Dad helping daughter get settled in big kid bed by reading a story

4 Tips for Transitioning to a Big Kid Bed

The bedtime routine in our house is sacred. We have dinner and then my wife takes our youngest, Campbell, upstairs for her bath. Campbell needs at least 11 hours of uninterrupted sleep, which means she needs to be in her crib by 6:30 p.m. Once Campbell is down, I take Bennett for his bath, read him a book, fetch his usual nightcap of warm water and then it’s lights out by 7:30 p.m. Illness notwithstanding, this process works about 95 percent of the time.

We didn’t put this specific procedure in place by accident – it’s the result of trial and error, retrospective analysis and guesswork. Now that it’s time for little Campbell to transition from her crib into a bed, I find myself wondering how this will impact the amount of sleep I get. Experience tells me the transition won’t be seamless, but a little planning can go a long way.

How do I know if my child is ready for a big kid bed?

Don’t confuse readiness with receptiveness. If your child happens to tell you they’re sick of the hard mattress in their crib and would prefer a quilted mattress with a bit more give, they’re probably ready for a bed. Unfortunately, most children won’t tell you they’re “ready” for a bed, so don’t wait for them to make the decision for you. Safety should be your primary consideration. Experts advise parents to lower the crib mattress all the way to see if your child is too tall for their crib. If so, it’s time to move them into a bed, especially if they like to climb!

You can move a child out of his crib before he’s outgrown it, but only if you’re comfortable with him being up and about during the night when everyone else is asleep. You should take care to childproof the room. Plug electrical outlets, tether tall furniture like chests to the wall and secure cords that dangle from window treatments. If your home has stairs, be sure to install a safety gate to prevent children from trying to use the stairs on their own. We put our safety gate right in Bennett’s doorway to ensure he couldn’t leave the relative safety of his room without supervision.

How do I “sell” my child on a big kid bed?

Keep in mind that children can’t reason like adults, so they may need to be persuaded that beds are superior to cribs. Sell that big kid bed like you’re on commission! Here are a few tips:

  •        Get them excited. In the weeks leading up to the transition, talk to your child about the benefits of sleeping in a bed in a way they’ll understand. It’s more comfortable and is the choice of big boys and girls the world over! Bennett loves sleeping bags, so we talked up the fact that he could sleep in his sleeping bag in his big boy bed. (Sleeping bags don’t fit in cribs.)
  •        Let them sample the product. If your child doesn’t have much experience sleeping in a bed, let them try napping in your bed. Afterward, remind them how comfortable they felt. We took this one step further with Bennett and suggested that he slept better in our bed. We let him connect the dots.
  •        Give them a sense of ownership. Everything is better when it’s personalized. We took Bennett with us when we bought his mattress. We let him try out the floor model of the mattress we had selected. We also let him pick out new sheets for his bed. If your child feels involved, chances are they’ll be pumped about the new bed, too.
  •        Make it all about the bed. Avoid stacking the move to a big kid bed with other transitions so that your child doesn’t feel overwhelmed. Ideally, you’ll want to transition your child out of the crib when there are no other major changes going on in your child’s life. In other words, don’t make the move while your child is in the throes of potty training, quitting a pacifier or adjusting to a new child-care arrangement.

In the end, no amount of planning can change your child’s natural disposition. Some kids handle change better than others. I don’t think Campbell will have an especially hard time transitioning to a bed. I don’t think she’ll miss her crib one bit, but I don’t think she’ll exactly embrace her new bed, either. I’m picturing her passed out on the rug, surrounded by the evening’s plunder – some unused diapers or maybe a tub of unopened (please!) Vaseline. No matter how easy or difficult your child’s transition, I hope the above tips will make it a little smoother.

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About the Author
Brad Miller

Brad Miller majored in English and religious studies at the University of Richmond, where he developed a penchant for books, ideas and a love of learning. He leads online account management initiatives in the e-commerce division of a Fortune 100 company. When he's not otherwise occupied being a Primrose dad to Bennett and Campbell, he enjoys going to concerts with his wife Kim, visiting out-of-the-way barbecue joints, investigating the best deals online and obsessing over Tennessee football.