When to Convert Crib to a Toddler Bed and How to Transition

Making the transition from crib to toddler bed can be a difficult process, but it doesn’t have to be. Today we’re going to explain exactly how to transition a toddler into a bed.  This includes things like answering: When to convert a crib to a toddler bed? How does the transition happen?  What are some key tips for success? 

When to Convert Crib to Toddler Bed and 10 Tips for Easy TransitioningWe have all the answers you need. 

But why should you listen to us? 

Combined we’ve helped transition many, many children from a crib to a toddler bed. Lots of different aged toddlers. With a vast range of temperaments and personalities. 

So we’ve seen it all when it comes to getting kids to sleep in their “big-kid beds”. 

And we want to help you too! Let’s dive right in. 

Disclaimer: This page contains affiliate links. See our disclosure policy for more details.

Here’s When to Convert a Crib to Toddler Bed 

So what age do you transition from crib to a toddler bed?

The easy answer: 2 years old.

The complicated (but more accurate) answer: It depends.

We’ve found that the best age to transition is usually when they are around two years old. But the truth of it is there’s no exact recommended age for converting your child’s bed from a crib to a toddler bed. 

You’ll have to consider a variety of other factors such as their emotional, physical, and mental development. And, of course, how receptive they might be about making this change. 

The physical factors you have to consider is if your child has enough coordination of their body to turn themselves and slide out of the bed. A good sign might be when they begin to climb out of their crib on their own on the lowest setting.

Mental factors may involve whether or not your toddler understands concepts like “bed” versus “crib”, as well as being mature enough to stay in their bed all night.

Also consider your family’s current situation. Do you need the crib for an upcoming baby? Are you moving and this would be a good time to ditch the crib?

To give you a real, tangible answer regarding when to convert crib to a toddler bed, we polled some parents on Facebook. We asked them, “when did you transition your toddler from their crib to a toddler bed?”

You’ll see that we got a huge range of responses – from 8 to 36 months!

The average age of when to convert a crib to a toddler bed was 20 months with the most popular selection being 2 years of age.

But you’ll see over half of parents chose to transition their kids between 1 1/2 and 2 1/2 years of age.

Parents answering poll of when to convert crib to toddler bed

Signs Your Child Is Ready for a Toddler Bed

Knowing when to transition to a toddler bed isn’t always as easy as you might think!

Here are a few clues your child might be ready to transition to a toddler bed:

  • When they are able to climb out of the crib on their own when the mattress is in the lowest position – this is usually when approach a height of 36 inches.
  • They attempt to get into their crib for nap time, at night, or any time they just want to rest and take a break.
  • Your toddler is able to understand concepts like “crib” versus “bed.”
  • They’re tired of sleeping in a crib – whether that be because it reminds them too much of being an infant or just because all their friends are sleeping with big kid beds now.
  • Your child asks for a bed, plain and simple.
  • When your toddler can occupy themselves in the crib after they wake up.
  • Your toddler cries at night to leave the crib to go potty.

If you are noticing any of these signs your child is ready for a toddler bed, we’ve got the method of how to transition below!

Toddler sitting on the edge of a toddler bed

How Long Can a Toddler Sleep in a Crib?

For those parents not eager to make the switch, rest-assured that many toddlers can safely remain in their cribs until 3 or even 3 1/2 years old. 

In fact, some research has suggested that toddlers sleep better in cribs between 2 and 3 years old. They found that “crib sleeping was associated with going to bed earlier, falling asleep sooner, waking up less often during the night, sleeping for longer stretches during the night and resisting less at bedtime.”

But there are a few instances children should absolutely begin to transition out of their crib.

The biggest reason when to convert the crib to a toddler bed is safety.

For starters, they should move to a toddler bed when they are above the height and weight requirements for the crib. Of course this varies by brand, but a good rule of thumb for your child’s comfort is a height of 36 inches and/or a weight of 40 pounds.

Additionally, if they are constantly climbing out of the crib in an reckless manner (for example: falling down on their head or hitting nearby furniture) – they can no longer safely stay in the crib.

