We’ve all heard the horror stories from family and friends about transitioning their toddlers from the crib to the big kid bed.
The kids get out of bed about a thousand times since there is nothing keeping them in bed.
They need a drink, they want a snack, they have to “go”… oh wait, am I just quoting Simpson’s Sheep?….
Anyway… it gets frustrating. For everyone.
Before they know it, it is 10:00pm and everyone is still awake.
So is there any way to make the move without all the drama?
Can you get them to stay in their bed? Can you keep them from falling out of the big kid bed? What can you do to keep them from getting out of bed in the middle of the night? Will they start waking up earlier?
The good news is that there is an easier way to do it!
And in this post, I’m going to show you how we transitioned both of our girls from their pack and plays to their big kid beds without a fuss.
How to Transition Your Toddler to a Big Kid Bed
1) Teach Them to Listen To You
Although this may not seem like it has much to do with transitioning your kid from a crib to a big kid bed, we didn’t even consider making the switch until our girls learned to obey… for the most part anyway. 🙂
Why did we teach them to listen before we worried about transitioning them?
Because we thought that if they were in the habit of doing as they were told, they would be able to stay in their bed and go to sleep when we asked them to.
Our girls arrived at this point at different ages.
My oldest daughter has always been more of a pleaser and she started sleeping in her big girl bed before her second birthday. My second daughter was nearly two-and-a-half years old before she was ready for the switch.
But just as we suspected, knowing that they needed to listen to us, definitely helped the process.
I wanted to write this post right my younger daughter started sleeping in her big girl bed a couple of months ago, but as I started to write it, I realized that I needed to write How to Get Your Kids to Listen the First Time before this post would be complete.
So if you are struggling to get your toddler to listen to you, head over to this post and work through the steps before you try to move them into their big bed. The switch will be much easier once they are listening consistently!
If you don’t teach your kids to listen first, bedtime will be a struggle for a long time.
2) Buy Them a Big Kid Bed
Once your tot is listening to you more often than not, it’s time to get ready for the big move.
Our girls stayed in their pack and play until they were ready to move to a big girl bed. (We had a very Minimalist Baby Registry and used a pack and play for their bed instead of getting a regular crib and a portable one. You can see our full list of Minimalist Baby Essentials here.)
And since we like to keep things simple, we decided to do floor beds for the girls instead of traditional beds with bed frames.
We love the floor bed because it gives the room a nice minimalist look, they don’t have far to fall if they fall off the bed (which happened a lot with both of them when they were first transitioning out of the crib), and the bed is easy to move around if they want to climb on their indoor rock wall and need a crash pad, or if they want to get the bed out of the way for their indoor swing.
We ordered this mattress for our oldest 3 years ago, and we love it so much that we just ordered the same one for our second daughter.
My favorite part of this mattress is that it has fantastic edge support. What’s edge support? Yeah, I had never heard of that until I started looking at mattresses either.
According to the Slumber Yard (aka my bff’s when I was figuring out which mattress to get), Edge support is when the edge of the mattress will hold up (and not sag) even when someone is sleeping on the edge.
Why does this matter for a kid’s mattress when they sleep alone? Because bad dreams happen. And sometimes you just need to lay down next to them.
We have been so impressed with how comfortable this bed is, even when you are sharing it with a squirmy toddler, that whenever we decide to upgrade our very old mattress, we plan on getting the same one (in a larger size of course)!
In addition to the mattress, you may also want to get a waterproof mattress cover for the bed. This cover has been with us through many accidents and it has held up beautifully.
The great thing about this cover is that it isn’t noisy or uncomfortable to sleep on, but it still does its job!
3) Make it pretty (or cool!)
For our first daughter, we were able to make up the bed with the special new sheets and comforter and surprise her.
She was over the moon when she saw her favorite colors (pink and blue) all over her bed!
With our second daughter, she hasn’t had a huge preference for colors yet, so we are just using blankets in the meantime until her beautiful quilt that a friend is making for her is finished. It is pink and purple and she is very excited about it coming!
The reason it’s a good idea to get fun bedding is that we found this was a good time to start teaching the girls to help with making their own beds.
But when the bed is fun and colorful, it is much more exciting to make the bed nice every morning.
4) Get Them Excited
The next step is to get them excited about the switch!
Let them know that they are now going to be a big kid and get to sleep in a brand new bed.
This words “big kids” mean a lot (especially when they aren’t overused) so make this a very special thing for them.
You don’t want to skip this step, otherwise, they won’t care as much if you put them back into the crib (see step number 6!).
5) Explain the New Rules
While this is a fun and exciting time, it also comes with some new rules:
In our house, the rules are:
- Don’t get out of your bed.
- When you wake up in the morning, let mommy know you are awake by saying “Mommy, I’m awake.” And you wait for mommy to come get you. If Mommy asks you to lay down longer, quietly lay down until Mommy comes and gets you.
We are pretty protective of our adults-only time in the evening, so we don’t want the girls getting up after they are put to bed. They use the bathroom right before they lay down, and they don’t need to use it again until after they have been asleep… which they are welcome to do during the night if they need to.
We also don’t let the girls get up before 7:00 am at the earliest. If they wake up earlier than that, they have to lay down quietly until it is time to wake up. This helps them sleep longer as a general rule and keeps us from getting up at o’dark thirty on the weekends. 🙂
6) Leave the Old Bed in the Room
If you read the post I mentioned above about Getting Your Kids to Listen the First Time, then you know I recommend giving consequences if your kids decide to disobey.
But, at bedtime, it’s difficult to have consequences without dragging bedtime on… or is it?
What we did to make sure that the girls stayed in bed right off the bat, is we keep the pack and play in the room.
Explain that if they get out of bed at all, they go back into the crib for the night and they won’t have another chance until the next night.
Remind them that they are a big kid now, and big kids stay in their beds.
7) Be Ready for Them to Get Out of Bed
The first time we left the room when we were transitioning to our oldest daughter, we walked out of the room, closed the door, and we waited right outside her door watching the video monitor.
She got out of bed.
As soon as she did, we both went into the room and told her she was to stay in her bed. We told her that if she got out again, she would be going back into the crib.
She was so shocked when we came back in that she never left her bed again.
I think it was important that both Ross and I went into the room and gave a firm warning together. This showed that we were both on the same page with the new rules and she knew not to test either of us on this.
Our second daughter never left her bed.
It might have helped that we moved her to her big bed when we had houseguests and she was sharing a room with her sister. She loves to be like her sister so we thought it might help if she could watch that her sister was staying in bed.
We have this camera in each of their rooms. It helped so much when we were sleep training them and it was quite handy when we wanted to make sure that they were staying in their beds as well!
I hope these tips help you and your toddler in this fun milestone!
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