Maybe your toddler is suddenly an escape artist or maybe they just went through a growth spurt. Regardless of why you’ve decided to transition your toddler from their crib to a toddler bed, it’s an inevitable and exciting milestone.
We know the change from a crib to a toddler bed may be as big of a deal for you as it is for them! Gone are the days of your little one snoozing for hours on end in their bassinet—now they have the freedom to get up and explore on their own timelines. Which can be overwhelming for everyone, and for many reasons.
Read on for information on when to convert a crib to a toddler bed, how to know when it’s time to make the transition to a toddler bed, and safety guidelines and tips for converting to a toddler bed.
What age can you convert a crib to a toddler bed?
The decision on when it’s time to convert your child’s bed to a toddler bed is a personal one, and for that reason the age-range is wide.
Sleep experts often start seeing toddlers transition to a toddler bed anywhere from 18 months to 3 years old. Oftentimes toddlers tend to transition out of their crib to a toddler bed on the earlier side if they have figured out how to climb out of their crib, or if they are physically too big for their crib! For example, if your crib is on the lowest setting but they are still tall enough to escape, it may be time to make the switch.
If your toddler is safe in their crib and not trying to climb out, some parents choose to move their toddler to their big-kid bed around a birthday, to make it special.
Whatever age you choose, if it’s safe to keep them in their crib, and if they are happy in it, no reason to rush. However, if your toddler is trying to get out of their crib or is too big for it, which usually happens by the age of three, it’s time to convert their crib to a toddler bed.
Keep in mind that if your toddler will eventually grow out of their toddler bed, too. Some parents choose to move them right from a crib to a bigger bed, such as a twin-size bed. Others use the toddler bed to get their toddler used to sleeping out of a crib and move to a bigger big-kid bed when their toddler is older. The decision is personal and up to you!
What are signs your child is ready to transition a toddler bed?
There are many things to consider before you make the decision to transition your child from their crib to a toddler bed. However, if your child is displaying any of the following signs it may be time.
Outgrowing their crib
Whether they are too tall or too heavy, being too big for their crib is a major sign that it’s time to transition to a toddler crib. Why? Because it is unsafe for a toddler to sleep in a crib that’s too small for them.
The most common fall in young children is from if they try to climb out of their cribs. That’s why the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends you move your toddler out of a crib when they are 35 inches (89 cm) tall, or when the side of the crib goes up to their nipple level.
Eventually your toddler will grow out of their toddler bed, too. Experts say this usually happens around 4 or 5. That’s why some parents choose to go right from the crib to a twin-size bed, or an even bigger bed, to limit this second transition. Others use the toddler bed as a transition to an even bigger big-kid bed. It’s up to you!
Climbs out of their crib
The AAP says if your toddler climbs out of their crib, the drop is often around 4.5 feet. However, if they roll out of bed, it’s typically only 2 feet. Therefore, if they’re showing any signs of climbing out, it’s safer to make the transition to a toddler bed.
If your toddler is showing signs of climbing out of the crib, experts first suggest you:
- Move their crib mattress to the lowest position
- Move their crib to the corner so they only have two sides to climb out of
- Put them in a sleep sack
- Make sure they know they are not allowed to climb out of their crib
If none of these suggestions work for your toddler, it’s safer for them to be in a bed. For many parents, attempting to climb out of the crib is reason enough to transition their toddler's crib to a toddler bed.
Follows basic rules
If your toddler understands and follows basic rules, they may be ready for the transition from a crib to a toddler bed. This could include following directions or listening to you when you tell them not to jump on the couch or yell in the house.
Asks for it
If your little one hasn’t tried to get out of their crib, they may instead ask you directly for a big-kid bed. Maybe they saw a friend’s toddler bed or heard someone at school speak about their new toddler bed. Pediatricians usually don’t see this happen until around three years old.
There’s a new baby on the way
If your toddler seems mature enough and it’s not a safety hazard to move them into a toddler bed, some parents decide to transition them from a crib simply for logistics. If there is a new baby on the way and it doesn’t make sense to buy a second crib, a big-kid bed may make more sense to invest in.
How do you transition from a crib to a toddler bed?
Transitioning your baby from a crib to a toddler bed is an important milestone in your toddler’s development. Here are some steps and tips to help make the transition smoother:
- Make sure they’re ready: Between 18 months and 3 years old you likely will see signs your child is ready both physically and emotionally for the transition from a crib to a toddler bed. These signs may include climbing out of the crib, expressing a desire for a big-kid bed, or showing an ability to understand and follow basic rules.
- Choose the right bed: Make sure the bed is sturdy and safe. Many cribs convert into a toddler bed, and if it doesn’t experts recommend you select a toddler bed or a low twin-size bed with safety rails on the sides to prevent falls. If your toddler’ crib converts to a toddler bed, follow the instructions that came with it when it was purchased to convert it.
