, it’s important to make sure everything stays the same until he has mastered the skills to fall asleep on his own.
Now, if your little one already has the skills to sleep through the night independently, the transition from crib to big-kid bed will be much easier. A toddler who is well rested and able to fall asleep independently is far less likely to leave their room at night, which is the single biggest issue that parents run into when they move their little ones out of the crib. If your child is ready to make the switch, there are still a few things you must consider before doing so.
- Communicate it!
What is so great about going through a change such as this with your toddler is that you can literally talk them through it! You’ll want to let him in on what is happening. Explain to him that he’s going to move into a new bed, set a date and let him know when that switch is going to happen. When doing this, make sure you stay positive! As much as you want to communicate with your child during this time, it’s important, however, not to make a huge production out of it. Turning this moment into a monumental occasion puts a lot of pressure on your child and is likely to stress them out a bit. Remember, change is quite difficult for your child!
- Get ‘em involved.
If you haven’t picked out his bed already, bring him along to the shopping trip as well, giving your child some input as to which bed he wants. This will ensure that he gets something he likes but will also make him feel a sense of ownership over his new bed, which can work wonders in easing the transition.
- Keep everything the same.
Once the new bed is put together, you’ll want it in the same place the crib used to be. In fact, you’ll want to keep just about everything exactly as it was in your toddler’s room, except for his new bed. Because this is a big change, you don’t want to make any additional changes. This includes his bedtime schedule; keep his routine and bedtime the same and keep everything else predictable and as mundane as possible!
- Be prepared for an outcome.
Now that your toddler’s been put to bed and the lights have been turned out, there a few different scenarios that can play out:
Scenario 1: They adapt immediately to their new bed and don’t test the rules whatsoever. In this case, celebrate heartily J
Scenario 2: Your little one seems to adapt immediately but, after a week or two, starts leaving his room, playing with his toys or calling out to you several times in the night.
Scenario 3: Your toddler starts doing all of these things the very first night (eek).
The solution to the latter two of these situations is the same; offer a warning when your toddler demonstrates the unwanted behavior, tell him what the consequence is if he does it again and then follow up with the consequence if or when he repeats it. Chances are, you’ve already discovered a consequence that works on your toddler so go ahead and use it! Again, because you don’t want to demonstrate any new changes, it’s important to keep whatever you’ve been doing up until now when it comes to managing behavior.
Another thing to keep in mind is that you are the boss. It’s with almost 100% certainty that your little one is going to challenge you a bit. It’s just crucial that you hold your ground every step of the way, especially during those first few weeks. If you start bending the rules or allow your child to climb into bed with you, this entire process can go on for months. Set your expectations and enforce the rules. When your child has a good night, reinforce that behavior and make sure to let him know how well he is doing. It’s not always going to be easy, but sooner or later, your not-so-little one will be sleeping peacefully in his new bed a whole lot sooner.