Are you thinking about transitioning your toddler from a cot to a bed? Unsure if the timing is right or how to do it? Well, you’ve come to the right place…
We have just moved Paxton, our 2.5 year old into his big boy bed in preparation for his new baby brother who will be taking his old cot and old room in a couple of months. The transition was smooth and seamless so I thought it was the perfect time to share with you how we have done it with both of our kids.
When is the time right?
Every child is different and every family situation is different. The one thing that stuck in my head about this is the advice my mum gave me when we were thinking about moving Harper. She said, “don’t move your kids out of a cot until you absolutely have to!” She basically said that you never know how your child will be in a bed if they will escape, play up, sneak into your room, or be well behaved and wait in bed until you come into them etc. So she gave me the advice to try and keep my kids in a cot as long as possible, as long as they were happy and safe in there. And that is the key here. If you have a climber, and your child has worked out how to climb in and out of the cot on their own, it probably means your child is ready to move into a bed as the cot is no longer safe. You might also decide the time is right as you are expecting another baby and don’t want to buy a new cot. In saying that, make sure to space it out so there aren’t too many other big changes or stresses going on in their life at the same time, i.e. new sibling, toilet training, new child care. So if you are expecting another baby, make the transition a couple of months before, rather than when you just bring the baby home. You want your child to feel ready and excited about the change, it should be something they want to do and are not forced to do. Whatever it may be, don’t rush it for the sake of it, if they are happy and safe in their cot, wait till the time is right for you and for them.
How we did it with my kids…
Harper (who is now four)
We made the decision to buy a new cot when Paxton was born as Harper was only 18 months at the time. So for us (and given the advice my mum gave me), we decided she still had plenty of time left in the cot. She loved her cot and she wasn’t a climber at all. At about age two and three months we went on a holiday down the coast and we took our porta cot with us for Paxton to sleep in and didn’t’ really have a choice for Harps so she had to sleep in the bed there. She amazed us! She was SO excited and absolutely surprised us by staying in her bed. Might I just add, we have been VERY lucky with Harper, she has always LOVED her sleep! And still to this day will ask us to put her to bed! She is the type of kid who is generally happy to please us and stick to the rules. So we told her to wait in her bed until we got her up in the morning. We popped some books next to the bed in case she woke before us. And she did amazing. When we got home from our getaway she told us that she wanted to sleep in a big girl bed and not a cot. So we ordered her a bed. And we let her choose some pretty pink sheets that she loved. As soon as it arrived, we put it in her room and straight away she wanted to be in her bed. We didn’t pressure her or move her cot out straight away, as we would have been happy if she wanted to take it slow and still sleep in the cot, but she was adamant that she wanted her new big girl bed. And that was that!! We do still use a monitor in the kid’s rooms. Harper knows that we can see her. Maybe once or twice at the start we spoke to her through the monitor and told her to stay in her bed. I once overheard her telling her friends that they need to stay in their beds when they wake because the monitor can see them and talk to them if they jump out!! It was SO cute! And just like that, our first baby was out of her cot and in a big girl bed!
Paxton (who is now 2.5)
With Paxton, as mentioned above he has a little brother on the way so we decided it was time to move him into the bed so his new bother could have the cot (we sold our second one just after Harper moved out of hers). In saying that, Pax is actually a big climber so we also decided to move him because the cot was starting to become a little dangerous. He would climb in and out during the day when he was playing with his sister. Fortunately, during sleep time he never did it, but still, it was time as it was becoming dangerous. We also wanted to allow enough time for him to feel settled in his new bed and room before his brother’s arrival. Moving your child when the baby is born can sometimes make them upset and jealous and feel as though the baby is taking something from him, so make sure to allow enough time in between. If you’re expecting another baby, make sure to have a read of my article on preparing your child for another baby for some more tips on this. Paxton watched us setting up his new room over a few weeks. I took him with me to choose his new sheets. He wanted dinosaurs. And the anticipation and excitement built up! He couldn’t wait. He asked me every day when he could sleep in his new bed. I think it’s different with second/third children as they just want to copy their older siblings. As Harper was an angel when it came to bedtime I was very positive and optimistic that he would be too. And he was incredible. We explained to him that he had to stay in bed until mummy and daddy came in in the morning. We also put books next to his bed which he loves! But again it was another smooth transition. He did stand up once or twice in the first few days so I spoke to him through the monitor and said “Paxton lie down, it’s sleep time” And he did! Paxton is a cheeky kid so it really could have gone either way with him. We rewarded him and praised him significantly in that first week so he knew how proud we were of him for staying in his bed. And I think that is key in parenting, always reward the good, never let it go unnoticed!
I also should add that both of my kids are still in nappies overnight. So I am sure this makes a big difference with the fact that they both happily stay in bed. Once they are out of nappies, of course, we will let them know that they can get up to go to the toilet if they need but they must get straight back into bed. For now, we are very happy with them in nappies and don’t feel that either of them are ready to move out of them.
Overall tips on transitioning your child into a big bed
- Make sure they are ready, talk about it first and make it really exciting.
- Make sure there aren’t too many other big changes or stresses going on in their life – i.e. new sibling, toilet training, new child care. Space it out and do it at a time when they are ready and excited about it, it should be something they want to do and are not forced to do.
- Take them with you if you can to choose the bed and/or the sheets.
- Make sure the bed isn’t too high off the ground and if it is, make sure to put some cushions on the floor just in case they fall out. Some parents even choose to pop up temporary rails on the bed.
- When you make the transition, don’t change their nighttime routine. Keep it all the same. If they had a comforter or a special toy in their cot, make sure they have this in their bed too.
- Let them know how proud you are of them moving into their big bed!
- Lay down the rules from the very beginning…. Every family is different so decide how you want it to be and let them know. We said things like:
- “Mummy and daddy can see you through the monitor” (if you use a monitor)
- “Make sure to wait in your bed in the morning until we come in and get you”
- “There are books next to the bed in case you wake early”
- “You must stay in your bed, if you need us, call out and we will be able to hear you”
- “We are so proud of you for staying in your bed and waiting for us to come to get you”
- I’ve also heard from a number of friends that gro clocks are meant to be amazing for kids who aren’t as happy to stay in their beds. It lets them know in a fun way when it’s time to go to sleep and when it’s time to wake up. That way they know when they need to be in bed and stay in bed till. So that’s definitely something to give a shot if your little one is playing up. I have personally never used one.
- Always reward the good, never let it go unnoticed!
Please remember, these tips are based on what we have done with both of our kids, plus the reading and research I’ve done on this topic. Every child is different so don’t compare yourself to others, but if you are having big problems in this area, I advise seeking help from a professional sooner rather than later. We all need our sleep!!
Good luck guys!