How to Transition from Crib to Toddler Bed

As a loving parent, you want your child’s transition from crib to toddler bed to go as smoothly as possible. There are no hard and fast rules here. The right age, the right moment, and even the right bed will depend on your toddler’s unique case. So don’t beat yourself up if you feel unprepared about the whole thing.

However, there are several things you can do to make it happen while keeping your little one safe and protected during the process. These tips can save you from stress and headaches, too. Turn this into a chance to celebrate a milestone in your kid’s life–even if they do not remember it.

This guide will walk you through important considerations: when to transition, how to prepare, how to keep your tot safe, and how to choose a bed. Dip into the Table of Contents and go to the topic that you need to learn about the most. Or you can read the sections one by one for the whole nine yards.

Time to Transition

There’s no surefire way to pin down when to transition from crib to toddler bed. But experts say it could happen between 18 months and 3 ½ years old. As a parent, you are in the best position to discern when it’s time your cutie patootie bid their crib adieu.

To help you decide, here are a few tips you can follow:

Take note of the signs.

When your child is climbing out of the crib faster than Jack could scale the length of his beanstalk, well, that’s one sign. They may even show some aversion to being put back into the crib. If your kid is almost 3 years old or approaching 3 feet, space may already feel cramped for them. 

Do not dismiss these signs. Even if they’re unable to put their displeasure into words, they can “voice” it in many different ways.

Don’t force it.

On the other hand, don’t let your impatience get the better of you. The worst thing you can do is put your child in a toddler bed without easing them into it. Once you notice one or more signs, you should not initiate a transition as a reactionary measure. A better way to go about it is to have a plan and follow it through to completion.

Avoid change overload.

Are you introducing other changes aside from the move to the big kid’s bed? Something like potty training, the start of school, or a new baby’s arrival? Make sure to take them through the changes one by one, so your toddler does not feel overwhelmed. They should not be stressed but excited about evacuating the crib for a bigger and better space.

More about how to holistically prepare your child and yourself in the next section.

Things to Prepare

Put it in a positive light. 

Frame the transition as a good thing. And stick to the reasons related to their growth and development. While other factors may have contributed to this change, don’t focus on them. If there’s a new baby, saying the crib has a different owner now may be true. But that may signal to the others that they’re being displaced. 

Instead, tell them they’re growing up fast and the big kid’s bed is the next stage in their development. You can even say that this kind of transition can happen again in the future. Then let those things sink in.

Tell a story.

To reinforce the positive effects of moving into the toddler bed, find a similar story to share with your child. Better if the story comes with pictures of the characters and scenes. Make them relate to the main character. Walk them through the thoughts and feelings that the fictional kid has, using these as a barometer to gauge how your little one is thinking and feeling about the big move.

The story should end with the hero or heroine achieving their goal. Use this to point your tot in the right direction–being able to sleep in a bed on their own.

Engage them. 

It’s better to prepare the room and bed before you start the crib to toddler bed transition. This way, you can ease them into it by having them take naps first. Make this experience as positive as possible. Let them enjoy the short stints in the new bed.

At the same time, let them help in preparing the bed for the longer nighttime snooze. Ask them to pick the bed sheets, pillowcases, and the blanket. And then have them set up the linens. Allow them to personalize their space by choosing their favorite stuffed toy/s to sleep with. 

Cultivate good sleeping habits.

If the bath-books-bed approach worked in the past, continue doing it. Observe the old bedtime to not mix up your kid’s routine. This can get them started in cultivating good sleeping habits. Plus, you’re opening up a more disciplined path for them, which can have a positive impact in the long run.

In this light, you should also set new rules or modify previous ones. When you tuck them in bed, ask for final requests for water or to pee. But let them know once done that it’s final. That it is time to drift off.

Be patient.

If this is your first time, anticipate that your child will go through an adjustment period. The specifics of this phase will depend on factors like the personality, needs, and preferences of each child. There are days when they would wake you up in the middle of the night to drink water, pee, or ask if they could sleep beside you.

Again, there are no hard and fast rules here. Just keep your eyes on the prize and do things in moderation. Think about this stage as an opportunity to teach your toddler about courage and perseverance, and to teach yourself to be more patient.

Put up a chart. 

Use positive reinforcement to enable your son or daughter to acclimatize to the big kid’s bed. You can put up a chart in the room that shows in pictures the steps they must take. For example, the chart can feature a toddler brushing her teeth, climbing the bed, reading a story, etc. You can also give them a sticker for each night they sleep in their new bed.

At the same time, you can review the steps using the chart every night. With repetition, your toddler may finally be able to embrace the routine. Give them time and they will eventually get there.

Toddler Safety

Use a toddler rail.

