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How (And When) To Transition From A Crib to Big Kid Bed?

Updated: Aug 21, 2023

Your little one was just born (or at least it feels that way!) and you blinked and now you're thinking about making the switch from a crib to a bed. While we can't make time slow down, we can prepare for these transitions to help the process be as smooth as possible.

Watching our children grow and hit new milestones is one of the exciting parts of being a parent. Transitioning a child from a crib to a bed is one of the significant milestones in their development. Parents often have questions and concerns about how and when to make this transition. Here are some of the common questions parents ask me:

  1. How and when should I transition my child from a crib to a bed?

  2. How do I know if my child is ready to move to a bed?

  3. What type of bed should I choose for my child?

  4. How can I prepare my child for the transition?

  5. Will my child be more likely to get out of bed during the night?

  6. Should I establish a new bedtime routine?

  7. How can I keep my child safe without the confines of a crib?

  8. Should I expect any setbacks or disruptions in sleep during the transition?

  9. What if my child refuses to sleep in their new bed?

Every child is unique, and the answers to these questions may vary depending on your child's age, temperament, and developmental stage. This article will address these questions to help you with the transition.

Kids develop at their own pace and every time a new skill is achieved it can be very exciting. Switching from crib to bed can feel very momentous and often times parents are eager to move to a bed prematurely. It's important that parents do what is best for their child rather than compare and mirror what they see friends and family do. This transition should not be taken lightly.

Switching to a toddler bed early can be dangerous due to the child's high activity level and curiosity. Risks include falling out of bed, climbing furniture, accessing restricted areas, or falling down stairs. Additionally, a child who is not ready for a toddler bed may lack the self-control to remain in their bed or may have trouble sleeping, which can lead to behavioral problems and a lack of focus during the day. It is important to take your time and wait until your child is developmentally ready before making the switch to a toddler bed.

Reasons NOT to transition your child from a crib to a toddler bed... yet:

  • You assume it is the next thing you're supposed to do or feel society says it is time.

  • Another baby is on the way and needs the crib

    • (Congrats! Just get another crib or pack-n-play or if they are ready, be sure to transition a few months in advance so the elder child doesn't feel jealous towards the new baby)

  • Your child is not sleeping well in the crib so you think moving them to a bed will fix their sleep issues

  • Your friends are doing it

  • Your child is under 2.5 or 3 yet you think they are old enough

  • If your young child struggles with self-control, it may not be the right time to transition them to a bed. The newfound freedom that a bed offers can sometimes be overwhelming for them.

What is the best age to Switch from crib to bed?

How to Time it Right - For YOUR Child:

Moving before they are ready and still too young can open a whole 'nother bag of sleep troubles and you'll be calling me because your child won't stay in their bed and keeps coming into yours at 3am, or they are scared, and not to mention the safety hazard of your child not being supervised and now having free roam of their room or potentially your house.

It is common for toddlers to switch from a crib to a bed between the ages of 18 months to 3 years old. Specifically, around one-third of toddlers transition at 18 months to 2 years old, while another third do so between 2 to 2.5 years old according to The Sleep Foundation.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), it is advisable to switch a child from a crib to a toddler bed when the crib railing is positioned lower than their chest. This is because children can easily climb out of the crib, which poses a risk of accidents and injuries if they can bend or climb over. While I recommend following AAP guidelines, I also realize that you know your child best. If your child isn't a climber and they are totally content in their crib - what are the other age recommendations you can follow?

While there's no set age guideline for transitioning, most experts suggest waiting until at least their third birthday, if possible. (I know 4-year-olds still in cribs.)

Once kids are 3 years old, you can talk to them about the privilege and responsibility of having a big kid bed.

Every child is different and some may be ready for a toddler bed earlier or later than others. It's important to make the transition when your child is ready so they feel safe and secure in their new bed.

If your child is 1.5 and thinks a big kid bed means free reign of the house, that is potentially a very dangerous situation.


Safety should be top of mind when introducing a big kid bed. Kids are curious by nature and without the confines of the crib, it could lead them to play detective and inspect all the nooks and crannies that were previously out of reach.

Once your toddler transitions to a bed, you can not rely on a crib to keep them in place anymore. With a bed, an unsupervised child can explore around the house, fall down the steps, get into a room that has equipment in it that’s not safe, or get into a dangerous situation in or out of their room. There are so many reasons children need those boundaries. Even a child-proofed room is not a guarantee but there are measures you can take to reduce the risks and manage the mischief. Here are some ways that can help make the change fun, safe, and secure.

