Experts Corner

When to Transition from a Crib to a Toddler Bed 
by Jennifer Walker, RN and Laura Hunter, LPN -

Your baby is ready for a toddler bed when they reach the following goals:

  • Able to climb out of crib.

  • Able to climb up a flight of stairs: walking style – holding your hand, not

  • Responding to discipline.

Each child is different, so there is not a specific age when all kids come out of the crib and into a toddler bed. It is best to make the transition when you have three days to establish the child’s nighttime routine. Once they can get out of bed on their own, it is imperative that you spend the three nights it will take to teach them to stay in bed and fall asleep. This process will take three to five nights.

They are usually old enough to start trying to talk their way out of the bed as well. So be ready! Let’s first establish that you love your child and will be reinforcing your child with positive statements such as:

  • “You can do this.”

  • “I believe in you.”

  • “You are so brave.”

  • “I love you enough to want you to learn to sleep like a big kid.”

  • “God has not given us a spirit of fear but of love, joy and a sound mind.”

The first night that your child transitions to the new bed, have your routine ready.

  • Give the child/children a bath.

  • Dress the child in their pajamas while playing soft music and dim the lights.

  • Read them a book (two maximum; have them picked out already).

  • At the end of book #2, make a positive statement such as “O.K., it’s time for bed and I am going to be in the living room and you are going to stay in this bed like a big kid and fall asleep. You are so good and brave and I can’t wait to see you in the morning.” Do not linger.

Be ready! This statement may induce a crying fit or a barrage of manipulation. The child may try to talk you out of leaving the room, or try to follow you out of the room.

  • The room should be child-proofed, and if so, you may leave on a nightlight (not too bright as we do not want them getting up to play) and close the door. Even if your child is screaming on the other side, remember that in three days this child will learn how to sleep in his/her own bed. You may go in, make sure they are safe and speak positive statements over you child, but do not cuddle. We are establishing a routine that will help your child have greater contentment and confidence in the long run.

  • Again, do not sit outside the door, listening to the crying and crying yourself! You are not a horrible parent. (This is harder for us than it is for them, although it may not sound like it at first!)

  • If you do not want to close the door, or if the room is not completely childproofed, then you will have to stay in close proximity and place the child back in the bed regularly. You will not get much sleep the first two nights. Do not give up after a few hours and just go sleep in the bed with them. That teaches them that you will give in if they cry, whine or misbehave long enough.

  • Plan to do this on a weekend, when you can sleep in.
  • Have support. If mom and dad are living in the same home, make sure that you are both in agreement and can support each other. This will help immensely. Men are usually better at this because they get tired of seeing you emotionally distraught. Help each other.

  • Be consistent. If you plan for this and do it the first three to five nights, the rest of your child’s toddlerhood nights will even impress your friends and neighbors!

  • Every time that you have to put your child back in the bed, speak a phrase of encouragement (i.e., “I am a good mommy, you are a good kid and we will get through this.”).

We recommend the Good Nite Lite to give a great visual of “I love you and will see you when the sun comes up”.

Taken from The Moms On Call Book 2 from 6 months through Elementary School-age. Jennifer Walker, RN and Laura Hunter, LPN