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How I Knew When My Toddler Was Ready for a Bed

How I Knew When My Toddler Was Ready for a Bed

We hear it all the time: Babies grow at different paces, get weaned from the breast or bottle at different times, start eating solids at various ages. The same, of course, is true for the question of when to transition your toddler from a crib to a real bed. Should you wait until he can climb out of his crib? Or until she no longer wakes you up in the middle of the night asking to get in your bed? Or is it a simple matter of practicality, as it is when you need the crib for a newborn who's coming soon?

Circle of Moms members' thoughts on the timing of this transition vary widely, with a range that starts at six months and extends to three years. The lack of a single, definitive answer to this question can be frustrating or at least it was for me. I didn't know how to decide when to move my toddler out of his crib, so I wound up doing what I usually do: waiting for my son to give me a sign.

Why Risk Life and Limb?

Olin's on the small side for his age, so he wasn't able to climb out of his crib until about 18 months. At 20 months we decided to float the idea to him. We told him that we were going to take the mattress out of his crib and put it on the floor (knowing there would be no risk of falling out because there would be nowhere to fall). He seemed to like the idea — until it came time to make the change. He seemed very disoriented by the rearranging of furniture, and he refused to even try it.


We didn't push the issue. (As Circle of Moms member Tiffany G. says, "why mess up a good thing"?) It was true: we had a good thing. Even though Olin could crawl out of his crib, he never seemed interested in actually making a break for it. If he wanted us, he called us, and we came. Why risk life and limb when your parents are at the ready?

"I Am a Big Boy"

Everything about our current situation had, indeed been working fine. But when Olin turned two, I figured he should be in a "big boy bed." I'm not sure why this arbitrary marker seemed compelling to me, but it did, and I decided to up the ante.

After more discussion with my toddler (who loves to discuss everything), we agreed that we would leave his crib as is, in case he ever wanted to go in it, but that we would say goodbye to it as the place he slept every night, and start "going night-night in the big boy bed." This language resonated with him because his mantra had become, "I am a big boy," meaning, "Don't hold my hand down the stairs," and "I can walk across the street by myself." Needless to say, he jumped on the idea of sleeping in a bed as a way to demonstrate what a big boy he was. 

The problem is that he would sleep in this bed only once he had fallen asleep somewhere else and was transferred. He wouldn't go down there from the outset.

It finally dawned on me: He'd never gone to sleep in his crib, either. He always went to sleep with a book while cuddling with me on the couch or on our bed. Why should this transition to a big bed change that part of the routine? Once I returned to our ritual of retiring with a book after bath — we call it "getting cozy" — he suddenly was fine when he woke up later in the big boy bed.

Now I transfer him after he's fast asleep, and if he wakes up, he's more readily able to put himself back to sleep than when he was in the crib, maybe because he no longer feels (and literally isn't) trapped. He still sometimes calls out for us or comes into our room, but he isn't frantic when he does so. He just wants to get cozy.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.