Childproof Your Child's Room

  • Install safety plugs in electric outlets

  • Secure and anchor heavy furniture to the wall

  • Tie back or remove any hanging curtain cords or wires in their bedroom

  • Pad any sharp corners.

  • Childproof drawers

  • Lock any windows in their bedroom.

  • Place a soft rug or pillows on the floor next to the bed to prevent injury in case your child falls out of bed.

Childproof Outside Of Your Child's Room

  • Consider a baby gate (you can leave door open) or door knob to keep your child safely in their room

  • Do not lock their door as this is unsafe in the case of an emergency and can be a fire safety hazard. Instead, put a bell on the door so you will hear it if they leave their room

  • If your house has stairs your toddler can access, put a gate at the top and bottom

  • Lock cabinets or closets with medicine and tools

Size Matters!

  • Choose a toddler bed that is the right size for your child.

  • The toddler bed is a half rail on the open crib. I am sure many of you bought the progression crib for this reason. TBH- I did too, before I became a sleep specialist! Consider skipping the converted crib with toddler rail and jumping straight to a twin, full, or even queen bed so it is a little wider for when they roll around. This will make it feel like a more significant transition and more of a big-kid big deal. Plus, you're going to have to just get another bed eventually, so save yourself the money and hassle and just skip the middle phase. PLUS - it’s actually way easier and more inviting for your kid to be getting out of the converted crib that now has one of the sides down.

  • The power of having a raised bed is that it looks like a real grown-up bed. Be sure to get a bed that isn't too high so that they can't get in and out of it safely but high enough that it is different than before.

In the same vein - I know many readers won't agree but I do not recommend putting the mattress on the floor. While I do support several Montessori theories, I believe putting the mattress on the floor is too tempting for a toddler and only encourages them to get out of bed any time they please.

Bed Safety

  • Toddler beds with toddler mattresses are safe after 15 months but regular twin/full bed mattresses are not safe until age 2.

  • Choose a bed that is low enough to the ground so that they can get out themselves and so there is less chance of injury if they fall out.

  • On the flip side, choose a bed that is simultaneously just high enough that it may make them think twice before getting out and feels different than the crib.

  • Place the bed safely in the room away from heaters, vents, wall lamps, drapes, and blind cords so your curious child doesn't accidentally pull on something that could hurt them

  • Do not place the bed under a window

  • Consider placing the headboard against a wall rather than the side of the bed so that the child can't become trapped between the wall and the bed.

  • Make sure that the bed is sturdy and not in danger of collapsing.

  • Ensure there are no gaps between the mattress and the bed. Gaps in a toddler bed are a safety hazard.

  • I recommend waiting until age 2 to introduce blankets and pillows

Speaking of danger, if you have a really young child, that has transitioned to a bed because they were climbing out of their crib or doing unsafe things, it sounds a bit aggressive but you may want to consider gating the bedroom door. That doesn’t mean you have to close the door; you can leave the door open so they can see out. You don’t want them to feel scared; you want them to feel safe in their sleep space.

what are signs that it is a good time to switch from a crib to bed?

  • They are able to climb out of their crib. Safety first!

  • They seem ready and are showing an interest in sleeping in a big-kid bed.

  • They are able to follow simple instructions, such as staying in bed at night.

  • They are not showing any signs of fear or anxiety about sleeping in a toddler bed.

  • You trust and feel safe with your child having the freedom to not be supervised.

  • They are at least 2.5/3+ years old

  • Read your crib's height and weight manual. If the limits are exceeded, it's time to switch to a new one. If only the height limit is reached but the child is comfortable and not attempting to climb out, it may be okay to keep using the current crib.

Things to try before Making the Switch

  • Is your child in a sleep sack? If not, you can try a sleep sack like Kyte to restrict their legs from being able to climb over.

  • If you have a highback crib, you can turn it around so the high side is facing out and place it in a corner so there is less access to climb out.

  • Is your child still napping and fighting bedtime? If your child is refusing to stay in their bed, then we need to evaluate if their nap is age-appropriate. Maybe it is too long or it is time to drop their nap. If you're struggling with naps or naps may be interfering with bedtime, check out my Complete Guide to Nap Transitions.

Tips to Make The Transition Easier

With a little planning, the transition from a crib to a toddler bed can be a smooth one. There are a few things you can do to make the transition easier:


  • Talk to your child about the change and explain why they are moving to a toddler bed.

