Making the Switch
Before moving your little one to a bed, carefully observe his or her comfort level, and by all means, don't get rid of the crib too quickly. If your child slept well in his crib and poorly in the bed, then he's probably not ready. "Some parents find it helpful to go back to the crib and try the bed later," explains Dr. Mindell. "Just make sure not to represent this as any kind of failure on your child's part."
Perhaps the most important thing about making the transition is following your child's normal bedtime routine. If you typically read before bed, be sure to do it on the first night with the bed. Keep special blankets, stuffed animals, or other bedtime friends on hand for your little one. Tuck the child in, make her comfortable, and leave the room. Dr. Mindell points out that this transition can be a key time for parents to start the habit of lying down with their child. "Don't start it if you don't want to keep it up. Focus on getting the new bedtime routine right the first time."
Sound Advice from Dr. Mindell
- Place the bed where the crib was. Since the change to a bed often coincides with other growing-up pressures (like getting a sibling and potty training), it's important to keep room changes to a minimum.
- Encourage kids to help select bedding and accessories. Take your child to the store and pick out sheets, comforters, and accessories that he likes. Some children may take comfort in sleeping with the old crib bedding for a while.
- Keep the switch pressure-free. While some parents find it helpful to leave the crib standing along with the bed, asking kids to choose can add unneeded pressure to the situation.
- Remain quiet and calm if your child gets out of bed. Don't reward a child who gets out of bed with lots of attention. Remain calm, remind her that she must stay in bed, then lead her back. Once she's returned to bed, remind her what a good girl she is for staying there. (Some nights, you may need to repeat the process several times.)
- Childproof. Reexamine your child's room to be sure it's as childproof as possible. Consider installing a bell or gate at the child's door so you'll know if he tries to leave his room. It's best not to resort to locking the bedroom door.
- Consider safety issues. Want to move your toddler into a bunk bed? While it sounds enticing so some, the CPSC advises that before purchasing, parents should insure the following about each part of the bed:
Top bunk has ...
- a continuous guardrail from end to end on the wall side of the top bunk.
- a guardrail no more than 15 inches from either the footboard or headboard on the side away from the wall.
- guardrail openings less than 3 1/2 inches between the guardrail sections and the bed frame.
- openings or slats in the headboard and footboard less than 3 1/2 inches.
- the top of the mattress (if there is one) at least 5 inches below the upper edge of the guardrails.
- either less than 3 1/2 inches or more than 9 inches between openings and slats in the headboard and footboard.
- mattresses (if there are any) the size specified on the bed's warning label (and/or the mattresses fits the frame snugly).
- mattress supports securely fastened to the bed by screws or bolts.
- no breaks or cracks in the paint or metal around the welds that hold the side rail to the bed frame at all four corners of the upper and lower bunks (specifically for tubular metal bunk beds).
- Don't tell your child not to get out of bed. You may be surprised at how likely your child is to stay in her bed, so don't bring up the fact that she can get out.
- Make it special. This is a transition that's exciting, so let your child know by making it an event. Be creative—some families have even thrown a "big kid bed" party complete with a cake and balloons to celebrate this new growth transition in their child's life.