When choosing a toddler bed, you may also be convinced to install a toddler rail. Install one only if your child is between 2 and 5 years old. Safety standards prevent the use of rails when the child is under 2 years old. This is to ensure that they won’t fall and get trapped in the gap between the mattress and the rail.

When buying a toddler rail, make sure there is a nine-inch space between the rail and the headboard and footboard of the toddler bed. If possible, get a bed that already comes with a rail as opposed to separately purchasing a portable rail.

Read more about portable bed rail safety standards here.

Childproof doors, windows, stairwells, and the like.

Your darling one may be an adventurous guy or gal in the making. Prepare for those nights they would be sneaking out of bed to explore their room or the house. Block stairwells, lock doors, and windows that lead to the balcony or basement and install rails in areas like the kitchen.

Remove things in their room that may also fall on them when touched or in case of emergencies like an earthquake. You can also teach your kid how to exit the bedroom in the event of a fire or earthquake.

Keep hazardous products out of reach.

Time to pay attention to the ads and labels that say “Keep out of reach of children.” Now that you have a toddler, you may have a free-spirited, curious creature to deal with. They may experiment with mommy’s make-up or daddy’s shaving tools during the day. But at night, they may even go wilder checking out the medicine cabinet or kitchen drawers. 

Make sure harmful medications are stored in the master bedroom’s bathroom, or sealed tight and stored high in the cupboard. Hazardous chemicals should also be locked safe in the basement or storage room. Sharp tools like knives should also be kept away from their sight and reach.

Give them control over ground rules.

Repeating the rules mentioned in the previous section to them every night should reinforce them in your child’s mind. Just don’t force the rules on them, making them feel powerless. For instance, when you set the bath-books-bed approach in motion, introduce it to your child in an interactive way. Ask them, “What do you do after you take a bath?” 

If you have a child who keeps getting up after you tuck them in bed, you can ask a similar thing until they understand that it’s really time for them to sleep.

Choosing A Toddler Bed

Factors to Consider Before Buying

Construction & Materials

Look for a bed that is solid and sturdy enough to handle the size of your toddler. Wood and metal are the most common materials used in toddler beds. But you may also find plastic ones, especially those that are shaped like cartoon characters. Particleboard or pressboard is the cheapest but least used among the materials.

Consider also the style of the bed: sleigh beds and daybeds being popular. Character and vehicle designs are also a hit. Convertible cribs are the practical choice. But take note that toddlers grow up fast. If you’re picking a bed, make sure to go for one that can be converted into a full-sized bed in the future.

As for safety and healthy options, you can look for natural or organic bed models. These are usually made of wood or metal. Natural or organic mattresses and bedding are also available.

Comfort & Support

Toddler beds should provide comfort and support to growing kids. Aside from the construction and materials, the choice of bedding can also affect these functions. Shop for a mattress that is compatible not only with the bed but also with your child’s needs and preferences. Like adults, toddlers may favor a particular position while they snooze.

To help you purchase the right product, check out our complete guide on how to choose a crib mattress.

Safety Features

Beds that are assembled, especially by yourself, should be secured. Make sure that screws and joints are tight, and the legs are stable and strong. Avoid beds that will put a wide gap between itself and walls and rails. Toddlers may get stuck in the gap, which can lead to an accident or something worse.

If you’re buying wood or metal, make sure this does not have any protruding, excess, or sharp spots that can hurt your child.


Infants are known to roll over and sleep on their stomachs. Toddlers may also behave this way. A breathable mattress-and-bedding combo will allow them to sleep coolly and comfortably. A bed with proper ventilation can also be a godsend if your child, in particular, tends to sleep hot.

Other Factors

Put together the price, free shipping and return offer, trial period, warranty coverage, and customer service. These are some of the secondary factors which can help you eliminate options from your shortlist. With the slew of beds and mattresses out there, you would want the ideal match for your little one. 

If you buy online, you should at least be able to get free shipping and return, as well as decent trial and warranty periods.


The transition from cribs to toddler beds is a milestone in your child’s growing years. Making sure it goes smoothly is the dream of any loving and caring parents. Nobody else may tell you this, but it’s okay to feel a little scared, unprepared, or unsure. Don’t be too hard on yourself, especially if this is your first time. 

The pointers we provided in this guide should help you plan and see it through completion. You should have the basics covered. At the same time, don’t forget to give you and your tot some wiggle room and to just enjoy the journey. They may also take some time to get adjusted. So don’t force anything. Let it be an adventure.

Sleep is an important part of life–for adults and children alike. To know more about how your bed, mattress, and daily habits can affect your sleep quality, read through our sleep education articles and mattress reviews at