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  • Writer's pictureCassandra Hyland

Making The Transition To A Bed

Updated: Apr 28

Is your toddler too big for their cot? Are they constantly trying to climb in and out of their cots? Is your toddler ready for toilet training? Then it’s time to say goodbye to that baby cot and transition your toddler into a big kid bed! This is a big moment for you as you watch your little baby begin to grow into an independent, active toddler. This article will provide you with practical information and strategies you can use to ease the transition from a cot to a bed.

The Right Age

Generally, a child makes the transition from a cot to a bed between the ages of one and a half and three years old. However, you should also consider the growth and development of your toddler. If your toddler is just too big and active for their cot or is ready to begin toilet training, then the time is right now…

If you have a new baby on the way, you may feel like it’s time to move your child into a new bed. If this is the case, there are two options for you to consider. The first option is to start the transition several months before your baby is due to allow plenty of time for your child to adjust to a new bed. The second option is to wait until the baby arrives and then after a few months, make the transition. With each of the options there are pros and cons which you should take into consideration.

Regarding the first option (transitioning your toddler before the baby arrives), it may not be such a good idea to tell your toddler that they must move from their cot to a bed because of the new baby. Your toddler may end up resenting the new baby for taking their things already! If you do decide on this option, get your toddler EXCITED about getting a big kid bed. The more involved you allow your child to be in the process, the easier the transition will be!

With the second option (transitioning your toddler after the baby arrives), if you feel that your toddler isn't ready to make the transition, this will allow your older child a few more months in their cot. Your new baby will probably begin sleeping in a bassinet, so at this stage you can wait it out before making the transition.

A Toddler Bed or A Regular Bed?

When making the transition from a cot to a bed, you will need to decide on either a toddler bed or a regular twin bed. It sometimes can be difficult to decide which way to go. Take the following factors into consideration when making your decision.

A toddler bed is especially designed for toddlers. Commonly it has low side rails on either side, to prevent your toddler from rolling out of bed while they are asleep. This bed is also a lot lower to make it safer and easily accessible for your child. There are also plenty of toddler bed designs, such as a racing car, princess castle etc. which will appeal a lot more to your toddler and probably make the transition a whole lot easier. Another point to mention about this bed is that after your child has turned 5 years old (bed will be too short after this age) you would have to buy another one. If you think your toddler will outgrow a toddler bed rather quickly then you may have to consider purchasing a regular bed instead. Otherwise you will have to buy another bed sooner than expected.

A regular bed is just like the one you use for sleeping. However, for a toddler, you have the option of a single bed or a twin bed. These two designs are smaller and a lot more suitable for children. During the beginning, a regular bed may be a little high for your toddler to access but this can be managed by using a small stool until your child can easily get in and out of their bed on their own. A regular bed doesn't come with side rails; however, this can be purchased separately and added onto the regular bed. A single or twin bed also comes in a variety of sizes and designs which your child can enjoy for years to come!

Comparatively, price also becomes a factor when considering which bed to buy for your little one. A toddler bed is expensive to buy. This could be to the fact that it is a specially made for a toddler. However, if you shop around you could find one that suits your budget. Just remember in another few years you will have to buy another bed for your child, so in the end you may end up spending double than you originally wanted. Even though when purchasing a regular bed (single or twin bed), you will probably have to buy safety rails for each side of the bed, with this included, it still works out cheaper (for all my budget friendly parents).

The style and design between a toddler bed and a regular bed varies according to the amount you want to spend. They both come in simple wooden design to elaborate racing cars, school buses, princess carriages, princess castles, tents…the possibilities are endless! The one thing to remember when choosing a bed for your toddler is that they aren't going be toddlers forever. Likes and interests will begin to change once inter-dependency begins. You thought choosing a bed was simple…

Making the Transition to Bed

You decided on moving your toddler into a big kid bed, you considered the options on the choice of beds available…Finally you are ready to face the next challenge of transitioning your toddler from a cot to a bed.

Whether or not this is going to be a challenge for both you and your toddler depends on the strategies and techniques you use during this time. It’s not easy for a toddler to leave the safety and comfort of their cots into a big bed. To help make the transition process an easier one, follow these guidelines:

  • A consistent bedtime routine should already be implemented before your toddler makes the transition. Follow the exact same bedtime routine you use with your child when they move into their new big kid bed!

  • Introduce a big kid bed to your child and talk to them about it. When going to a friends or relatives place ask them to show your toddler their bed or go to the nearest bedding shop. Get your toddler excited about their new bed. This is a big deal for both you and your toddler.

