When it comes to where your toddler sleeps, something big happens when they’re two. They’re not the little baby that looked so tiny in their giant crib anymore. They’re jumping in their crib, running, and turning into little beavers as they seem to love chewing on the rails (Or was that just my kids?!). Those things are kinda cute, but around this age they get the idea to escape their crib, and they’re often able to do it - Yikes!
This can often send parents into a panic - and for good reason! This can be scary for everyone, and becomes a real safety issue. But don’t think that because your little escape artist seems like they don’t need their crib anymore, they’re ready for the freedom found in a freestanding bed. It’s a tough place to be, I know!
As someone who transitioned their first child waaaaay too early. Don’t rush this transition. It will come back to bite you in ways you hadn’t even thought of.
What to do:
Even if nothing else I’m about to tell you sticks - remember the golden rule when it comes to switching beds. Make it as close to the age of 3 as possible. If things are going off the rails, maaaaybe make it 2.5 if you absolutely need to. But pushing things to be more like 3 will save you many nights of an overtired toddler that’s all over their room when they’re supposed to be sleeping.
Now that I’ve been around the block, this mama of 3 jokes that my youngest son will be in a crib until he goes to school and finds out no one else has one. But as you know, when I was a first time mom (before I found sleep consulting!), this was not my viewpoint. So between my expertise and my experience, please learn from my sad story. When I was pregnant with my second son, I was going out to buy another crib. That very same day my oldest son climbed out of his crib, so instead of a crib for child #2, I bought a “big” bed for child #1.
Let’s just say that at his age, he was not developmentally ready to stay in that bed.
Instead, here’s how you can safely prolong the amount of time that they stay in their crib before they make the transition.
Put the mattress all the way down - even right on the floor! As long as it’s safe to do so (ie, no scary gaps to get stuck between the mattress and bottom of the crib), you can drop the mattress so your kiddo doesn’t have the height to climb over.
Turn the crib around if it’s one that has a higher back than it does front. Flip it so the high back is now at the front, and the lower part is against the wall. This gives you a few extra inches to keep your munchkin from making their escape.
Keep the crib empty of any pillows, loveys, or anything else they could use to stand on, giving themselves just enough leverage to jump over. You also want to make sure there’s nothing within reach that they could pull into the crib or use to pull themselves out.
Put their sleep sack on backwards so they can’t escape and hop out! Sleep sacks are great because your toddler can’t swing their little legs over the bars in the same way.
Consider getting a toddler clock when they make the switch (My fave is the Hatch!). Something that changes colour when they’re allowed to get out of their room. By 3, they’re able to understand (with a bit of explanation!) that they’re supposed to stay in bed until the clock turns green. They’re a game changer.
Do a thorough sweep to ensure the entire room is safe. I’m sure safety is always the top priority in your home, but it’s especially important now that your kiddo isn’t confined to a crib any longer.
What not to do:
While there’s definitely more positives here, there are a handful of things I always recommend my clients steer away from. Got your pencils ready?
Inconsistency with their routine. Back when, I used to flip flop with my oldest kiddo’s routine. When trying to get him to fall asleep in his bed, sometimes I would lay with him, and sometimes I wouldn’t. Talk about confusing for someone already going through a big sleep change!
Instead, you want to keep as many things the same as you can. I even suggest putting the new bed in the same spot that the crib was, so it sets the understanding that things are almost the same - just the actual bed is different.
I created a free bedtime chart to help your child stick to their routine, and create a fun visual to make it happen! There’s a real sense of pride for your kiddos as they get to check off each task. Want in? Find it here!
Don’t spring it on them. Your child didn’t sign up for an episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. So while I get that it’s suuuuper tempting to change over their room in secret, and then show them the big reveal, that can be A LOT for a small child. Give them a sense of control over the situation, and let them pick out their sheets, help you set everything up, and be involved in the general process. I promise it’ll pay off, and you’ll see a better rate of sleep success as a result.
Don’t tell them not to get out of their bed. Are you surprised? At least in the very beginning, you don’t want to mention this because sometimes they haven’t actually thought about it!
If you’re not having success with keeping your child in their bed (It happens! That newfound freedom is just so tempting!), take a look at some of my best tips on helping them stay in bed. You definitely want to explain the boundaries to your child, and maybe even host a family meeting about it, but there are many ways to help them understand that new responsibility comes with having a big bed.
If you’re tired of the frantic middle of the night Googling, hoping for any shred of reliable sleep help - it’s time to close the laptop. Actual sleep success comes from cutting out the well meaning noise around you and honing in on a sleep expert’s advice. My clients see success because I create a custom sleep plan that they’re on board with and put into practice consistently. That means they don’t have to try every trick in the book, hoping something actually works.
I’m here to support you through the bumps in the road, and alllll the questions that come up. Book your free consultation call to take that first step in having your whole house sleeping like babies. Trust me, it’s life changing!