Lovely Parents – When To Transition to A Toddler Bed?

I was not at my best this week, I let my own feelings, emotions, and agenda get in the way of making the best decision for my child. It has happened before and will probably happen again. We are human after all, with feelings, thoughts needs and emotions that sometimes cloud our judgment.

But that won’t stop me from beating myself up about it.

My youngest son is 3 and still in a crib. He is the third child to sleep in this particular crib as it was given to me by my brother when I had Tristan. As a result, it is kind of in rough shape. If I lowered the side of the crib just one more time, the whole bed was going to implode. So, I thought to myself, a great time to transition to a big boy bed, right?


Wrong. The first night, Kai refused to sleep in the bed. It had been a long day of putting together furniture, saying goodbye to our crib and lots of emotion, so I chalked it up to that. He slept in his pack ‘n’ play. The second night, the same, refused to sleep in his new bed. Instead, he fell asleep sitting upright in his chair. So, once he was asleep, I transferred him to his bed and then went to my own. An hour later, he was up screaming bloody, murder. Demanding I get him out of this bed immediately. He was half asleep, very distraught and looking for his crib. It was like I took away his safe place and he had nowhere to go. To say it was devastating is an understatement. So, the next day we went out and got him a new crib. That night, he slept…like a baby.

He was just not ready. The thought to replace his crib had not even occurred to me. I wanted to rush him into a big boy bed because it would be easier for me. I could get rid of this ugly crib and there would be more room in the bedrooms. But really, none of that even mattered if I was pushing him to do something he wasn’t ready for. Definite Mom fail.

But when will he be ready? And when is a good time to transition to a toddler bed? It’s clear I have some research to do.

Signs Your Toddler Is Ready To Transition

At this point, I have read about a bazillion articles on the topic, so I think I have a better handle on the whole situation. (I have cited some of those articles below for you to reference.) I have a tendency to leap before I look. I just do rather [pullquote align=”right” style=”style” width=”381″ size=”16″ line_height=”18″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#333333″][blockquote custom_class=”” txt_color=”#333333″ size=”25″ line_height=”32″]If the thought of your kiddo getting up, and being left to his own devices terrifies you, best keep him in a crib for now.[/blockquote][/pullquote]than plan and research. Most of the time anyways. That does not really work with kids. You need to plan out each step. If I had done that it would have saved us all a few sleepless nights and a lot of heartache. Here are a few ways to tell if your little one is itching to get into a big bed or if you should hold off. I will definitely be waiting until I see ALL three of these signs before I even approach the subject of making the switch. (The good news is his big boy bed is all ready and waiting, whenever he decides to give it a go.)

He is ok being on his own

If your toddler is now able to get out of their bed on their own, they may or may not come directly to your bedroom when they get up, and there is a whole mess of trouble they can get into if they are not able to safely be on their own. On day two of the big boy bed experiment, my oldest got up and found his younger brother quietly playing in the ‘kids zone’ (yes, that’s what we call it) While he definitely ticks off this box, there are other red flags that should have told me, nope, too soon!

If the thought of your kiddo getting up, and being left to his own devices terrifies you, best keep him in a crib for now.


She understands imaginary boundaries

The crib sets very clear boundaries. Once mom or dad puts me to bed, I am supposed to stay here. A bed has no such confinement and if your little one can’t resist the pull to get up and wander, it will make for a whole bunch of tired people.

It will definitely hinder her sleep and yours if she can’t stay in her bed once laid down. She will be tired and cranky during the day, but still, constantly get up and wander at night because she just can’t help herself.

He shows negativity towards his crib and asks about a bed of his own

In retrospect, this one is kind of a no-brainer. Neither of these two things is happening with Kai. He loves his crib and has no desire to get into a big boy bed. Duh, Mom, Duh.

Whatever the reason might be, big brother or sister is in a big bed, or maybe a friend, but if your little person starts to dislike being in his crib, it’s probably time for a change. And if they dislike their crib, probably the next step will be to express a desire for a big bed.

Either one of those two things is a clear sign they are ready to start the transition.

Tips To Make The Transition ‘Easier’ and Safer

Get their input

Often times the transition from crib to bed comes with an exciting room redesign. The big girl or big girl room is a very important milestone for your entire family. It can be super exciting. Allowing your little one a say in what bed they get, the bedding and the theme of his room can go a long way in having them actually want to sleep in the bed! (Or any decisions that you are comfortable having them make, the point is to relinquish a bit of the control to your toddler.) If they have a say in creating the room of their dreams, they will view it as there own safe space.

The placement of the ‘big boy/girl bed’

Wait, what?
Toddlers are creatures of habit, while they might tolerate some decor changes, refrain from making huge furniture moves. Try as best you can to keep the bed in the same place that the crib was.
During Kai’s refusal to sleep in his new bed, he insisted on having his pack ‘n’ play in the exact spot that his much-loved crib had been. (I put his new bed on the other side of the room. Strike# 2!)

Timing & Routine

While there is no definite age when they are ready and it can vary pretty widely from child to child. It is not unusual for a child to need to stay in his crib up to the age of 3 1/2 and maybe even closer to 4. The crib can be a place of security for your child and they can become quite lost without that added comfort in the wee hours when they are alone without your comfort to rely on. Ideally, the best time to make the transition is when your child asks for it. I learned the hard way that toddlers are very aware of when they are ready to move on, and they usually are pretty good at letting you know if you are paying attention. Rushing them because of internal or external pressure will not end well. Basically, if they seem happy in their cribs, don’t rock the boat.


