how to handle the crib to bed transition and keep your toddler in bed
Right when you think you’re nailing parenting, BAM!
It’s time for potty training or the crib to bed transition, and you question everything you ever knew about parenting
You then decide that your children can wear diapers and sleep in a crib until high school because things just are NOT going well.
If that’s you, fret not.
You are not alone, and I promise you, you will get through this.
We’ll tackle potty training another time, but today, here are my tips for handling the crib to bed transition without losing your ever-loving mind.
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Before You Start the Transition to Twin Bed
Here are a few things to keep in mind before you start on this journey!
Keep Them in The Crib As Long As Possible
I mean, I’m just saying. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
There are certainly reasons that you need to transition your child to a big kid bed at an early age (my friend Christine does it at an exceptionally early age, and it’s worked so well for them!).
I’m not saying that if you’re having a new baby or your child is climbing out of the crib that you should keep them in!
However, I feel like there’s pressure on us as mamas to do everything as early as possible: potty training, crib to bed transition, teaching our little ones to read, etc. I
just want to put it out there… it is OK to keep your child in their crib as long as you want to (or at least as long as they fit!).
Keep the Big Picture in Mind
I am a big believer in keeping the big picture in mind when parenting. Sometimes when things are especially challenging I need to take a step back and really look at the big picture.
You are the parent. You decide when bedtime is, you decide when waketime is.
This is, in fact, easier said than done.
It takes a lot of effort to help your toddler become comfortable in their new sleeping space and a lot of work to enforce that they follow the bedtime rules.
Don’t Forget to Childproof
Not everyone childproofs their baby’s room since they’re in the crib.
Before you ditch the crib, double-check that everything is childproofed before you make the transition to bed.
Make sure there is nothing your child can get into and especially make sure to bolt all furniture to the wall.
We also skipped the toddler beds and went right into a twin bed.
Beginning the Crib to Bed Transition
Talk Up the Bed
Make a really big deal about how cool it is to get to sleep in a big kid bed!
Let them choose their own bedding, or choose a theme that you know they will love.
Definitely make your child feel that getting a new bed is an exciting adventure.
Books On Transitioning to a Big Kid Bed
One of the most impactful things you can do is to read, read, read!
I’ve linked several of our favorites below, and you can always check our your library and ask the children’s librarian for suggestions.
Books on Crib to Bed Transition
Consistent Bedtime Routine
Now is NOT the time to be changing up your bedtime routine!
If you want to change things up, I’d advise doing it a few months before you plan to start this transition.
Once the bed is in place and you’re ready to make the crib to bed transition, it’s very important that you tell your child your expectations and also the consequences of not staying in bed.
You can make exceptions if you wish, such as allowing them to get out of bed one time to use the bathroom or get a drink of water.
We don’t allow this at all, because we have learned that if we allow our kids to get out of bed to use the bathroom, they will do it every single night.
All 3 of them line up at the bathroom door, and nobody pees a single drop. So. They are no longer allowed to get up!
We use the OK to Wake Clock and have had nothing but great results with it. It turns green when the child is allowed to get out of bed in the morning.
What to Do If They Get Out
Wouldn’t it be nice if we just set the clock to turn green at a certain time and our children stayed in bed until morning?
Some parents may be so lucky, but for many of us, it’s a lot of work and consistency.
You will need to teach your child so that they learn that they need to stay in bed. Remember: you are the parent and obedience is important.
It’s also important to remember that they might be having trouble falling asleep because this new experience makes them uncomfortable and they’re nervous to stay in a big kid bed.
This was the case with our first, Theo. He’s a highly sensitive child and any type of transition is really difficult for him.
Josie and Margo, our twins, had absolutely no problem transitioning (other than testing the limits of how many times they could get into each other’s bed!)
Reward or Loss of Privilege
When we first transitioned Theo, we told him that if he stayed in bed, he could watch T.V. the next day. If he got out of bed (other than to go potty), he would lose his T.V. privileges.
This is a great time for a sticker chart: they can earn a sticker in the morning if they’ve stayed in bed all night.
Put Them Back in a Crib
If your child really likes their bed, tell them that if they don’t stay in bed like a big kid, then they will go back to their crib.
We told Theo at one point that if he couldn’t stay in bed like a big boy, then he would go back to a crib.
He readily agreed and we realized that he genuinely wasn’t ready for a bed. We had given away his crib, so he slept in a pack n play for several months.
Do not make threats that you will not fulfill. If there’s no room for a pack n play and you have given the crib away, don’t threaten to put them back into a crib.
If you’re using a crib that converts to a toddler bed, you can also turn the bed around so that the open part faces the wall, hence making it a makeshift crib.
Another discipline method is to remove items from the child’s room.
This can be a more effective method of discipline for children who need to see the consequence immediately.
Theo sleeps with a nightlight and on a rare occasion, we have threatened to take away his night light if he didn’t stay in bed.
For the most part, Theo has handled this really well, but he does have the occasional regression or just testing of the boundaries. As long as we stay consistent, he goes back to staying in bed.
His last regression was right around the time he was 4 and we very specifically told him that if he got out of bed he would lose his special stuffed animals that he sleeps with.
He got out of bed, and we went in and told him that he was losing his stuffed animals because he got out of bed. He had a massive meltdown and we let him cry for about five minutes before giving them back.
The next night, we told him the same thing, and he got out of bed again. We didn’t give them back this time and it took a LONG time for him to go to sleep because he was so upset.
I usually am not a believer in taking away a child’s special animal as a form of discipline, however, nothing else was working. It got the message across though because, after the second night, Theo hasn’t gotten out of bed again!
Baby Gate or Lock Them in Their Room
We’ve never done this, but I have a feeling we might have to resort to this when our twins transition to a bed.
If all else fails and your child will not stay in bed, remove everything from their room (or as much as possible) and put up a baby gate so they can’t get out.
This could be a problem with using the bathroom, but if they yell that they have to go, get them out, let them go, and put them right back.
Some people may think that this is a safety hazard since it will take a few extra seconds to get to your child in case of an emergency.
However, in my opinion, if you think your child is going to leave their room in the middle of the night, it will take much longer to find them than to unlock a door.
No matter what age you make the crib to bed transition, remember that it is just a short period! This phase will not last forever. Stay consistent, be flexible, and make changes as needed and you will get through this.
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