My philosophy as a parent is to basically do whatever it takes so that we can all get sleep. I've shared some of our favorite sleep tips before because sleep is so important to me. When we don't sleep, I am such an evil mom. I am cranky, impatient, and unkind and the kids are too.
Over the years as we have tried a lot of different things and failed at many of them, we are starting to figure a few things out with regards to kids and sleep. This week we are transitioning our third child from his crib into a bed. Today I'm going to share some of the things we do to help create a smooth transition from crib to bed.
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Here are our top 10 tips for making the transition into a bed smooth for little ones:
1. Wait to make the transition until your child is ready!
My 3-year-old started climbing out of his crib about a year ago. I was not ready for him to move into a big bed yet so I encouraged him to stay in his crib. I may have bribed him some nights with a sticker chart and promises of toys at Target. It took a week or two but eventually he got back used to sleeping in the crib and we managed to avoid transitioning into a big kid bed until I felt like he was a bit more mature. Now that he is 3, potty trained, a decent sleeper, and pretty good at following directions, I think this is the perfect time to transition him into a big kid bed. If your child is sleeping happily in a crib and not complaining I would keep things status quo for awhile.
Sometimes you just don't get to wait until your child is mature enough. When my daughter was two she started climbing out of her crib. I tried to encourage her to wait, but she wanted to get out of there! She was so little when we moved her and had the hardest time staying in her bed and sleeping. Sometimes I would wake up at 3am to find her wide awake playing in her room. It took a good 4-5 months for her to finally get into a good routine and stay in bed and sleep through the night.
2. Talk about the transition to a bed a lot!
With my daughter her transition was super quick and out of necessity because she was being unsafe. With my 3-year-old son we have been talking about moving into a big kid bed for several weeks. We've talked about where it would go, what he could bring into bed, and how cozy it will be.
3. Utilize big siblings or older friends to help your child get excited about his new bed.
My older two kids have jumped on the big kid bed excitement train and have been telling my 3-year-old all about how awesome it is for the past week. Over the weekend we bought my 3-year-old his new mattress and it arrived Saturday morning. My big kids took him into the garage to check it out and were so excited to help out as we set up his bed. The big kids helped him make his new bed, ooed and ahhhed about how cozy it was, and got in bed with him to help him try it out. Their enthusiasm made him SO EXCITED for this big step!
4. Create a super cozy space for your child.
After a few months of no sleep and finding my daughter sleeping against her door on the floor we decided to invest in a bigger cozier bed. We ended up buying her a queen mattress with a soft pillow top. We figured that if we were going to have to stay nearby to help her sleep we might as well make ourselves comfortable too. We got her a big down comforter and several cozy pillows. We also got her some new fun bedding that she LOVED.
The difference between the hard small toddler bed and large comfy queen bed was amazing. My daughter finally started sleeping through the night and looked so peaceful while she slept. She likes to move a lot while she is sleeping so the queen bed was the perfect size for her too. I cannot believe we didn't think about the coziness factor originally!
5. Buy a bedrail to help give your child some boundaries and keep them from falling out of the bed.
To help me feel secure when our kids move into a bigger bed I like to put a bedrail along the side. This gives the child some boundaries and makes it less likely that he will fall out of bed. The bedrail we buy can snap down and be stored between the mattress and box springs easily. This is specifically nice for when friends come over because I don't like them to play around with the bedrail and break it. Some people prefer to skip box springs and have the mattress lie right on the floor. I like having the bed be normal height. I think it is a matter of preference.
6. Set some expectations and be consistent and follow through.
Before we moved to the big bed we talked a lot about the expectations. Some of our expectations include my son needing to call to us in the night if he needs to use the bathroom so that one of us can go with him. We also request that he stays in bed until we come and get him in the morning. He has a few toys in bed with him and a basket of books at the foot of his bed so he should be able to stay occupied if he is up before we come get him.
Another expectation is that he stays in bed all night. If he gets out, then we put him back in bed. We like to use a lot of positive praise and encouragement and involve our big kids with that too. When all of us give a lot of positive feedback to my 3-year-old when he stays in his big bed, it really helps keep him motivated to do it again and again.
7. Put the bed where the old crib was to help keep things consistent.
When my oldest moved into a new bed we changed the location of the bed and put it by the window. That opened up a whole new world of fun for him because he could look out the window, play with the shutters, and knock on the window. With my next two kids we decided to put their beds in the exact spots where their cribs had been. This made nighttime seem more familiar since they were sleeping in the same spot as before. Anytime you are transitioning a toddler it is nice to keep a few things familiar and just change one or two things as a time.
8. Be supportive and comforting if your child is sad.
One of my favorite tips for taming toddler tantrums is to be empathetic and acknowledge feelings when kids are sad and feeling a lot of emotions. The change from a familiar crib to a new big bed can be overwhelming for some little kids. Being supportive and giving emotional support and hugs and help can ease the transition. With my daughter we were less than supportive and way to strict without acknowledging her feelings. She has a lot of anxiety and is also highly sensitive so this transition to a big kid was really hard for her. If we had been more sensitive to her feelings I think the transition would've been a lot smoother.
9. Allow your child to bring a transition object into bed with him.
Stuffed animals, soft toys, a special blanket, or a pacifier can be a familiar transition item for your child. I like to let kids have control of this aspect of their bedtime and they can bring a few of their favorite items into bed with them. I set the expectation that the soft toy or special object can stay with them as long as they are using it quietly and that they go to sleep. Occasionally I have to remove an item, but it is rare!
If your child is having a hard time with you not staying in the room, here are some other good crib to bed transition ideas from AHA Parenting to try.
10. Be flexible.
It may take some time for your child to adjust to their new bed. If it isn't working it is perfectly fine to be flexible and move your child back to a crib or toddler bed or family bed for a little bit and then try again later. Each kid will adjust to new situations differently and sometimes you won't know what that looks like until you get on the journey.
Some kids may need a little sticker chart and get a sticker for every night that they stay in their bed. Some kids will just need to be put back in bed again and again and again. Some kids might choose to sleep on the floor instead of in their big cozy beds for awhile. Some may sneak back in bed with you. When they are ready, they will eventually sleep in their beds. Don't be like me and get too stressed out about it.