- Familiarize your child: Before making the switch, introduce your toddler to their new bed and sleep space. Let them explore it and get comfortable with the idea of sleeping in a new bed! You can do this by playing games or reading books in the bed during the day. If your home or sleeping arrangement allows, you can have your child nap in their toddler bed before transitioning to overnight sleep. You can also place the mattress on the floor before setting up the full bed to get them used to being out of a crib.
- Get their room ready: It's not only about the bed, as your toddler now will have free reign of their room! Make sure their room is safe by installing safety gates on the doors and securing any furniture that could tip over. You also should make sure potential hazards in their room, such as cords or small objects, are out of reach.
- Keep consistent: Maintain your usual bedtime routine to provide a sense of consistency and comfort for your child. This might include reading a bedtime story, brushing teeth, and giving a goodnight kiss. Once you've made the transition, try to stick with the new sleeping arrangement. Consistency can help your child feel secure in their new bed.
- Positive reinforcement: Praise and reward your child for successfully sleeping in their new bed. Positive reinforcement can help them feel proud and excited about the transition. This can also help ensure they stay in their room at night, and don’t wander the house when they should be in their bed.
If your toddler is struggling with the move to their toddler bed, the Smart Sleep Coach by PampersTM app can help you support you toddler’s transition. The app helps creates the ideal sleep schedule for your toddler, which includes telling you the perfect time to put them to sleep according to their biological sleep patterns, so they fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. The quicker they fall asleep, the more likely they’ll stay in their bed! For parents interested in sleep training, the app also can walk you step-by-step through a method that is proven to work for older children.
Remember that every child is unique, and the transition may be more exciting and easier for some than others. Be patient—with consistency and positive reinforcement, your child will adjust to their new bed in no time.
Toddler bed safety guidelines and tips
When your toddler was a baby, there were many clear guidelines for keeping their crib safe. Keeping stuffed toys out of the crib, putting them to sleep on their back. The same goes for when you convert your toddler’s crib to a toddler bed. Here are some safety guidelines and tips to keep in mind before you make the transition from a crib to toddler bed.
Remove anything unsafe from their room
Now that your toddler will have freedom to get in and out of their bed, it’s important to make sure you remove anything unsafe from their room. Items you should remove include:
- Toy chests that are hard to open: If your toy chest does have a lid, remove the lid or make sure it has safe hinges that hold the lid open to prevent your toddler’s from getting their fingers pinched. It should also have air holes, just in case your child closes the lid on themselves.
- Cords: Make sure any electrical outlets have plugs and that cords are not easily accessible to your toddler.
- Heavy or breakable items: Secure or remove heavy or breakable items such as a lamp, rocking horse or piggy bank to make sure your toddler doesn’t accidentally knock them over when playing or during the night.
- Mobiles and crib toys: Take down any hanging mobiles or crib toys that were used in the crib. These can pose a strangulation hazard if pulled down.
- Small items or toys: Remove any small items or toys that your toddler may ingest, such as coins, Jewlery, and smaller balls.
- Household items: Don’t get household items such as detergents or cleaning products in your toddler’s room.
Put their bed in the right place
Don't place a crib—or any other child's bed—near a window. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends using cordless window coverings if possible. Putting a crib in a corner where there are two walls could help with transition, especially if your little one moves a lot in their sleep.
Prevent dressers and other large furniture from tipping over by securing them to the wall. You also can childproof the drawers so your little explore can’t pull them open and use them as steps.
Add safety rails
Your toddler started off their life in a crib with four “walls”. For a sleeper who moves and grooves in their sleep, they didn’t have to worry about falling out of bed. When you transition them to a toddler bed, adding safety rails to their bed gives them the freedom to get in and out of bed while also making sure they don’t accidentally roll out.
Know when it’s time to move them to an even bigger bed
If you convert your crib to a toddler bed, your toddler will eventually grow out of the toddler bed, too. Many children grow out of their toddler bed between ages 4 and 5. It depends on your toddler’s size, though. Check the bed’s dimensions and size limitations before making your decision. Some parents choose to go right from the crib to a twin-size bed, or an even bigger bed, to limit this second transition.
Gate the stairs
If your toddler can leave their bed, chances are they’ll at some point try to leave their room, too. If you have stairs in your home, putting a gate at the top of them prevent your toddler from trying to descend them at night or when you’re not there to watch them.
The Bottom Line
It’s inevitable that your toddler will grow up and transition from their crib to a toddler bed. While an exciting milestone for both you and them, there are ways to make sure the transition is easier, and as safe as possible. If your toddler is struggling with the transition, whether it’s staying in bed or protesting their new bed, Smart Sleep Coach is a great partner in supporting toddlers in this exciting, and rightfully overwhelming, milestone in their life.
How We Wrote This Article
The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.
American Academy of Pediatrics, “Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5”
American Academy of Pediatrics Healthy Children.Org, “Make Baby’s Room Safe: Parent Checklist”
American Academy of Pediatrics Healthy Children.Org, “Big Kid Beds: When to Switch From a Crib”
SleepFoundation.org, “When to Transition From Crib to A Toddler Bed”