Once you have made the move, routine and timing of bedtime can go a long way to making the transition go more smoothly. Conquering something as big as moving out of the crib can be a huge task for your child, keeping everything else consistent can really help ease the growing pains. Keep your bedtime routine the same, right down to the number of stories read to the continuous music or white noise machine. The only change should be the actual bed.

The timing of bedtime can also play a big part if we are putting them down when they are under tired or overtired, the bedtime shenanigans will be at a maximum, and the game of in and out of the bed may be too much for them to resist.

Keep the stuffy

Anything your child slept with, in the crib should also make the move to the big bed. It’s all about maximizing the safety and security they feel. While they may be ready to tackle this huge milestone, they’ll likely need to take a few comforts of the crib with them. And no doubt they will let you know exactly what is to be kept and is essential and what can go.

Books to read when your preparing for the move

Books! How did I not think to use books in this preparation, books are kind of my jam! I did not buy ONE of these books to help prepare for this transition, you better believe I have them now. Sheesh, I am going to chalk it up to mom-brain.

If you are contemplating the move and your child is showing all the signs of readiness, add these books to your library and put them on heavy rotation.

Big Enough For A Bed by Random House

I Love To Sleep In My Own Bed by Shelley Admont

Back To Bed, Ed! by Sebastien Braun

Your Own Big Bed by Rita M. Bergstein

What NOT To Do.

The biggest piece of advice I can give is to pay attention to what your child is telling you. Kai was pretty clearly telling me he was not ready for a big boy bed, but I missed it because I was not listening. I was too focused on moving forward, the next step and checking off my boxes of childhood milestones.

To make the transition as smooth as possible, it’s best to avoid making the switch during other major transitions (potty [pullquote align=”left” style=”style” width=”381″ size=”16″ line_height=”18″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#333333″][blockquote custom_class=”” txt_color=”#333333″ size=”25″ line_height=”32″]Kai was pretty clearly telling me he was not ready for a big boy bed, but I missed it because I was not listening.[/blockquote][/pullquote]training, starting preschool, moving, or the arrival of a new baby).  Conquer one major milestone at a time, whenever possible, to avoid tackling several transitions at once. Many parents move toddlers into beds the minute they start climbing out of the crib. Climbing out of the crib does not necessarily mean they are ready for a big boy bed, it could just be a case of giving it a try and maybe they won’t try again, but unless safety is a factor the crib is probably the best place for them until at least past the third birthday.

If a new baby is on the way, consider either making the switch to a big boy/girl bed either a few months before or after the arrival of baby, so your toddler doesn’t associate the new baby with the loss of his cozy crib and has plenty of time to adjust, without having to deal with too much else.

So Mom, What Did You Learn?

Mom was in a rush. To have him grow up and move onto the next thing. But he knew better. Typical adult move. This experience with Kai has shown me that I really need to slow down and pay attention. If I had been on the ball, I would have seen what he was trying to tell me.

woman-on-computerI let the pressure of others, my own wants and desires cloud my judgment and it caused me to make a decision that, ultimately was not good for anyone. All because I wanted to change the decor and get more floor space.

On the surface, it may not seem like a big thing, but it really did give me a bit of a shake and a wake-up call.

In the future, I won’t be quick to make a decision like this willy nilly. Better to research, plan and prepare. It’s the least I can do, I am responsible for there whole life. It is not something to be taken lightly.

Kai is asleep happily right now in his new crib. He was ecstatic to see it there all set up, in the old familiar crib spot. I am sure someday soon he will be ready to move on and leave his crib behind and make the leap to his big boy bed, but not yet. And, I won’t push him. I’ll just let him be little, for as long as he wants to.

What did you find helpful when you were making the transition from crib to big boy/girl bed? Anyone going through this right now? I would love to hear from you, share your experience in the comments below!

Don’t miss a post from our ‘lovely parents’ series! Subscribe and I’ll send you a note when there is a new post.

References – 9 Tips for transitioning to a big kid bed – Moving from Crib to Bed: 7 Do’s and Don’ts – How and when should I move my child from a crib to a bed?


[mc4wp_form id=”881″]



Leave a Reply to Charlotte Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Tom
    March 4, 2020


    Loved your post. My best friends have a 2 year old and a 6 month old. I have forwarded this post onto them as I think they could learn a lot from your site.

    I have encouraged them to get in touch with you if they have any questions or issues.

    Thanks for sharing and keep up the great work.

    All the best,


    • Charlotte
      March 4, 2020

      Thank you so much Tom for the share! I would love to hear from them. I’m so glad you enjoyed my post.

  • Jeff
    March 4, 2020

    I loved your journey that you shared, I believe there is no right time for every child since every child is ready at their own time. Just like every child is not ready for potty training at the same age, I loved your tips and sharing your own personal experience.


    • Charlotte
      March 4, 2020

      You are so right Jeff! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.

  • Sharon
    March 4, 2020

    What a great article. There’s so many things to consider with toddlers and having such a thorough list removes any doubt of how the transition should be handled!

    Keep it up!

    • Charlotte
      March 4, 2020

      I appreciate that Sharon, hopefully, it will help other parents! Thanks for your input.

  • Jim-kelly
    March 4, 2020


    Your post is wonderful.I is exactly what i needed to read about .my son is at the same stage of moving from the crib to the big bed.I will take this approach you are suggesting.Thank you very much for the article.


    • Charlotte
      March 4, 2020

      So glad I could help Jim! Thanks for taking the time to comment.

Lovely Parents – Why Should Kids Get An Allowance?
Lovely Parents – When To Transition to A Toddler Bed?