Expert tips for moving your child from crib to bed

Parents often anticipate all of the firsts: a first sleep-through-the-night slumber, first steps, the first day of school. But the lasts—the last night sleeping in a crib, for example—tend to sneak up on us more unexpectedly.

The crib to bed transition is a natural and inevitable one of toddlerhood. Research notes most three-year-olds sleep in a bed. But when exactly to make the switch varies. Some kids hop out of the crib and into a bed closer to 18 months; some don’t make the move until after age three.

Time things right

Just how much time will vary from child to child. Some kids might benefit from a week of seeing the bed in their room before they want to sleep in it. Some children might see a bed and want to sleep in it that night. Allow your child to help lead the transition by paying attention to their comfort levels.

Choose a bed

Essentially, a toddler bed is a crib-bed hybrid that’s smaller than a twin. Toddler beds tend to be lower to the ground and more thematically kid-like. Some people choose this as the next step out of the crib.

Keep your routine in place

The biggest change a big kid bed brings is the most obvious one: Your child can get out of a bed. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says most kids are excited to move out of the crib and into the bed. But every child is different. Keeping your bedtime routine in place is a key part of a smooth transition, the group notes.

Prepare for a transition

Be patient with yourself and your child, be open-minded, and keep interactions short and quiet as to not draw too much attention to the behavior, the group suggests.

Talk about it

Talking about the bed during the day (when there’s no pressure to sleep) can also help your child adjust to a change. Asking questions—What do you think of your new bed? How would you feel about sleeping in a bed as mama does?—can also get them used to the idea.

Make it fun

Incorporating some of your toddler’s favorite colors, animals, or things in their bed can make it feel like their own—and thus, more comfortable and enticing. Consider bringing them along to pick out a fun pillow or making a point of showing them the elephant sheets you picked out.

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