Mentally, it’s also a good idea to consider switching if your child is frustrated, rather than comforted, by the close confines of the crib.

Infographic for how to transition toddler to bed

Steps for Transitioning Into a Toddler Bed 

We find the easiest method is to gently get your toddler used to the idea of transitioning out of his crib.

Step 1: Safety

The first step is to look around and make sure your child’s room is safe and ready for a bed.

Chances are with their new-found freedom, they’ll get out of their bed the first few nights to explore. Make sure all large furniture is secured to the wall, there are no choking hazards or lotions they may try to eat, outlets are tamper proof, blind cords are tied up out of reach, and a baby gate is blocking off areas of the house they are not allowed to go.

Step 2: Talk it Up

Praise your toddler when they do “big kid” things. This could be activities such as helping clean up their toys, sorting the laundry, wiping the counter, going potty, feeding themselves, etc.

Be sure to praise them for being independent and “being a big kid”. This allows you to bring up the idea of sleeping in a “big kid bed” just like their parents!

Then talk it up! Talk about how exciting the toddler bed will be and how they are going to start sleeping in one.

When kids know what’s coming and can anticipate it – they’re much less scared when faced with change.

Step 3: Give Them a “Choice”

Help your toddler get excited about their bed by choosing some whats and whens.

What – let them choose the style/design of toddler bed (see the best ones below!) and any extras like sheets or pillows. Just make sure you narrow it down to your top 2 or 3 choices before giving them final say.

When – let them choose what day of the week they want to make the switch and then count down. This lets them feel like they’re in control of the change.

Step 4: Start with Naps

Start by letting your child nap in their new bed before sleeping there at night.

Napping first will help your toddler adjust to the change while they’re still fresh and less likely to resist or have a meltdown when faced with it.

Your little one is sometimes most open-minded when he’s sleepy – so using this time as an opportunity for transitioning can be very helpful! When you put him down for his nap, let him know that next time he should try sleeping in his new “big kid” bed instead of his crib.

Step 5: The First Night

Do your bedtime routine as normal on the night you’ve decided to fully convert from the crib to a toddler bed.

When it’s time to go to sleep, remind your child again that they will be in their new bed tonight. Gently help them climb into their toddler bed and tell them how proud you are for being such a “big kid”. Then continue your goodnight routine as normal.

This is an important night to be patient with your little one – they may need lots of reassurance this first night or may even cry as they adjust.

Stay there until your toddler falls asleep if needed and then come back at least once during their slumber just to check on them! Your little one will feel your presence and you’ll be reassured they’re OK.

Step 6: Cross Your Fingers and Hope All Goes Smoothly

That’s it! You’ve set yourself up for success and your child has to take it from here.

We hope they’ll make this transition as smooth as possible for your little one and provide some peace of mind while crossing off another developmental mile stone.

Not going as well as you’d hoped – we have helpful troubleshooting tips below!

Mad toddler girl

Tips for When the Transition to Toddler Bed Is Not Going Well

When transitioning from a crib to a toddler bed, things don’t always go smoothly. There are many things that parents should keep in mind if the transition is a little bumpy. 

For the most part, the biggest problem parents face is a child that won’t stay in their new bed. Kids can also get into all sorts of other antics when they are not sleeping in their beds. This is a major source of frustration for parents. Here are 10 tips on easy transitioning for you!

Stick To Your Routine

Don’t try to make a bunch of changes at once. Switching beds is a big change for a little kid. Give them some consistency by not making any other changes to their usual bedtime routine at this time. 

If it feels like the transition isn’t going well, it can be tempting to try to switch up more in the hopes of getting back on track, but changing the rest of their usual routine can just make it more difficult. 

Their routine is their signal for sleep. It should help them unwind, calm down, and relax. Stick to it as closely as possible!

This is especially important when you’re transitioning your toddler to use the crib for a new baby. It may even be convenient to condense or otherwise switch around their bedtime routine to accommodate the sibling, but this is a ton of changes for a toddler. If changes must be made to the bedtime routine, try to do them incrementally.

