This is the 3rd post of a 3 part blog on sleep transitions. The first is on transitioning from a parent’s bed to a crib, and the 2nd is on transiting from a parent’s room to a child’s room. Check out all 3 posts, or pick the one you are most interested in!
This transition can come very suddenly if your child learns how to climb out of their crib, or can happen more slowly when your child is older and ready to use the potty independently.
I think it’s best to wait to make this transition until a child is closer to 3 years, but if there is a safety issue, then it’s best to make the move to a toddler bed as soon as possible.
Some parents decide to convert their child’s crib to a toddler bed, while others opt for a floor bed with a mattress on the floor. I tend to suggest a floor bed as there is less concern about a child jumping off the toddler bed, or falling out of the toddler bed (this can happen even with a rail on). Plus, if you have room, it can be nice to get a bed big enough so you can lay on it with your child to read books and cuddle. It also gives your toddler more room to roll around without falling off the mattress.
When you make the transition to a toddler bed, you have to think of the whole room as the crib. Be sure the whole room is toddler proof, so that your child can’t climb on, pull down, or knock over anything in the room.
I also think it’s a good idea to find a safe way to keep your child in their room so you don’t have to worry that they will come out and wander around your house while you sleep. Using a safety lock on the inside doorknob can work, or using a device like a door monkey can work as well (doormonkey.com - Not an affiliate link.) If you don’t feel comfortable doing this, that’s totally fine. Just know that you may have to bring your child back to their room multiple times if they leave their room. I don’t recommend locking the door from the outside. You want to be able to get into your child’s room quickly, if needed.
And, if you don’t use one already, you might want to put in a visual monitor so you can see what your child is doing.
I suggest you talk with your child about this change the day before you do it so they know ahead of time what to expect.
Make whatever changes you need to do to the room in the morning, so you can start with the nap as the first time your child will be sleeping in their new bed.
It can be helpful to do some pretend play with your child’s stuffed animals, or dolls so they can practice putting their animals to bed. Talk about the process with your child during the morning so they know what is coming.
At nap time, get them ready for nap with your nap time routine. Spend some time lying down on the bed with them, or sitting next to the bed, talking and reading a few books. Your child can bring a lovey or two to bed with them, but it’s best not to have too many toys in the bed, or it will be hard for them to go to sleep.
Then let your child know that you need to go do something ( the laundry, or something equally boring) and you will be back to check on them. Then leave the room and come back in 1-3 minutes. Say goodnight again and let them know you will be back one more time to say one more goodnight. Stay out around 5 minutes. Come back and say one more goodnight and leave the room. If your child gets up and comes to the door, wait a few minutes before you respond. If they sound upset then go in and lead them back to their bed. If they end up sleeping by the door that’s fine. They will eventually learn that sleeping on their bed is more comfortable.
Know that the first few days/nights may be a bit choppy as your child gets used to this change. You might need to camp out in their room for a night or two until they get used to sleeping by themselves.
Some parents find that laying down with their child while they go to sleep is a lovely way to end the day, and it can be, if your child doesn’t take a really long time to let go. If you find that your child is taking a really long time and then waking when you leave, or shortly after, you may find it works better to do the check-ins rather than stay the whole time while they get settled into sleep.
Find posts on the other sleep transitions here:
If you find the transition from your bed to a crib or toddler bed is proving to be difficult, let me know, and we can set up a call. I’d be happy to help.
Disclaimer: Elizabeth Green's Early Parenting Sleep Consultations and written materials are for educational purposes only and are not meant as medical advice. All spoken and written information is to be used at each parents' discretion.