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9 Steps to Transition from Crib to Bed

February 27, 2013
By Amy Lage - Child Sleep Expert ,

Q. My son recently climbed out of his crib and I am transitioning him to a toddler bed. Any advice?

Our first suggestion is to make sure your son is 100 percent ready for this transition. Safety is our number one priority so it is our goal to make sure your children's sleep environment is as safe as possible. So if your child is climbing out of his crib, a change is definitely needed. Our second priority is making sure your child and you get the sleep you need. This transition is a big deal as it affects your child emotionally, physically and mentally. Our advice is to keep your toddler in a crib as long as possible (we recommend waiting until your child is as close to three years old as possible). So before you take the leap to a big kid bed, you want to make sure that your child is really ready for this transition. If they are not quite there yet, we want to see if we can safely modify their sleep environment to keep them in their crib until they are ready.

How do you know if your child is ready?

Article Photos

He/She has been consistently climbing out of their crib (and the modifications listed below did not remedy the situation).

He understands boundaries and can follow directions.

She actually asks for a big kid bed.

She is three years old!

If your child is not quite ready - check out these three simple changes to see if you can delay the move:

Remove The Bumper - If your child's crib has a bumper in place, remove the bumper. If your little monkey is making his great escape by hoisting himself up with the help of his bumper, this usually solves the problem. Without the added height of pushing off the bumper it will be much harder to climb out.

The Sleep Sack -Put your child to sleep with a sleep sack over their pj's! This is such an easy modification, yet it is so effective. Most kids cannot climb out of their crib while wearing a sleep sack because it does not allow them to lift up their little legs. You can make it seem like a fun and exciting change to your toddler. Take them shopping and allow them to pick out the color or print themselves. You may need to modify your child's pajamas to a lighter weight or lower the temperature slightly so they do not become hot in their sleep sack, but these changes are well worth it if the sack safely keeps them in their crib.

Catch Him in the Act - If he is only climbing out at bedtime or at nap-time and you own a video monitor, this tactic is extremely effective. Position yourself near your child's bedroom door video monitor in hand. The very second he starts to attempt to climb out, you quickly open his door and firmly say "NO". Without further conversation (you don't want to give him any added attention as that will just make him want to do it again), you lay him down and leave the room. For most kids, they are so shocked that they got caught that it just takes this reprimand one time to work. However, you will want to watch for a few days and repeat as necessary. If you are 100 percent consistent with your reaction, the climbing will cease to occur ever again.

If your child cannot stay in their crib safely or you feel that they are ready for the big move, here are nine tips on what you do:

Do Some Prep Work: Get your child involved so they feel in control of the situation and also excited about the new change. If your child is going to stay in their crib converted into a big kid bed, allow them to pick out some new sheets or a new big kid blanket. If they are going to go into a completely new bed, allow your child to be part of picking out the new bed. Pick up a book or two about the transition to help them understand what will happen and to ease any fears. Talk about the transition with them and explain that bedtime will remain the same, they will just be sleeping in new big kid bed.

Keep your current routine in place: By this time you should have a solid bedtime routine in place. Children count on consistency as it makes them feel safe and helps them to understand what to expect. Keep your pre-bedtime routine as consistent as possible as this will just help things go more smoothly.

Implement a set of sleep rules for the new bed: Before you make the switch make sure your child understands that they are expected to stay in their bed until the next morning. Expect your child to wander out of their bed the first few nights. Make sure you have a plan in place to deal with this a head of time.

Make sure their new-found freedom doesn't spiral out of control: With all of this excitement, your child will likely try to get out of their bed during the night at some point in the first few days. When this happens, you need to deal with it quickly and consistently. Every time your child gets out of the bed you will immediately take them by the hand and walk them back to the bed. During this time, you will not acknowledge them by talking or making eye contact. You need to remain completely silent. If you talk to them you are reinforcing the reason why they are getting out of bed in the first place - attention. If there is no communication, the novelty wears off pretty quickly. Our children are quick learners.

Be firm and consistent: While it is easy to cave at 3am and allow your little one to crawl into bed with you, be consistent and stick to your plan. With just a few days of absolute consistency your child will understand the rules and stay in their bed.

Purchase a sleep clock; this is helpful for your child to understand when it is OK to get out of bed in the morning.

If possible, try to make the transition while your child is in a well-rested state.

Make sure your child is not over-tired by allowing for an earlier bedtime if necessary.

Avoid making the switch when there are others changes going on in your toddler's life, like a new baby, potty training, a move etc.

Visit for further information about infant and toddler sleep. Amy Lage is a Family Sleep Institute certified child sleep consultant. She is co-owner of Well Rested Baby and offers a host of services including in person, phone, email and Skype/FaceTime consultations that can be tailored to meet any family's needs. Email her at amy@wellrested with any questions.



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