The first few years of your little one’s life are filled with milestones and preparing for the next stage of independence. One of these milestones is the big bed transition.
It’s exciting to see what was once your little baby take their next step into becoming a big kid but it might leave you feeling a little bit nervous too. When should a toddler begin sleeping in a big bed and how do you smoothly transition from cot to bed?
You’re probably thinking, will they sleep? Will they get out of bed a thousand times? Will they be up and about earlier than usual? Will they take full advantage of their new found freedom?
We all know that every child is different which means some will sleep just like they always have, whilst others will be excited by the change and need some time to ease into what they perceive to be a fun new adventure of boundaries and limit testing – this is healthy, albeit a little frustrating.
So instead of choosing a set date to make the big bed switch, consider this blog your go to resource on the best time to make the transition for your family.
Questions to ask before transitioning to a big bed:
What is the best age to transition my toddler to a big bed?
2.5 to 3 years is considered the best time (the later the better). This age is ideal from a cognitive developmental perspective- meaning impulse control won’t have developed until now.
Expert Insight: Prior to 2.5 years, children really struggle with the ability to stay in bed.The reason for this is due to toddlers not yet having cognitive understanding of actions and consequences. This being considered, attempting a transition to a bed too early can lead to frustration on the part of both parties.
How can I best prepare my little one? Now that we recognise our little one’s progress in cognitive development, we can appreciate that the older they are the more we can talk to our toddlers about the upcoming changes. We can prepare them by:
- Discussing expectations for their new big bed
- Including them in the process with fun things like going shopping for their new big bed or quilt cover
- Providing them with opportunities to feel involved in the process of this next big transition.
Is my little one’s bedroom a safe space?
Consider the following:
- Are bookcases/chest of drawers secured to the wall?
- Are loose cords from curtains/blinds secured on the wall away from toddler hands?
- Are light switches and door handles accessible and if so do they pose a safety risk for a curious toddler?
This is the time to toddler proof and think about EVERYTHING in the
room to ensure it’s a safe space for them to move in and out of bed unassisted.
What Not To Do:
Don’t rush- There might be an impending new sibling arrival or maybe your little one is turning 2 or you saw a cute bed on sale. If your little one is under 2.5 years now is not quite the time.
If you’re pregnant with your next child and your toddler’s age at the date of arrival is less than 2.5 years, consider a second-hand cot purchase and replace the mattress. For those with a child 2.5 years or older and you’re planning to move them before the new arrival – aim to implement the transition at least 6-12 weeks before your due date so they don’t feel like they’re being replaced/forced to give up their cot.
When a Big Bed becomes a MUST:
For safety reasons, if a toddler is climbing out of the cot it becomes a must to transition to a big bed. Whilst you are arranging the transition there are a couple of things you can do to ensure your child stays safe.
- Double check the mattress has been lowered to the lowest point in the cot.
- Remove any cot bumpers/loose bedding such as pillows or blankets which may be being used for leverage.
- Use a sleeping bag without legs (if they take it off turn it backwards or inside out).
- Continue with a firm “no” if you see them trying to climb out so as not to encourage unsafe behaviour.
If It’s Not Broke…..
As the saying goes, if it’s not broken then don’t fix it prematurely.
Introducing a big bed is without a doubt a significant milestone and one we don’t want to rush. Toddlers aren’t ready for too much responsibility and struggle with impulse control which makes staying in bed a challenge. A cot is a really safe place for a toddler as it provides a physical boundary which makes them feel secure and reassured.
You can read further toddler sleep tips at Creating a positive bedtime experience.
Have A Plan- Don’t be surprised if 1-2 weeks into the transition your little one discovers they can get out of bed. If they act on this new discovery and begin frequently jumping out, you can calmly maintain consistent communication and return them to bed (we want our toddler to feel confident in where they fall asleep). This is also the time to ensure we don’t overplay the role of getting them to sleep whilst also being realistic and understanding that this new phase may mean we need to stay close by to guide and support.
Don’t have a plan or are struggling with the transition from cot to bed?
Book a one-on-one discovery call and we’ll work out what package is just right for you.
For more toddler sleep tips you can download my FREE Toddler Bedtime Routine Chart .