Ready for a Big-Kid Bed?

by Ellen Scolnic

Ready for a Big-Kid Bed?

You’re reading in your living room, your toddler safe and sound in his crib, when, thump! You rush to his room and find him dazed but unharmed on the floor. Does this mean he’s ready to move to a big bed?

Most kids between the ages of 2 and 3 are old enough to leave their cribs behind. Climbing out is a good sign that it’s time. "Injuries can occur if a child is trying to climb out of the crib, especially if he hits the floor," says Suhani Mody, M.D., the assistant chief of pediatrics at Kaiser-Permanente Hospital, in Fremont, CA.

Size Matters

Even if your child doesn’t climb out of her crib, she’ll begin to outgrow it. When she reaches 35 inches tall or when the top of the side rail is below mid-chest level, it’s time to consider a bed. It’s also time if she’s running out of room to roll over comfortably or bumping her arms and legs against the slats while she sleeps, says Renee Sammaritano, M.D., a pediatrician with the University of Pennsylvania Health System, in Havertown, PA.

Bedding Down

Putting a mattress right on the floor makes it easy for toddlers to get in and out of bed. Toddler beds that use crib-size mattresses are another option, since they’re only about a foot off the ground. Or you can go straight to a traditional twin bed with a guard rail installed on one side. Whatever sleep surface you choose, position it so the head and one side are against walls, if possible. This will lessen your toddler’s chances of falling out and also remind her of her cozy crib.

A Smooth Move

Some eager toddlers don’t give their crib a second glance, but for others, leaving it creates anxiety. To ease the transition:

  • Talk with your child about sleeping in a bed "like Mommy and Daddy do," before you make the move. This will give him time to get used to the idea, says Steven Shelov, M.D., chairman of pediatrics at Maimonides Medical Center, in Brooklyn.

  • Help him feel a sense of ownership and pride in his new bed by allowing him to choose new sheets.

  • Transfer stuffed animals, blankies, and other security objects to the bed.

  • Create bedtime routines to incorporate the bed. Sit together on the end of it to read a story, or ceremoniously pull down the covers each night  — whatever it takes to make your toddler feel cozy and calm.