How to Help your Toddler Transition to a Big Bed

Author Name: Heidi Holvoet, PhD

To help your baby move from the crib to a bigger bed, choosing a good moment is an important first step. Once you have figured out the best toddler transition timing , here's how to make the move itself a good experience.

Let's have a look at the most successful tips and techniques to prepare yourselves and choose the most useful equipment to set up the big bed, right below.

Prepare the smoothest toddler transition ... TOGETHER

Elmo book cover

  • Help her be prepared .

    Take enough time to talk about the change beforehand. Explain that she will move from crib to bed in a couple of days/weeks. She may not completely understand everything, nor be able to think ahead. But hearing about something over and over helps a great deal.

    At the same time, no need to make it a huge issue either. Talk about it casually but regularly. Make these discussions pleasant and fun. Tell your child you are so proud he (she) is a big boy (girl) now, ... A simple, fun but very good board book that can help here is our friend Elmo's Big Enough for a Bed .
  • Change as little as possible

    The step is big enough as it is for your toddler, so it is crucial to keep anything else sleep related the same as much as possible. Make sure she has her favorite cuddly toy or blankie, just as before. Hang the same musical mobile or decoration in sight, just as before.

    The same night light, the same level of darkness throughout the night, the same bedtime routine , no changes in sleep schedule, etc. This avoids resistance and confusion by too many changes as well as helps keep sleep patterns unchanged.
  • Create an attractive sleep environment . Make the transition extra attractive with cute bedding, a funny picture on the wall, a new teddy, ... be sure to include things or themes that your toddler likes and help him feel like a big kid (maybe a new cartoon character he just discovered?).
  • Include her in the practical preparations .

    Arrange the new bed/bedroom together. Organize it, place toys here and there, ... Take your child shopping and have her choose some of the bedding or decoration. A new cuddly toy maybe? Engaging her in the whole process like this helps make her feel responsible and more motivated.
  • Consider a big kid responsibility , such as being allowed to have a sip of water on his own once you left the room. Explain this to her and be clear about how much and when she can drink. This helps build confidence and is simply a good extra incentive.

Once in the big bed

The main issue you may have with this new situation is the increased freedom it gives to your little one at night ...

What if she comes out of bed in the middle of the night? Being in the big bed also means that your toddler can come out of bed more easily now. This may be one of the first toddler restrictions or rules that you will agree upon with your toddler.

Coming out of the toddler bed

First of all, decide for yourself what you want. Some parents want their children to come out of bed to warn them if she needs help. Others want them to stay in bed no matter, and then call out it necessary.

Either way - or any in between - explain this to your child. It may take time before she actually remembers and does it well. But by consistently explaining, taking her back to the room immediately each time, ... you will make progress.

Also, don't wake up a sleeping dog : Don't suggest to your baby what she probably wasn't planning ... if you often remind her NOT to come out of bed, that may be exactly what she is going to try!

Not mentioning it at all may be your best bet as a start. And then if she does come out of bed, consistently explain what you want ...

Remember to praise and applaud at each good step during the transition: settling, staying in bed, taking a sip of water, ... It may be worth a special incentive. Use a sticker chart to help encourage further.

Set up the best toddler bed ever!

This is the easy part of the toddler transition. Unless you had a convertible crib, choose either a solid toddler bed or go straight to a full-size regular bed. Both options are fine. If you get a good real big bed right away, it can last all through childhood.

In either case, I strongly recommend you use a bed rail . It is crucial to keep your child from falling out of bed. A nightly fall can be quite painful and harmful, not to mention traumatizing.

Using bed rail protection also creates a more cozy feel which your new big-bed-sleeper will appreciate, and therefore help her sleep more.

You can consider to start using a duvet or blankets now but I still advise a sleeping bag because it actually helps your toddler transition.

Especially if she had one before: the sleeping bag will be familiar, reducing the amount of changes going on right now. But also, the sleep sack will keep her warm all night - avoiding unnecessary wake-ups when the duvet or blanket slips away.

Along with the toddler transition tips above, your toddler will come to love her new sleeping place and ... sleep better for it.

Article Author: Heidi Holvoet, PhD - Founder, senior sleep consultant

Heidi Holvoet, PhD

Heidi Holvoet, PhD, is the founder of the Baby Sleep Advice website and movement, an award-winning author, baby & toddler sleep consultant with 15+ years experience as well as a certified lactation counselor.

Over the years, Heidi has received several awards inluding a Mom's Choice Award (MCA) and National Parenting Awards (NAPPA) for her Baby Sleep Advice website, programs and books. Also, Baby Sleep Advice was awarded "Most Trusted Infant's Sleep Solutions Company 2023" in the Benelux Enterprise Awards 2023.

Heidi continually conducts personal research and participates in continued education and in that way stays up to date with current scientific and pyschosocial infant care.

Association of Professional Sleep Consultants

She is also a member of the Association of Professional Sleep Consultants of which she was one of the earliest contributors. She obtained her PhD degree in physics at the University of Ghent in Belgium.

Heidi is passionate about helping babies and their parents sleep more and better, with her trademark approach that has been proven and praised time and again by parents worldwide to be effective and truly no-tears. Respect for you as a parent and your baby, is at the heart of Heidi's warm and kind support. Her approach always keeps in mind a baby's needs and abilities at any given age, is based on pediatric science and the most up to date knowledge in infant care and sleep science.

As well as the award-winning baby sleep programs, Heidi offers popular 1:1 consults and easy-access 30-minute SOS Sleep sessions.

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