Of all the baby and toddler milestones, the one that made me the most emotional was the day we decided to move our children from their cots and cribs into a “big bed”. It felt a bit like the end of an era; an admission that our girls weren’t babies any more, and made me have to accept that they were growing in confidence and independence. I was super proud of how much they’d grown, but a a little bit sad all at the same time.
Most toddlers move into their own bed somewhere between the ages of 18 months and 3 years, and knowing exactly when to do so can be a bit of a balancing act. If they are sleeping through the night and seem comfortable in their surroundings it can be a risk to ‘rock the boat’ and make a change to their normal bedtime routine. However, if they are climbing out of their cot and risking injuring themselves, outgrowing the length of the bed, or starting to potty train, it might be time to make the transition!
From my own experience here are some tips to make the transition from cot to bed easier:
- Choose your timing carefully – just after a period of illness, after a holiday or school break when their routines are already out of kilter or when you have a really important presentation coming up at work, are probably key times to avoid. Try and chose the most “normal” time that you can, ideally starting on a Friday night so you can use the weekend days to adjust if you get a regular visitor during the night!
- Ensure their room is safe and “baby proofed” before you start – ensure that dressers and wardrobes are attached to the walls and don’t pose a fall hazard, and that any smaller items are on high up shelves out of reach, blind cords are safety tied back and that the staircase is gated or blocked.
- Consider a bed rail or similar if your child’s bed doesn’t have a supporting side. They may be used to leaning against the cot bars as they sleep, which can often cause them to fall out of bed whilst they get used to a change in their surroundings! I would also recommend placing a soft blanket or duvet on the floor so they have a soft landing in the event that they do fall out of bed.
- Make it exciting – Explain what is happening with your child and allow them to be involved – perhaps choosing some new bedding / a special pillow or cushion to add to their new “big girl/big boy” room. Showing your child how proud you are of them can make them feel really special and build up some positive anticipation. We found that my daughter was super excited to go to bed on that first night, which was so lovely to watch.
- Ensure the new bed is in the same place (or as near as possible) to the cots location and direction within the room. Just like we can feel a bit disorientated when we wake up in a hotel or sleep on the ‘wrong’ side of the bed, something as simple as changing the positioning can have a confusing impact.
- Start with daytime naps first, enabling them to wake up in their new surroundings in daylight and taking in the look and feel of their environment before the darkness of bedtime sets in.
- It can take a little while for them to fully transition and this new found freedom may result in a few extra visits during the night when they realize they can quickly and easily find their way to your room. Trust me when I say there is NOTHING scarier than being woken by a small face starting at you just millimetres away from your nose, so I would recommend a video or sound monitor so you can be alerted to them coming!
- Finally, offer lots of praise and reassurance – we used a reward sticker chart to congratulate them on sleeping in their own bed all night. Whilst these might not work for everyone, we found they had a really positive impact with our girls and they got real joy from putting on the sticker themselves and seeing they were one step closer to a new toy or object of desire!