Join The Conversation
KellyKeith KellyKeith 5 years
My daughter turned 3 on july 1st and is still in her crib. She is a floppy sleeper and in the interest of not having her fall out on her head (which she could do) we have left her in the crib. She has never trued to climb OUT but she can get herself in at bedtime. She thinks she's big like her brother (6.5) and since he has to climb up a ladder to get to his loft bed and has a side rail to keep him from falling out, she is perfectly happy to climb into her bed and have a side rail. And I am not going to change things till she wants me to. She has asked for big girl bedding because her brother got a new comforter and curtains, so I am making that for her and making her some top sheets for the crib like her brother has in his big bed. If she was still acting like a baby in other respects I might feel that the crib was stunting her, but seeing as she swims by herself, rides a 2 wheeler with training wheels (like her brother), is potty trained, speaks like a 5 year old and is doing the same summer language studies as her brother (it's the only way he'll agree to teaching her, lol) then she is in no danger by being in her crib a bit longer. My mother didn't move me until I started having to wake her up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, I figure mine sleeps through and is dry in the morning, then there is no reason to move her yet.
EmmaRegnier EmmaRegnier 6 years
My son just turned 2 and has been climbing out of his play pen for a while now. But, every night at bedtime, I still lay him in his play pen (as he likes to rock himself to sleep every night; a problem I have not yet figured out) && if he doesn't want to sleep in there, he has the option to crawl out and lay in the bed with mommy. (which may not be the greatest option but it's the only option for now, as we live with family && share a room for the time being) I'm just worried he will grow too accustomed to having me right there next to him so when we get our own place, he won't want to sleep in his own room =[
KylieRusso KylieRusso 6 years
I have 2 daughters, 1 ten and a 1 year old. When my ten year old was 18months I made the transition, I made a bed harness that goes around the mattress and also around her waist, it was very safe and fitted so there were no choking hazzards, I also used a bed rail. She knew she couldn't come out at night but she also thought this was a part of the whole big bed issue. I used the harness for about a year, she actually liked the security, until she understood you go to bed, read, play whatever and go to sleep withput falling out and she could not run around everywhere. It was safe, efficient and everyone was happy. I will do the same again only maybe around 2 years old and use harness on our cot with an open front gate this time. No need to rush these things and best to know where you little one is at all times.
EmilyPachulski EmilyPachulski 6 years
I'm looking for some help, my daughter is 19 months and we have transistioned her, yet we sit there for 2 or 3 hours getting her to relax and lay down, usually ina crib she'd kick, and move around but didnt try to get out, now she's climbing out of bed and we cant get her to actully lay down. Any suggestions, cause this article was helpful but didnt give any alternatives.
sarachakley sarachakley 6 years
we put the bed in my litttle boys room while the cot was still up and gave the choice every time after a week he was in the bed full time nd we have not looked back since...
sarachakley sarachakley 6 years
we put the bed up while the cot was still there and gave our little boy the choice at every time.. after about a week he was in his bed full time and we have not ;looked back since..
annemarielaney annemarielaney 6 years
we just converted our sons bed. he was fine in the crib. didn't climb out and didn't seem to care it was a crib. it wasn't until we went to visit my mom a few weeks ago, that he refused their crib (he had slept in it before). exhausted and wanting to still be able to have my me time (we shared a room) i decided not to fight him and put him in our full size bed.. i couldn't believe it. he took RIGHT to it. in fact was more than excited about it. when we got home (last week) we still used the crib but my husband was so impressed with how well he did in a real bed he figured it was time. and time it was. our son is SO HAPPY. he wakes me up each morning and drags me into his room to show me where he slept. who would have thought this was such a big deal to him. he's 2.5 years old.
RachelAdams6850 RachelAdams6850 6 years
I have 21/2 yr old twins girls and are still in there cots,i have been told to leave them in there until they are either to big or start to clim out,lucky at moment they dont do that yet.
CarriClegg CarriClegg 6 years
We started transitioning our daughter 2 when we moved to a new house. we just turned the crib into a toddler bed so it wasn't that different. She loved the fact she could get in and out on her own but we had to put a baby gate up in her doorway due to finding her in the playroom many nights when we thought she was asleep (she was very quiet). When it came time to switch to a twin bed we ended up having both beds set up in her room until she was used to the new bed.
AnnieLindsay AnnieLindsay 6 years
My daughter just seemed like she was ready. I knew that she could climb out of her crib if she wanted to, but I didn't want to risk her falling out and hitting her head on her bookshelf, so we decided to make the switch. It took about 2 weeks total for her to get back to her normal routine. She would sleep on the floor in front of the door every night for the first week and then after a while she would go to her bed and now she sleeps in it just fine. We have a baby gate in front of her door because we can always hear her when she's ready to get out. But that way it keeps her in her room and she learns to play by herself and entertain herself. We'll remove the gate eventually and then she'll have more freedom, but for now it's been really great!
GinaBusby GinaBusby 6 years
Our youngest transition to a toddler bed at 14 months. He always slept through the night 8 hours straight since he was two months. From the first night in his toddler bed, he never slept better. Our oldest son did transition until he was 2. It totally depends on the child. :)
JahnaGroom JahnaGroom 6 years
I just transfered my 20 month old to a bed from a cot and she loves it. I was a little worried about her getting out all the time but she just snuggles in and goes to sleep. Her big sister and her chat for awhile before going to cute.
nataliekrausermccarthy nataliekrausermccarthy 6 years
our ladybug climbed out of her (or really jumped!) out of her pak 'n play last weekend while visiting her great-grandpapa. we slept the next two nights together, but when we came home, she went back to bed in her crib no problem. or so we thought. the next night she literally screamed herself silly, and flung herself head over heels out. i was standing there (anticipating a problem) and caught her midair. we don't want her wandering around right now at night and she's not interested in staying in a bed by herself so we installed a tent. she loves it. and we feel better knowing she's safe. we're waiting for her to tell us to make a change to a bed.
NikkiGoodwin NikkiGoodwin 6 years
My little girl will be 3 on the 18th of July and she is still in her cot (what we call a crib here in the UK). She shares a room with her 2 older sisters and is a bit of a terror so im thinking if i put her in a bed, she will just climb on them and stop them from going to sleep and run around the room being naughty, coming out of her room and so on! At the moment she is contained and its helpful lol. Plus she still has plenty of room in her cot, and her sisters always get her out if she wants out. I will try the bed out sooner or later but im not in a rush!
TracyRossman TracyRossman 6 years
My daughter just turned two on July 7th and has always liked her crib. I lay her down for one nap a day and lay her down for the night and she will talk herself to sleep for about thirty minutes and had never climbed out of her crib. She has climbed out of get pack and play and we don't use that anymore. So we are not ready to turn her crib into a toddler bed until she is ready.
KristiBrazile KristiBrazile 6 years
I am the same as Mimi! My son will be 3 in October, and he is still in a crib. I put him in it at night, he says night night, plays or talks to himself for about 30 minutes, goes to sleep and sleeps all night. He is very quiet when he wakes up in the mornings, so I just keep checking to see when he's awake. He seems fine staying there, so I am not in any hurry to transition him. When he's ready, he'll let me know! :)
MimiLemay MimiLemay 6 years
My daughter loves her crib. She will be 3 in September and is on the small side. She has never attempted to climb out and I don't see a need to get her into a bed! She loves naps because although she rarely sleeps, she 'reads' (has about 5 books in there at all times) to her friends (about 12 stuffed animals), sings songs and tells stories. Almost everyone I know has transitioned their kids but I really don't see any reason to. In the morning when she wakes up she is very quiet, I suspect so that I won't come in and take her out of bed. She has even asked me occasionally to 'go away' and come back later....When she's ready she'll ask. I would welcome if anyone has significant health or developmental reasons why I should help her transition? Thanks...
AutumnThomas AutumnThomas 6 years
Thank for posting this, we are in the middle of deciding whether or not to transfer our daughter. She will not go down in her crib, she never has. But even if we put her in it after she falls asleep, she wakes up petrified and crying! So, we figure the bars are scaring her making her feel trapped. Thank you, this has been wonderful advice!
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