  • Position it as a privilege and responsibility. It should be presented like a privilege, that they are a big boy or big girl and this is really special and you are trusting them to be safe in their room without supervision and they need to stay in their bed. Don’t make light of the situation.

  • Talk to your child about the transition but don't draw it out weeks in advance - only 1-3 days prior to the switch is necessary. Many kids don't have a real concept of time.

  • PRAISE! Tell them what a great job they are doing!

  • PRO TIP: Make sure you have the bed in your house before you broach the topic. The last thing you want is to prep your child, get them excited, and have the Amazon delivery delayed.

  • BONUS PRO TIP: Don't tell them "Now, stay in bed. Don't get out!" Think about it, they have been confined all their life and now you are spoon-feeding them the idea that they can escape. Let them discover that one on their own. They might think WHAAAT??! I CAN GET OUT?! LET ME TRY THAT!

Make it fun And Personal

  • Take them to the store to choose their new bedding, a new pillow and/or blanket.

  • This could even be a special shopping trip together.

  • Give your toddler some control and say and encourage them to choose which special stuffed animals will get to sleep with them in the new bed.

  • Read books about sleeping in a bed to help your toddler get excited and understand

  • Collect photos of family members sleeping in their beds to help your child feel like they are a part of something bigger.


  • Make expectations clear

  • If they do climb out of bed, consider using sticker charts or other intrinsic rewards.

  • Gently and kindly remind them nightly if needed: "If they stay in bed, This happens. If they get out, this happens."

  • Remind your child to go potty before getting in bed (if working on or already potty trained)

  • Despite these reminders, it's probable that your child will still come into your bedroom after bedtime a few times. When they come in, it is best to stay calm and return them back to their bedroom.

  • If they are already independent sleepers, the transition will likely be easier, and then if and when they get out of bed you'll just calmly walk them back. If they aren't independent sleepers you'll probably want to schedule a 15-minute free sleep assessment to learn how I can help you teach them boundaries and confidence.

  • Don't negotiate. Stick to your boundaries.

Stick to your bedtime routine

  • If you had a really solid bedtime routine that was working before, keep that going with the new bed. No need for anything to change.

  • If you don't have a bedtime routine, again, now is a great time to start. I am happy to help outline a successful bedtime routine and timing with you. Check out my Bedtime Routine Guide or contact me.

  • Until your child is sleeping consistently through the night in the new big bed, consider reading the book in the rocking chair rather than in their bed to decrease their desire for wanting you to stay in bed with them.

  • Bedtime routines reinforce to your child that it is time for bed, even if they are sleeping somewhere a little bit different.

  • Bedtime routines can also help strengthen your bond with your child and have been found to improve sleep in children

  • Bonus tip: Start at bedtime, not at naptime the first night.

Add an OKAY to Wake Clock

  • Most kids can't tell time so it's helpful to set a color to go off when it's time to get out of bed. You can use green to mean it is okay to get out of bed.

  • I personally love the Hatch noise machine as you can adjust it from your smartphone without entering their room. If your child wakes at 6:30am but their clock isn't set to go off until 7:00am, you can change the color from your phone to 6:40am to help your child learn to respect and get excited for the clock. As your child improves with the clock, you can stretch it out.

Practice & Be Patient!

  • Practice getting in and out of the toddler bed during the day so your child can get used to it.

  • Be patient. It may take some time for your child to adjust to sleeping in a toddler bed. Be patient and understanding, and don't get discouraged if there are a few setbacks.

  • Adjusting to a new bed may take some time, ranging from a few weeks to two months. However, with patience, they will eventually settle in comfortably.

If you transitioned your child before they were ready, it is OKAY to bring back the crib if needed. It's common for kids to show some reluctance during the transition to a bed, such as occasional visits to your room. However, if your child consistently struggles to fall asleep or has frequent tantrums at night, it may indicate that they are not yet ready for the change. In this case, it's perfectly acceptable to bring back the crib and wait a month or two before attempting the transition again.

Do not feel like you have to rush to transition your child to a toddler bed. While some may make the switch as young as 18 months, I encourage you to wait as long as you can, until 2.5/3 years old if you can, or later!

Wait for the time that feels right for your child and your family. With a little patience and understanding, the transition from a crib to a toddler bed can be a smooth one.



If your child is dependent on you to help them fall asleep, if you would like help making the transition from crib to bed a smooth one, or if you already made the transition and your toddler is struggling to stay in bed overnight or is refusing to sleep in their new bed, let's schedule a 15-minute free sleep assessment so that how I can help make sleep easy for your family.

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