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When can I transition my toddler to a bed?

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toddler in bed

Watch for signs from your toddler before considering whether to move him to a big bed.

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Question: When can I transition my toddler to a bed?
My daughter is hating her crib, but she still seems so little. At what age should I move her out of her crib and into a bed?
Answer: Walking that line between baby and big kid happens over and over again during the toddler years. One day your little one might seem ready to move on to the next phase of development; the following day she may seem to have taken a step or two backward. And of course, every child develops at her own pace. In short, there is no definitive age for any of the major transitions your child will go through between ages 1 and 3.

That said, there are signals that your child might be ready to move out of her crib. They usually have little to do with her physical size. In fact, sometimes your tiny 18-month-old might show signs of being bed ready. Sometimes your almost 4-year-old may still be content to sleep in the secure confines of the crib.

So what signs should you watch for?

  1. Climbing out. If your little one is trying to scale the sides of the crib (or has already conquered them), it's time to start shopping for a toddler bed or twin bed. You can try to dissuade her, but it's often a lost cause to stop a climbing toddler.

    Some parents have tried to deal with climbing by using a crib tent to keep a climber in the crib. But some models of tents have been recalled or have a history of being used improperly, so think seriously about whether this is the best option for your child.

    Once a determined toddler decides that she might be able to make it over the side of the crib, there is little that will stop her from doing it (and doing it again and again and again). Even if she has made it out of the crib safely before, there is a great risk of injury when toddlers climb their cribs. It's safer to start looking at bed options.
  2. She asks for a big bed. An older 2-year-old or young preschooler may start asking to move out of the crib, especially if she has an older sibling. While it's not a good idea to give toddlers whatever they want whenever they want, in certain cases, it makes sense to listen to them. This might be one of those instances. A child who's happy with her sleeping arrangements is more likely to sleep through the night and not have sleep problems.

    If this is something that your child is really asking for, then you should definitely involve her in the process. Show her some examples (two or three) of beds she might choose from or let her pick out her own bedding.

    There is a third reason that many parents choose to start transitioning a toddler out of the crib -- another baby needs it. It's perfectly valid to start considering moving your little one because you need the crib for a new sibling. If possible, begin the transition a few months before the baby is born or before you plan to put the new baby in the crib so your older child is comfortable in his new sleeping arrangements and won't feel displaced when baby starts sleeping in the old crib.

Even if your child seems completely ready, you should expect some bumps during the transition from crib to bed. Don't go back to the crib, though, when things get hard. Have patience as your little one gets used to the change and be sure to set up a new routine that works for everyone. You will surely find that she will settle and grow into that big kid bed in no time.

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