8 Creative Ways to Ease Transition from Crib to Big-Kid Bed

My kids little cousin Benjamin just switched from a crib to a bed, so this is definitely on my mind, even though my kids are long past that stage (not that we actually used cribs, but co-slept, though transitioning to their own bed was a process). Here's some tips from a reader to make the change easier for your kids.

Making the move from crib to big-kid bed is a massive milestone of parenting (and childhood). We all know how much our little ones like their routines, so it’s tough to imagine the transition going well. But kids are remarkably adaptable, and you may be surprised at how quickly they settle into their new sleep space. In this guide, we’re going over a few brilliant ways to make the shift seamless, and maybe even a little bit fun at the same time!

Make Sure They’re Ready

Before you go busting out the Disney wall decals or Paw Patrol sheets, you need to be sure your little one is ready for a new bed. Typically, the experts recommend making the switch sometime between the age of 18 months and four years old, but every child is different. Make sure not to rush it and keep your eyes out for a few key indicators that your little one is ready before proceeding.

There are a few things to look for when deciding whether or not to make the big leap from crib to bed. If your child tends to go to sleep at bedtime, seems to respond well to rewards and incentives and has been known to climb out of the crib, it’s time to let them snooze in a big-kid bed. Putting a little thought and prep into your transition strategy can help make the move go super smoothly.

Creative Ways to Make the Switch

Think it’s time to hit the toddler mattress? Here are a few simple ways you can make the transition fun and painless for everyone.

1. Keep the Crib in the Room—Baby steps! One of the best things you can do is to introduce the big-kid bed slowly and in a way that makes the change feel small. Getting rid of the crib altogether can signify to your child that a big change is on the horizon, and may make them feel unsafe or uncomfortable. Keeping the crib as an option for the first couple of weeks is a great way to help ease your little one (and you) into a new situation.

2. Make the Room Extra-Fun—You’ve seen those awesome race car beds and fun character sheets, and they will sure come in handy when you’re trying to make the bedroom as appealing as possible to your toddler. Decorate the room with peel and stick wallpaper or fun wall art. We love the idea of simple wall hangings and decals, such as a colorful rainbow wall decal, that makes them feel happy and at home in their new bed.

3. Bring in Simple Sleep Aids—When making this transition, the issues tend to arise when your child feels uncomfortable, so you want to do everything you can to ensure that they feel comfy and cozy in their new space. Some simple solutions include sleep sound machines and fun light displays that project mesmerizing, moving shapes on the ceiling and walls.

4. Have a Big-Kid Bed Ceremony—Kids are all about the pomp and circumstance, and if you make them feel special, they’re a lot more likely to embrace the idea of something new. Consider hosting a big-kid bed ceremony—complete with a certificate, a crown and maybe even a trophy—to help them get excited and feel accomplished about the change.

5. Create Smart Incentives—Kids who respond well to rewards and understand incentives tend to do a better job staying in their beds throughout the night. You don’t want to get into the habit of offering a reward for every night of sleep—that could go on until they go off to college!—but you can celebrate small milestones such as a nap, a full night, two nights in a row and a full week with special rewards. Whether it be a sticker, a stuffed animal, a toy, a treat or a little bit of screen time, it helps to incentivize staying in bed during the early part of the transitional period.

6. Start with Naps—As adaptable as little ones are, they do well when big changes happen in small, approachable phases. Starting with naps is a great way to get them acquainted with their new bed without rushing into things. Consider having them nap in their big-kid bed for the first week or so before starting with a full night of sleep. Again, it’s all about the baby steps!

7. Use Their Favorite Characters—Show your little ones that their favorite characters are just like them and sleep in big-kid beds, too! A great way to do this is to read them books and show them videos or shows of their favorite characters sleeping in beds. You could also hang graphics of their buddies on the wall—cartoon and superhero wall decals are an amazing choice!

8. Set Clear Rules—Rewards, encouragement and parental comfort are all crucial to a successful shift for kids at this age, but don’t overlook the importance of setting clear rules and goals. At the end of the day (quite literally), little ones want to please their parents and get positive feedback. Telling your children exactly what you expect of them—in this case, staying in their new bed for a certain period of time—will help them succeed in everything they do.

Whatever You Do, Be Patient

The National Sleep Foundation says that most kids experience a few setbacks when switching from crib to bed, so don’t be surprised if it takes two to three weeks for a complete transition. Every child goes at their own pace, so don’t get upset if things aren’t progressing as quickly as you’d like. With these great tips, though, you can count on a smooth transition that ensures everyone gets enough sleep, including you!

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal

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