Transitioning a child from a crib can be challenging for everyone involved. For the parents, it can be emotionally difficult to see their little ones officially move out of the “baby” stage, even when they have been walking and talking for a few years. Some children are ecstatic to sleep in a “big” bed knowing the independence that comes along with such a move. Others may be more hesitant and cling to what they know and are comfortable with every day. There is no telling how the transition process will go until one decides to do it. Each child is different and will have different issues and support needs relating to moving out of a crib.
Here are a few recommendations that may help parents keep their sanity and allow their children to be better rested and safe throughout the course of this change:
- Timing: Generally, parents move a child from a crib to bed between the ages of 3 and four years, but this age varies based on the family and child. When a child is repeatedly climbing out of their crib, creating a potentially unsafe situation, it is probably time to put the crib away. If a child is asking to move and it seems appropriate, it may be best for the parents to try the transition sooner rather than later.
- Type of Bed: Parents may find the transition easier using a smaller toddler bed, versus a standard twin bed. And, it may be helpful to place the new bed in the same spot where the old crib was so that the child can have a familiar view and perspective. Getting a child involved in picking out the bed and the bed linens may also help them look forward to the change and feel more comfortable with it. Be sure to move all toys and stuffed animals from the old crib into the new bed. Anything a parent can do to create a recognizable setting in the new bed will help.
- Safety: When a child is no longer in a crib and not surrounded by protective bars, parents should be extra vigilant when it comes to child proofing their bedroom and the surrounding space. All medications and creams, as well as sharp and/or hot objects should be kept out of reach or removed altogether. Also, railings can be easily added to toddler and twin beds to keep a child from falling out.
- Early Bedtime: It can be helpful to put a child to bed thirty minutes earlier when they are transitioning to a bed. Given the fact that many children will keep getting out of bed once put to bed in the initial days of this process, this extra time may just be the primary buffer they need to stay rested.
- Patient, but Firm: Getting a child to remain in their new bed can be challenging. Parents should be prepared with extra hugs and kisses and soft voices to help keep their little ones calm and give them the emotional support they need during this time of change. When children continue to get out of their beds after being put to bed, parents need to be consistent and firm with them. Children need to be reminded that it is bedtime and they need to go back to their bed and STAY in their bed. Even if parents have to repeat this phrasing over and over, eventually it will take hold, and things will get easier all the way around.
Before and during the big move, parents are encouraged to keep talking to their children – check in on their feelings, ask them how they think it is going, and see if they have any ideas that would make their new sleeping setup better. Children can have great suggestions – ones that adults may never have thought of – and these are the type of ideas that can lead to more restful nights, faster.
About the Author:
Gladys Ruiz is the Director of Little Children Schoolhouse in Brookline, MA. After more than ten years working in Early Childhood Education, Gladys opened the Little Children Schoolhouse to provide a nurturing, loving environment—an extension of her student’s home and family life—in Brookline. Pre-K, Preschool and Daycare programs for toddlers and infants include extra activities, such as weekly music, yoga, cooking, science activities, and field trips. Both full day and part-time enrollment are available.