Many toddlers easily make the move to a “big kid’s bed,” but it’s not always a seamless transition. Before you attempt to ditch the crib, make sure your child is ready. One sign of readiness is your child’s ability to climb out of the crib. If the crib mattress is on the lowest setting and your child is able to put his or her leg on the top rail—even if they haven’t climbed out yet—it’s probably time. This often happens around 2 years old, but some experts recommend waiting until at least 26 months. If your child is 35 inches tall, he or she has definitely outgrown the crib.
To ensure your child’s safety and further assess readiness, you may want to start by putting the bed mattress directly on the floor for a few weeks. Explain to your toddler that the bed will get elevated later, once additional parts for it arrive. After you add a frame and box spring, you’ll need to install a guardrail around any side that’s not against a wall to prevent your child from falling out of bed.
Although your child will likely be excited about graduating to a bed, he or she might have trouble falling asleep outside the familiar comfort zone of the crib. You can help by maintaining a consistent bedtime routine—ideally the one you’ve been practicing since your child was a baby. Start winding down at least 30 minutes before bed by stopping any stimulating, high-energy activities (including TV). Taking a bath, singing lullabies, and reading a few books may encourage your little one to wind down.
After you tuck your child in, remind him or her to stay in bed until you come back to get him or her in the morning. However, don’t be surprised if you find your child repeatedly climbing out and venturing outside the bedroom. Each time that happens, calmly lead the child back to bed and reinforce that staying in a “big boy” or “big girl” bed is important and you’re very proud of your child. In the morning you should again commend your child for waiting for you.
Because your child might still wander despite your best efforts, this is a good time to do some extra childproofing: install gates around any stairs and latches on drawers in your child’s room so little hands can’t pull them out and climb on them.
Reviewed by Dr. Eva Benmeleh, September 2020
- Most kids are ready to move to a bed when they’re approximately 2 years old.
- Use guardrails to prevent falls; place them around any sides of the beds that aren’t against a wall.
- Continue your bedtime routine to help your child settle and unwind.