Preschoolers generally need to move from their crib to a “big kid” bed. The best time to graduate a toddler from crib to big-kid bed is at two and a half to three years old. While younger children may be interested in moving, it is important that you wait until your child is old enough to understand the concept of staying in bed, even if you are not there to reinforce it. This type of cognitive development is typically in place by 2 1/2 years old. There are a few ways to make your preschooler’s transition from a crib to a bed easy for the whole family.
The first step in moving your preschooler from the crib to a bed is to make sure he or she is ready. Is your child climbing in and out of their crib frequently? Does she have the ability to put herself to sleep at bedtime, and putting herself back to sleep if she waked up in the middle of the night? Is your child interested in a “big girl” bed? Discussing the move with your child and helping your preschooler be part of the move can help.
Some parents want to make the switch because they need the crib for another child, but this could lead to a difficult transition. A preschooler may feel very attached to his or her crib and be sad to leave it, so having another child take over their bed can be seen as a threat. They may begin to resent the new baby because of this. Involving your child in the transition from start to finish in this situation is very important. Get bedding and a bed that your child will enjoy, arrange stuffed animals on the bed, and lie down on the bed with your child for some “practice” sleeping. All of these steps will make the transition fun, interactive, and exciting, instead of scary or uncertain.
For some families, the cold turkey approach works best. Remove your child’s bed and replace it with a bed, in the same spot, against a wall so your child can feel secure. A guard rail and pillows may also help. A gradual approach may also work for some families. This starts by taking down some of the crib’s railings, so your child can easily get in and out of the crib themselves. Sometimes having both a crib and a bed in the room can help. In this case, help your child pick one to nap in or for nighttime. Once your child is consistently picking the bed, remove your crib. Or, set up a calendar to help your child understand then the day is coming that the crib is leaving. Most of all, keep all other routines the same during this time of transition. As with any major milestone, parents must be patient and encouraging, and celebrate their child’s successes.