Transitioning to a toddler bed is a big deal! It allows all sorts of new freedoms for your little one. Let me start by saying I am NO expert. We followed our son’s lead and made the transition to a toddler bed when he showed he was ready. It went smoothly but our son also LOVES sleep, which definitely helped the transition.
All about transitioning to a toddler bed
How did you know it was time to transition?
We had planned on making the transition to a toddler bed when our son, Lachlan, was 18-months-old. But around his 15th month, he started to show signs of loving his crib (wanting to play in it) and enjoying the few toys in his room. It just felt right to transition him. Seriously trust your gut here. So we made a move. I relied heavily on tips from The Busy Toddler and just followed our son’s lead. His entire room was baby-proofed, so I knew it would be okay to leave him in there by himself.
How did you prep the room and babyproof?
We used these shelves and brackets from Home Depot to hold his monitor, his owl diffuser, and his sound machine. And then trapped the cords against the wall, out of his way, using this cord-cover. We covered every outlet with these boxy outlet covers and LOVE them. We put just a few quiet toys in his room with a small shelf we made that’s just his size. His dresser was secured to the wall with these furniture anchors.
What type of bed did you use?
We were given a crib back while I was pregnant with Hope and it came with a separate toddler transition railing. So the morning that we realized Lachlan might be ready, we just switched out the rails in 10 minutes. Even though the picture below has a pillow and blanket, they were never left in his crib when he was sleeping. The only part of his sleep routine that changed was the toddler bed rail. He wore his sleeper (we made sure he only wore one with leg holes so he could walk and move freely) instead of using a blanket and nothing else was placed in his toddler bed except for his pacifiers and a few Chicco soft animal pacifier holders.
We made this switch on a Saturday morning, before nap time, so my husband and I could support each other and make the transition go smoother. I liked trying it at nap time versus bedtime and definitely recommend that.
How did it go?
The first few days, it went well, but not great. He tested his freedom by getting out of bed and laying at the door, crying. Or playing with his toys. As long as he wasn’t crying, we let him be. Learning how to play quietly in his room is something we want to foster, and learning to get into bed and fall asleep when you’re tired is an important skill for children to master. If he was crying, we stayed consistent and followed the steps from the ABC’s of Sleep Taking Cara Babies course (well worth the money). Her simple course gave us the confidence and the strategies to support him while still making sure that he was going to have a good night’s sleep. After a few days, he stopped crying by the door and would fall asleep in his bed without us having to redirect him there.
Now, three months later, he occasionally goes to the door to cry, but will put himself back in his bed after a few minutes. He has fallen out of his bed, but when he does that, we just go in and quietly put him back in bed. Rarely does he wake up when we move him. If he falls out of bed and we’re asleep and he doesn’t wake up, then he can sleep on the floor! It’s a learning process and that’s just part of it. He cries or wakes up as much as he did before (which isn’t often) so I’d call the transition a success.
Fostering their independence
I read on The Busy Toddler’s page that they take dry cereal and water into their kid’s rooms every night and LOVED that idea. We began doing it when we made the switch to a toddler bed and it’s been so nice. We just showed it to Lachlan the first few mornings, and after a few days, he started waking up on his own, going to get his bowl of cereal, and taking it back to bed with him (SERIOUSLY adorable).
He will frequently play in his room for extended periods of time (like for an hour!) after waking up in the morning, which is a huge lifesaver for me. Since his room is a safe space for him (the most important aspect of it all since they have this new freedom), I feel comfortable showering and getting ready before going in to get him. And he has some water, a snack, and toys to keep him happy and busy.
Adding a pillow and blanket
At around 17 months, Lachlan showed signs of disliking his sleeper and wanting a pillow and blanket. I wasn’t entirely comfortable giving him a blanket (it’s recommended that children sleep with nothing else in their crib until 2 years of age) but it was affecting his sleep, so we decided to remove all the railings from his bed, creating a small platform bed, and making sure no blanket could get wrapped around a crib post, creating a suffocation hazard.
Next, we gave him a baby crib comforter from Parachute Home and a baby pillow from A Little Pillow Company. These two items have been a HUGE success. He feels like such a big boy and adores his little bed. He doesn’t always stay under his comforter nor does his head stay on his pillow, but he loves to snuggle in before he goes to sleep and will adjust to it all in time.
When transitioning to a toddler bed with a pillow and comforter, I showed Lachlan each of them and placed them on his bed an hour or two before nap time. We played with them and in his room for a bit, so he could get used to them. I showed him how to lay his head on the pillow and that he could snuggle underneath the comforter. This helped him get excited about the new additions and then he transitioned smoothly.
What crib works well for this?
Our crib was a hand-me-down, and is the Babyletto Modo 3-in-1 Convertible Crib with Toddler Bed Conversion Kit. It makes transitioning to a toddler bed so much easier. When I started looking for the twin’s cribs, I knew I wanted something similar that could convert into a toddler bed and then into a “big-kid” bed. I chose the crib we already have since we know we love it and it works so well.
Shop the room
Transitioning to a toddler bed is a big step, but it’s one that can be so fun and exciting if you allow it to be. The newfound independence for your toddler can help them feel responsible and teach them patience and how to play independently.