Making the transition to a toddler bed - 3 mistakes to avoid
It’s always so exciting moving to the next stage with your baby, toddler, preschooler and child - introducing solids, seeing them crawl and walk, when they’re able to communicate with you using words! These all mark huge milestones in parenting, and sometimes we are so excited about the next stage (I’m definitely guilty of this myself!) we find ourselves wishing away the stage they are at, not really realising what is in store for us when our children do meet that next milestone.
Moving from a cot to a ‘big bed’ is one of these exciting stages. There are so many gorgeous single sized duvet covers to choose from, we can snuggle up in bed and read a story with our toddler instead of squishing onto a chair together, they can get themselves into bed without being lifted over the side of a cot! But this also means they can get themselves out an awful lot easier than they can if they’re in a cot… cue frustrating bedtimes and nights.
Here are my top 3 mistakes to avoid when making this exciting transition
1. Making the change when your toddler is too young
Unless having them stay in a cot is dangerous (they are trying or being successful at climbing out), the ideal age to move to a big bed is around 3 (or older!) This is because impulse control is non-existent before then, and if your toddler CAN get out of bed, they will! They simply don’t have the understanding that they need to stay in bed, and may find it hilarious, or become very upset at your attempts to put them back into bed.
Around 3, impulse control starts to develop, meaning you are able to put in place some big bed ‘rules’ or ‘manners’ to help your toddler understand that they need to stay in bed. This makes the transition SOOOOO much smoother for everyone in the house.
2. Introducing the big bed before childproofing the room
I have worked with so many families who say their toddler gets out of bed and plays with their toys. Or throws all their clothes out of their dresser. Or turns on the light and has a midnight party. Of course bedrooms need to be functional and having your toddler’s clothes, toys and books stored away is ideal. However, in the early few weeks of making the transition from a cot to a big bed, removing all temptation from the room can work wonders. I’ve had parents remove the lightbulb, flick the fuse, or tape over the light switch! Others have put all the toys and clothes into the wardrobe and safety latched the door temporarily.
Try to think of the room as a giant cot - just your toddler, their sleepwear and a favourite cuddly or two. After a few weeks, when you’re confident things have cemented with the change, slowly add items back into the room so it’s not a big deal.
3. Starting the transition without a plan
I get it - the bed arrives and you can’t wait to get it set up and pack down the cot! Preparing your toddler for the change ahead of time, and involving them in the process can make all the difference.
Let them know that soon they are going to move into a big bed, let them choose the duvet that will go on the bed, model what sleeping in a big bed looks like, and come up with a plan for how you are going to manage a bedtime situation which has morphed into a game of jack-in-the-box.
Consider what may help your family in preparation for this - if you suspect your toddler may really enjoy the novelty of being able to get in and out of bed, a Houdini Door Stop might be a great tool. If your child is a real stickler for rules, introducing a sleep trainer clock such as the Ooly before actually making the move to the big bed can work really well. I have also written a guide to successfully implementing a sleep trainer clock, which steps through most of this preparation and has had a lot of success!
Being well prepared and actually visualising how you as parents will navigate the transition if it isn’t textbook will help you remain consistent - and we know that consistency is EVERYTHING when we are making changes to our children’s lives.