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Moving to a Toddler Bed

One of the most common questions that families seem to have when it comes to the transition from cot to toddler bed is “when do we do it?”.

My favourite answer to this question is always “later”. There are a few reasons for this.

Firstly, there are so many other aspects of your child’s sleep that I would prioritise before even considering a toddler bed: setting up a bedtime routine, teaching them to self-settle, helping them to sleep through the night. Believe me, it’s going to be a lot easier to make the transition once you have a skilled sleeper on your hands.

The other reason I tell parents to wait is because – unless you’ve got a new baby on the way and need to have the cot available – there’s just no reason to push it.

Toddlers will inevitably notice one day that they sleep in a different bed to their parents or their siblings and will ask why. Once they’ve shown some interest and are talking more about it I say go for it. But don’t look at it as some kind of developmental stage that your child should reach at a particular age.

They’ll get there when they get there, and there’s no harm if it’s later rather than sooner.

I should actually throw in a little disclaimer here. If your little one has started the “escape artist” routine and is climbing out of their cot in a dangerous way, there’s potential for harm if they fall on their way out. However, if they’ve got the skills to get out of the cot safely, (and some kids I know are exceptional at climbing out of their cribs) then, again, I recommend sticking with the cot.

One of the biggest reasons I hear from parents for moving their kids to a big kid bed is because they’re hoping it will solve some existing sleep issues. Maybe your toddler has gotten into a habit of wanting to climb out of their cot in the middle of the night to see Mum or Dad, or they’re waking up regularly and demanding milk.

So maybe a big kid bed would help them feel more grown up. Maybe it would give them a feeling of security and comfort.

It will not. Full stop. I have never seen difficult sleep behaviour solved by moving toddler to a new bed.

Now I realise that some of you are numbers people and you want an age – even if it’s just a guideline – so I would say 2½ is probably the earliest you want to implement this change. But again – this is just a guideline, and later is better.

So now that I’ve told you to wait as long as possible, how about those of you who have done that already and are now making the switch?

The first thing you might notice is how quickly and easily your little one makes the transition. Your little one climbs into the new bed, loves the cool print on the new sheets, and sleeps happily straight through the night.

So maybe you’re in the clear! Or maybe you’re not.

There’s typically a honeymoon period with the big kid bed. Kids initially think they’re great, but then, after a couple of weeks, they start to wake up and leave their room in the middle of the night, asking to get into bed with mum and dad.

You may be tempted to comply with this request, but I strongly suggest you place an early and absolute boundary around bed sharing at this point. If your child starts leaving their room in the night simply walk them back, remind them that they have their own special bed and that’s where they sleep, and let them know that they can come to into your room only when the sun is up.

Again, regardless of how sweet the request is, or how easy it might be to just flip back your blanket and let your little one climb aboard, don’t give in. Morning cuddle time is fine! But you really need to make it clear to your little one that this happens only once the sun is up. It doesn’t take kids long to recognise and accept firm (and fair) boundaries.

So in summary, the transition to toddler bed is really not all its hyped up to be. Try to delay the transition for as long as you can and if you absolutely have to make the transition, be prepared for some disruptions in night time sleep and even the possibility of bedtime battles.

Just another one of the wonderful hurdles of parenting!

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