Q&A: What age should a toddler sleep in a bed?
What age should a toddler sleep in a bed?
Parents often wonder when is the right time to change from a crib to a toddler bed. While a majority of children seem to make the switch somewhere between 1 1/2 and 3 years of age, the fact of the matter is that there isn’t one right age, as it can vary considerably from child to child and I’ve certainly seen some children both older and younger move in to a toddler bed without difficulty.
The most important consideration is safety. In general, cribs that meet current crib safety recommendations, offer infants and toddlers a very safe sleep environment one in which they won’t get into trouble during night or naptime. Because cribs offer a safe sleep environment, parents are often (and understandably) not in a hurry to move their toddlers out of them until they are 2 or 3 … unless one of two things generally happens.
The first is when there’s a new baby on the way and the crib that a toddler is using is going to be needed for his new sibling to sleep in. In this instance, where parents are faced with moving a toddler in to a toddler bed out of necessity, it’s especially important to make sure that your child doesn’t perceive the move as directly related to the new sibling’s arrival. In other words, you don’t want your toddler to think his beloved “safe space” is being taken away by/for his new sibling. This is why it’s often recommended that parents who are going to want to use the same crib for a second (or subsequent) sibling plan ahead and introduce their older child to his/her new “big boy/girl” bed well in advance of the new baby’s arrival.
The other circumstance in which I find it a good idea to switch a toddler from the “safety” and comfort of his crib to a toddler bed is the one in which parents have a little Houdini on their hands. Whenever I hear the description of a toddler (usually around 18 months of age or older) who can (and repeatedly does) climb out of his crib, it suggests that the crib is no longer providing safety, but rather posing more of a risk should the climbing toddler fall out of it. When faced with this situation, some parents choose to put a mattress on the floor next to the crib to help break any potential fall. This can help, but I often find it simply indicates that the time has come to switch from crib to bed.
Regardless of your timing or reason(s) for switching to a toddler bed, what’s most important to remember is to make very sure that whenever your child moves to a toddler bed, his/her new (and more liberating) sleep surroundings are going to be safe. Now that he/she won’t be as safely confined as in the crib, it becomes all the more important to make sure that his/her room is carefully childproofed—making sure, for example, that all cords are out of reach, that electrical outlets are all covered, and that doors (and stairs, if potentially accessible) are either gated or made otherwise inaccessible.