How to Help Your Toddler Transition to a Bed

bedLeaving the security and familiarity of a well-loved crib for the new experience of a “big kid” bed can be exciting for your toddler, but it can also be a bit scary. Because kids thrive under a routine and become reliant upon the ones that have been established, helping your child to acclimate himself to spending nights in a new bed will require a bit of finesse and plenty of patience.

Make Sure the Time is Right

Unless your child is actually becoming too large for his crib or you’re expecting another child that will be using the crib, there’s no one “right” time to transition your child to a toddler bed. In most cases, it’s more effective to let your child set the pace. If he’s actively asking about a “big boy” bed, by all means start working on the transition. If he’s still attached to his crib and not ready to let go, though, there’s nothing wrong with letting him stay a bit longer. Transitions that are motivated by the impending arrival of a new baby should be started a few months before the expected birth to make sure that your toddler is fully acclimated before having to surrender his bed to a new baby. If your children will be sharing a room, it may also be more effective to move the crib and get new bedding for it so that your toddler feels less ownership over the crib and is less likely to feel displaced or jealous.

Create a Bedtime Routine

Because a toddler can get out of a regular bed much more easily than he can extricate himself from a crib, you’ll have to create a bedtime routine that allows him to satisfy any bodily needs before bedtime and helps him understand the importance of staying in bed after a certain point. In the beginning phase of the transition, you may find that it’s helpful to start preparing for bed an hour earlier than normal, talking about each step so that he knows the normal sequence. Share a bedtime story, and be prepared to send him back to bed several times in the beginning. Don’t shout or scold a child that won’t stay in his new bed, just direct him back with little to no discussion.

Work On One Milestone At a Time

Mastering the art of potty training while trying to get used to a new bed or reaching other big milestones can put too much pressure on a toddler, so try to work on one major milestone at a time. It’s generally easier to potty train a child after he’s transitioned to a bed he can easily get out of if nature calls during the nighttime hours, but trying to help him make two major changes in his life can be overwhelming and can actually cause him to regress in some areas.

Give Him the Opportunity to Take Ownership Over the Situation

A child that feels a sense of ownership over his new bed and excitement about the new arrangement is more likely to transition successfully than one that feels forced into a situation he has little to no control over. If possible, let him have a say in the choosing of his new bed, or at least the purchase of new bedding. Try to foster a sense of excitement by talking the new bed up as much as possible, and maintaining an optimistic and upbeat attitude. Remember that your child will take his cues regarding the appropriate reaction to a new situation from your behavior. If you seem anxious or reticent about making the change, he’ll almost certainly pick up on that anxiety and mirror your reaction.

Get Childcare Providers On Board

It’s important for kids to understand that their new bed is for sleeping in all of the time, not just at night. Make sure that any private, in-home childcare providers are on board with the change. Establish guidelines about afternoon naps, so that your child understands where she’s supposed to be sleeping. Napping in the crib and spending the night in a new bed is confusing for your toddler, which is the last thing she needs during a major transition.

Be Patient and Consistent

The most important part of helping your toddler to transition to a new bed is understanding that the process will take a bit of time. Some kids naturally deal with change better than others, but it’s important to be consistent. Switching back to a crib because your child is struggling to become accustomed to his new bed might gain a temporary reprieve from the stress of the situation, but will only make the inevitable switch more difficult down the road. As with so many changes and milestones in kids’ lives, consistency is key.

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