  • Involve your child with choices regarding their bed. This could be as simple as choosing the bedding sheets and pillow sets or letting them choose the bed they want. Please make sure that if you allow your child to choose their own bed, you purchase it for them. The transition process will become completely dismantled, if your toddler is excited by a big kid bed and in the end, you couldn't purchase it. It’s best that you give your child two options and they pick one out of the two.

  • When the big bed arrives make it into an exciting event for your toddler. Your toddler may already be eager to get into their new bed, so if it needs to be assembled let your toddler help!

  • Replace cot with bed if possible. It is easier for your toddler to make this transition when you put your toddler’s big bed in the same place as the cot was set up, so everything still feels the same.

  • Make your toddler’s bed cosy and comfortable. It’s a good idea to use as many things from the cot (such as soft blankets) so your toddler will feel more secure. Stuffed toys are also very common on big beds so you can probably choose a special one for your toddler to sleep with.

  • The first night it’s best to have bedtime an hour earlier. With all the excitement of a big kid bed and having a new bed to sleep in may prevent your child from getting any sleep, so be sure to initiate an early bedtime for your toddler to fall asleep. Don't forget to have a consistent bedtime routine and follow it each night.

  • When your toddler gets out of bed gently and calmly say “It is bedtime. Please lay down”. If your toddler gets up off their bed, move next to them and tuck them back into their bed. Gently say “I understand it’s a big change for you, sleeping in a new bed. You will get used to it soon. Close your eyes and go to sleep. It’s bedtime”. It’s important to be consistent and try not to let your toddler get out of their bed. For the first few nights, you may want to sit in the room with your toddler to ensure that they fall asleep. The best way to do this is to sit in the doorway of your child’s room, while your child falls asleep. You can catch up on any reading while you wait. This will give your toddler reassurance and they develop the habit of settling in and going to sleep on their own. It’s common during this time that your toddler will try and talk to you. In this case simply say “We’ll talk tomorrow. It’s time to go to sleep”. Be consistent, even if you have to say it 10 times! Soon enough your toddler will get the message and fall asleep.

  • If your toddler begins to cry be sure to comfort them. Tell your child that they need to learn to sleep in their new big kid bed and you will help by staying with them. At the beginning stay as close to the bed as you need to and gradually (each night) move a little further and further away as the bed becomes more familiar to your toddler.

  • Provide lots of praise and encouragement to your toddler when they do fall asleep in their own bed without trying to get out or when they are trying too. Say something like “I only had to remind you once to stay in your bed last night. You should be very proud of yourself. Soon you’ll remember all by yourself”.

  • When making the transition from a cot to a bed it also depends on your toddler. Each child is their own individual and how they react to various changes to their normal routine varies. You may have a toddler who has no problem making the transition and sleeps soundly in their big kid bed from the very first night or you may have a toddler who makes bedtime a nightmare. The guidelines listed above are the simplest and easiest way to help your toddler make a successful transition from a cot to a bed.

Transition Hints

Here are some practical hints you can use with your toddler during the transition process.

  • Since moving into the new bed and your toddler has a hard time falling asleep, move their bedtime earlier.

  • After a few days, your child should be able to fall asleep in their bed without trying to get out. When this happens, you can begin leaving your child for longer periods of time. Just say you’ll be right back and keep checking on your child throughout the night.

  • If you are noticing that your toddler isn't sleeping in their bed, consider letting them take books to bed. That way, your child can read themselves to sleep. Make sure that your toddler falls asleep.

  • If it’s too dark in your child’s room and they are feeling too scared to sleep in their room, purchase a night light or glows in the dark stickers for the room.

  • Play some calming and relaxing music in your child’s room at bedtime. It’s easier for toddlers to fall asleep.

  • When finding your toddler constantly getting up during the night and wondering around, just tell them to go to bed. For the first few nights, guide your child by the hand, tuck them into bed, and say goodnight and leave. Don’t argue, don’t reason. Repeat the process for as long as necessary. You may have to do it at least 6 times each night. Be consistent and soon enough your toddler will understand that they need to sleep in their own beds.

  • If worried about your toddler roaming around the house once they get up, put a baby gate up. This will not work if your child is toilet trained.

The transition from a cot to a bed is a milestone for both you and your toddler. It makes you realize that your baby is growing up. Not that long ago, you were setting up your first cot for your little one and now…a big kid bed…It’s a bitter-sweet goodbye to the first baby cot.

· Written by Lorina at Aussie Childcare Network

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