Use A Security Object

Let your toddler have a familiar comfort item like a lovey, blankie, stuffie, or other toy to help them feel secure in their new bed. 

Many kids form an attachment to a particular toy or blanket. This security object can help provide comfort and emotional support to your toddler during this transition.

If your shield doesn’t already have a lovey, you may want to try to promote picking a special toy and incorporating it into bedtime.

Read Books About Big Kid Beds

There are a bunch of cute books for little ones specifically about transitioning from the crib to a big kids bed.

My favorite book for toddlers in A Big Kid Bed Is Coming! by Liz Fletcher. The cute story about an elephant who has outgrown his crib keeps the transition positive and has a nice rhyming rhythm to hold toddlers attention.

Talk About It

Communicate with your child about what they should be doing and see if you can get to the bottom of why that’s not happening.

They may not fully understand exactly what you are expecting. Make sure rules have been clearly stated and that your child comprehends.

Also, try to figure out the root of their behavior. Change can be hard, especially on little people who rely on stability. They could feel scared or uncomfortable or they may be testing out the new limits.

See if you and your toddler can problem solve together to find solutions that meet both of your needs.

Make The Bed Special

In theory, if the bed is a place that they really want to be, they’re more likely to stay in it at bedtime. Make the bed a special (but still relaxing) spot.

Let your little one pick out a new blanket, pillow, or stuffed animal for their bed. This can help make the bed feel as comfy and cozy as possible for your child.

Remove Distractions

How can anyone sleep when there are so many fun things around to play with and explore? 

Your toddler may be taking full advantage of their new freedom and playing instead of sleeping.

Taking toys out of the bedroom, at least temporarily, can help alleviate some of that temptation.

Gate The Doorway

If your toddler insists on coming out of their room, consider putting a baby gate in the doorway to their bedroom. Not only is this disruptive for parents, but it can also be dangerous, especially if they are getting up at night while you’re sleeping. 

A gate allows the door to be open, you to see in, and still contains your little one.

Be Calm, Boring, and Consistent

While your toddler may be testing out their new freedom by popping out of their bedroom every few minutes, don’t give them any additional reasons to keep doing it. 

They could be looking for attention, excitement, or just curiosity. This can be exasperating for parents, but the best way to handle it is to keep your cool and put them back to bed with as little interaction as possible over and over and over again as needed.

Getting upset, arguing, or yelling will not help and may even reinforce attention seeking. Take a breath, stay calm, keep chit chat to minimum, and just get them back in bed.

The hardest part is doing this consistently when you are also tired and frustrated, but is it also the key to showing your child that the result will not change.

Positive Reinforcement 

Offering incentives for staying in bed can be a strong motivator for some kids. Reward systems are a popular parenting tool and your toddler may respond really well. Earning a morning tv show, sticker, animal in their bed, or other treat could be just the ticket to getting your little one to stop getting up at bedtime.

Heaping on lots of praise when they stay in bed and go to sleep is also a good way to positively reinforce this behavior.

Give It Time

If you don’t absolutely have to switch your child to the big kid bed yet, consider the possibility that they could be struggling because they are not ready yet. 

It might make sense to simply wait and try again later. Waiting could lead to a smoother transition in a few more months.

Toddler girl sleeping with a blanket

No-Nos for Making the Toddler Bed Switch

While there are a variety of different methods for transitioning your child to a toddler bed that may work, there are a few things all experts agree you should avoid when making the switch.

  • Do not transfer your child to their new toddler bed for the first time after they fall asleep. When your child wakes up in the middle of the night and is not used to their new bed, they are more likely to be confused, cry, and refuse to go back into their new bed.
  • Do not remove the sides of a crib which isn’t designed for toddler bed use. This can make the furniture unsafe and less stable.
  • Do not transition from a crib into a toddler bed without a railing or protection of some sort. Since they are used to having a sides of the crib, they will be more likely to fall during the night while sleeping.
  • Do not lock their bedroom door to prevent them from leaving the room.

A girl toddler sleeping with a pacifier

Is It Worth Buying a Toddler Bed?

