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You’re a Big Kid Now! Move from the Crib to a Big Kid Bed in 4 Simple Steps

Photo by Erin Drago / Stocksy United / 483059
Photo by Erin Drago / Stocksy United

The move from crib to big kid bed is a big deal in a child’s life—and of course, it should be a happy one, too. We asked Heather Turgeon and Julie Wright, authors of The Happy Sleeper: The Science-Backed Guide to Helping Your Baby Get a Good Night's Sleep, to share their tips for making the transition calm, safe, and easy.

1. When (and Why) to Make the Transition to the Big Kid Bed

If your child is climbing out of their crib, it's a good idea to make the change for safety reasons. If your little one isn't climbing out, though, there's no reason to rush. “Most kids do well with the bed around age three,” Turgeon and Wright share.

Another point to consider: Does your kid have sleep issues, like waking up at night or resisting bedtime? Moving to a big kid bed rarely works to fix these problems—in fact, it can add to them. (Free from their crib, your little night owl can now wake up and come find you!) Turgeon and Wright recommend addressing sleep issues directly before introducing a big kid bed.     

2. Skip the Party When Transitioning to a Big Kid Bed

Many parents want to mark the transition with a sense of excitement and celebration, but overselling the idea can backfire.  “It’s important to keep the feeling around the transition fairly matter of fact and neutral,” explain Turgeon and Wright. Your excitement can make an independent-minded toddler (and aren’t they all!) more resistant to your opinions. In addition, kids this age still thrive on routine, so making this change too big of a deal can make them anxious.

Instead of throwing a big kid bed party, talk about the new bed in a straightforward way and create a warm and positive experience that your kiddo can participate in. Let them pick out new sheets, get their room ready, or settle their stuffed animals into the new bed.  

3. What if My Kid Doesn't Want to Switch?

“We find that most toddlers like the idea of transitioning to the big kid bed, but if yours doesn't, empathize with their feelings rather than trying to convince or ‘sell’ them on it,” say Turgeon and Wright.

Try saying something like, I hear you. It feels like a big change. Together, find ways to make the new big kid bed feel super cozy and welcoming: Try playing “night night” with dolls during the day, or picking favorite stuffed animals to spend the night by their side.  

4. One Simple Trick for a Quicker and Easier Transition to the Big Kid Bed

Get rid of the old crib right away, because “out of sight, out of mind” is particularly true for toddlers. “The transition is much smoother if you remove the crib and put it away as soon as you get the new bed,” say Turgeon and Wright.

When you’ve got two beds in the room, you’re actually giving your toddler the choice of where to sleep. And you know how that goes: They’ll spend lots of time negotiating, changing their mind, or feeling torn and unsure. Best to present them with the big kid bed when they’re ready and go all in!

Happy sleeping!

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