The move from a cot to a bed is a big step for your tot. As with many of your tot's milestones, when your little one is ready to move to a toddler bed differs from child to child. Make the transition easy with our expert tips and techniques.
When to move to toddler bed
While some toddlers are able to switch into a bed around 18 months, others might not transition until they’re 30 months (2 1/2 years) old or even 3 to 3 1/2. Any time between these age ranges is considered normal.
There are a few signs for when your toddler is ready to move out of their cot:
They climb out of the crib.
They're ready for night-time potty training.
They no longer fit in the crib.
You may also decide it's time to upgrade to a big kids bed as you have a new arrival on the way. Be mindful though to make this transition in good time before their new sibling arrives, as you don't want them to feel displaced. Moving out of their cot is a big change for a little one to cope with as it is.
In general it’s best to wait until you think your child is not only emotionally, but physically ready so that they will be able to get in and out of their big bed themselves safely.
What is a toddler bed?
A toddler bed is a small bed which measures 70cm x 140cm compared to a standard UK single bed of 90cm x 190cm. Some cots transition into toddler beds, by having removable sides, meaning you don't have to fork out for a new mattress and bed frame immediately. Toddler beds are also lower to the ground than a standard single, making them a safer option for little ones.
If you do opt to move your child straight into a single bed, consider the height aspect and look for one that is lower. You can also buy toddler bed guards to make them safer to sleep in. Some children don’t need one, or use one for a few months before you take them off, while others like the security and safety for much longer.
10 tricks to successfully move your toddler to a first bed
Every toddler will respond differently to moving into a big bed. For many you will wonder why you ever worried, others will need an extra bit of planning and preparation to make them feel comfortable.
1. Make a big deal of the move
Get your little one excited about his new big boy bed. Take him shopping with you and let him help pick out the bed so he feels included in the process. You could also throw a moving bed party and have some treats and games for your family to celebrate the day of the move.
2. Buy a baby-friendly bed
Opt for a bed that’s low to the ground and isn’t as overwhelming as a big bed. A toddler bed is a brilliant stepping-stone before full-sized bed.
3. Try out naps first
Put your little one down for a few daytime naps in the new bed before he sleeps in it for a night. Then he’ll get used to it and feel more settled when he sleeps all night long in it. Also get him used to it being a part of his room, having playtime in his bedroom for example.
4. Think about timing
‘If the reason for the move is that you’re having another baby and need the baby cot, make the switch at least three months before the new sibling is due to arrive,’ says parenting expert and author Fi Star-Stone. Nobody wants to feel turfed out of their normal sleep spot…
5. Keep some things constant
To ease the transition from cot to bed, put the new bed in the place of the cot. ‘This way he won’t be dealing with a change of bed and a change of room or view from his regular sleeping position,’ says Fi.
6. Start off with the old bedding
In all the excitement of moving to a big bed it’s tempting to buy new bedding to go with the new bed, but Fi suggests that’s is a better idea to keep the old bedding if you can.
‘You can change this once he’s settled into his new environment,’ says Fi. ‘Too much change at once can cause sleep problems and unhappy bedtimes.’
As with picking the bed, let your little one be involved in chosing their new bedding - perhaps a loved character from one of their favourite programmes. That way they'll get excited about bedtime.
7. Put up a guard
Bed guards are a nice gentle way of reassuring little ones who have moved from the four-sided safety of a cot into a single bed.
‘I would always advise investing in a bed guard, as leaving the safety of a cot and going straight into a bed with no sides can lead to accidents,’ says Fi. ‘You can remove the guards once you think they are used to their bed and not likely to roll out.’
8. Don’t change the bedtime routine
Your baby’s got a lot to deal with moving to a new bed, so try to keep everything else the same – including his bath/bed/storytime routine. If this routine worked well before then it will continue to work well even with the new bed thrown into the mix.
9. Prepare for a few sleepless nights
It may take your baby a while to adjust to his new bed as it’s a big change for him. So, get ready for a few disturbed nights.
‘It’s a new thing for your little one – sometimes it’s exciting and sometimes it’s upsetting,’ says Fi. ‘Be understanding and help your little one love his new bed by investing time into helping him settle. Reward his efforts when he stays in his new bed by telling him just how proud you are.’
10. The new bedtime routine
Now that your baby doesn’t have the bars of his old cot to keep him in bed, there’s a chance that your baby will start making appearances in your bedroom in the middle of night. If this happens, calmly take him back to his bed and gently remind him that it’s still bedtime.
‘It's important to start as you mean to go on,’ says Fi. ‘If you let him stay downstairs, or climb into your bed once or twice, you’ll find it incredibly hard to stop him leaving his bed before the morning in the future.’