Whether or not to buy a toddler bed depends on several personal factors and preferences. 

The easiest thing is when you already have a crib that converts to a toddler bed so no need to purchase anything new. However, even that doesn’t always work out if you need to use that crib for another baby. Plus, not all cribs can convert either.

So should you opt for the toddler bed or just go straight to a twin or even larger bed?

Well, there isn’t a “right” decision, rather just determining which is best for your family.

Some reasons you may want to get a toddler bed include:

  • You can keep using those crib sheets longer.
  • They are low to the ground and have a rail to keep your toddler from falling out and getting hurt.
  • Some kids feel more “cozy” and may sleep better
  • The smaller bed takes up less space which is great if they’re sharing rooms or you want them to have more space to play in their room.

On the flip side, some reasons you may choose to skip the toddler bed include:

  • The cost of buying another bed. *Probably the biggest deciding factor*
  • The relatively short amount of time that a toddler bed is used.
  • You can put a bed rail on a regular mattress to protect your toddler from falling or place the mattress on the floor.
  • Bigger beds have more room which some kids find more comfortable for sleeping as well as for parents to lie on during storytime or comforting kiddos at night.

Toddler sleeping in the bed of a tractor

Top-Rated Toddler Beds

Here are some of the top rated toddler beds to help you pick which will be best for your child.

Dream On Me Classic Design Toddler Bed

The top selling bed has a sturdy construction, is reasonably priced, gets rave reviews, and comes in several different colors to fit with your toddler’s personality and style.

Delta Children Plastic Toddler Bed – Paw Patrol

Though it may not exactly go with the decor you were hoping for, kids go bonkers for these fun toddler beds. Toddlers can pick from several of their favorite characters to have a bed that they will love and hopefully stay in long enough to fall asleep. As an added bonus, they’re a really affordable option too.

Delta Children Canton Toddler Bed

For a toddler bed that looks grown up, you can’t go wrong with this one! Receiving fantastic reviews praising the quality and sturdiness of the bed as well as the ease of assembly, this toddler bed is a crowd pleaser.

Toddler sleeping on white pillow

When to Switch From Toddler Bed to Full Size Bed

The transition from toddler bed to twin bed (or larger) has a wide age range. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) describes toddler bed limits as a minimum of 15 months old and a maximum of 50 lbs. A maximum age for toddler beds is not mandated, though generally they are generally used by kids under 5. The bed manufacturer might also give their own recommendation.

For most families, the decision to move to the big bed is often because the child outgrows the toddler bed or other specific circumstances such as needing the toddler bed for a younger sibling or even redecorating the bedroom.

If your child has reached the weight maximum or is too tall to lay comfortably, it is time to move to a bigger bed.

The Conversion Takeaway

While it depends on many factors when to convert crib to toddler bed, most parents choose to do it around age 2.

Be gentle and patient with both yourself and your toddler. After all, it’s a big change for both of you!

Do you have any tips for making the transition? Funny stories about switching to toddler beds? Let us know in the comments below!

When to Convert Crib to Toddler Bed and 10 Tips for Easy Transitioning

About Author

Jo & Rachel

Jo and Rachel first had the idea for 'The Moms At Odds' in 2016 when our babies were turning 2 and we realized that we were very different parents.

As a mom, Rachel immediately felt this strong connection to her son and instantly decided she wanted to become a stay-at-home mom. Though Jo obviously loved her son as well, she counted the days until she could go back to work and interact with other adults.

They both struggled over getting their babies to sleep and while Jo believed in sleep training, Rachel looked for alternatives like dream feeding and no cry methods. As time passed and their children grew older the differences started to really add up – pacifier use, drinking during breastfeeding, organic foods, screen time, diaper brands, and on and on.

During this day and age, it’s so easy to look at our parenting differences as a bad thing. After all, we’ve all seen jokes and articles about “Mommy Wars” over one subject or another. Instead, we choose to embrace our differences and show you that in many areas there is no wrong answer. What works for one family may not work for another, and that’s perfectly fine. We can still all get along and raise perfectly healthy, beautiful children.

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