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toddlermonitor SLEEP EXPERT SERIES: When is the right time to transition to a “big kid” bed?

toddlermonitor SLEEP EXPERT SERIES: When is the right time to transition to a “big kid” bed?


Picture this – you have the best sleeper you could imagine. He goes to sleep each night and takes a nap each day without a fuss. Sleeps all night and you feel like you have really mastered the sleep thing. 

You decide at two-years-old your little one is too big to be in a crib so you decide to transition to a big kid bed. At first the transition goes well. He stays in bed and continues to be a good sleeper. About a month into the big kid bed, he decides to test boundaries – what happens if I get up and see what my parents are doing? What if I get scared in the middle of the night and I go into my parents’ room?

What was once your wonderful sleeper has now turned into a bedtime battle and all-night challenge to get him to stay in the bed. I have worked with countless families in this situation. They have a wonderful sleeper who turns into a disaster with a little bit of freedom. 

It is for this reason I recommend waiting until your little one is at least three-years-old to transition to a big kid bed. Maybe longer depending on the temperament of your child. It’s not until children are older (three plus) that they can understand what “stay in bed” and are less likely to test boundaries. 

Sometimes parents’ feel forced to make the transition because another sibling is on the way.  

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends infants room share with their parents for the first six months, ideally the first year. I recommend to those families to opt to use the pack’n’play in their room so the toddler can continue to use the crib.  

How to handle the transition

Children are more likely to comply if they feel like they have some “buy-in” to the process. It’s important to talk to them months before hand about the transition so they feel comfortable with it.  

Let them be involved in the process by letting them help pick out the bedding, bed, etc.

It’s important to set clear boundaries for them. Have a family meeting so they know what is expected of them. Allow them to help in making a list of bedtime rules that are applicable for both naps and night time sleep.  

Allowing them to help create the rules helps them to be more invested in the process. 

Once the rules have been set, write them on a poster board and allow them to decorate it. Have it hang in their room and go over it with them each sleep period so they are always fresh in their mind what is expected of them.  

PRO TIP: Hold off on selling the crib or transitioning your other child to the crib until your toddler is doing well in the big kid bed. You never know if you will need to set the crib up for them again!  

Every night your toddler or pre-schooler does well in the big kid bed praise them for their effort, so they know how proud of them you are. Children thrive on positive reinforcement. If they are struggling try to avoid punishing them as we don’t want bedtime and naptime to have negative associations. 

If your little one has never been a good sleeper, it’s never too late to fix it! 

My sleep training guide teaches how to get your toddler or pre-schooler how to go to sleep unassisted. 

If find yourself struggling with schedule and sleep for your toddler, my 15-month plus guide gives guidance for all things toddlers/preschooler sleep.

About Maggie

Maggie Moore is the Founder and Head Sleeper at Moore Sleep. She is a certified pediatric sleep consultant through the Family Sleep Institute, which means her sole focus and objective is getting your baby on a healthy sleep schedule so the whole family can get the sleep they need.
Like many parents, Maggie and her husband struggled with getting their son on a healthy sleep schedule and he was unable to fall asleep independently. As a result, her family was losing precious sleep every night.
Maggie became a firm believer when, shortly after hiring a certified pediatric sleep consultant, her son began sleeping independently at bed and nap times. It was a turning point that resulted in not only restful nights, but waking up fully rested with the energy to face the day. Maggie knew right away she wanted to become a certified consultant herself so she could help other families struggling to get the sleep they need.
Maggie and her family reside in Southern Indiana (near Louisville, KY). She received her bachelors in Journalism and a second concentration in Communications & Culture from Indiana University in Bloomington, IN. Follow Maggie on Facebook and Instagram.



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