If you’re like many parents, you are a little nervous about switching your little one from his crib to a toddler bed. Many parents find themselves putting it off, either because they like keeping their child in the safe confines of the crib, or because they are nervous about how their little ones will make the change. If you are concerned that your little one won’t handle the transition well, here are 5 tips that will make it easier.
1. Talk to him about it ahead of time. Don’t just set up the bed, remove the crib and expect your child to jump into it joyfully on the first night. Like adults, many children are resistant to change. Remember, the crib is all your little one has known for the better part of two or three years. The crib, hopefully, has come to be a place of security, comfort, and happy play upon waking and he might not be eager to give it up. Tell him that he is getting to be such a big boy that he will soon be getting a special bed. Consider taking him with you when you buy the bed and having him watch you set it up.
2. Don’t remove the crib right away. Ideally, you should set up the toddler bed in his room without encouraging him to sleep in it. It can be traumatic for a toddler to go into his room and find his crib missing and a foreign bed in its place. If you leave the toddler bed in his room for a couple of days, he may even ask if he can sleep in it. Be sure to point out his new “special” bed when you are in his room.
3. Introduce it at nap time. If your child is reluctant to sleep in the toddler bed, introducing it at nap time is your best bet. If your child can lie in the bed during day light hours and be able to survey his surroundings, he may be more comfortable with the idea. Do not insist that he start sleeping in his new bed at night.
4. Use a side rail. Aside from the obvious safety benefit, using a side rail may give your child the sense of security he had in his crib. He has been surrounded by four high walls for his entire life. Putting the bed against a wall and using a side rail for the other side will keep him from feeling like he may fall out of bed. (Note: Do not buy second-hand side rails. The best rails are the ones you purchase with your bed. Be sure that all of the screws are tightened securely and that there is no gap between the rail and bed frame in order to prevent your child getting his limbs caught in the rail.)
5. Be patient. Though some children will hop into their toddler bed and never want to go back to the crib, others will tenaciously cling to their former bed. For the first few days, you should be flexible and willing to allow him to go back into his crib. If this seems to be counterproductive, you may find it best to remove the crib altogether. Expect your child to get out of bed. However, don’t indulge this behavior or humor him…even if you think it’s cute. Patiently put him back in his bed and minimize your verbal interactions with him in the process. Praise your child for staying in his new bed.
Making the switch to a toddler bed takes a period of adjustment for both you and your child. You need to adjust because the child who used to stay in his crib for eleven hours straight can now come out of his room at any time of day or night. Your child is adjusting to a change in surroundings, routine and mobility. If you remain patient, consistent and loving, you will make the transition easier on both of you.