Toddler bed transition can be stressful and a little scary for some parents. When it comes to making the transition from a cot to a bed, there are two questions that need to be answered. The first is when? and the second is how?
Firstly, there is absolutely no rush to get your toddler out of their cot. I have seen plenty of 3-year olds sleeping happily in a cot.
If you’re about to start sleep training, there’s going to be a period of adjustment as your toddler learns to fall asleep independently. During this time, it’s comforting for your little one to have a familiar place to sleep. Their bedroom, their sheets, their crib, everything that can stay the same should stay the same until they have mastered the skills to fall asleep on their own.
Toddler bed transition is going to be a whole lot easier if your toddler is already sleeping through the night. A toddler who is well rested and able to fall asleep independently is far less likely to leave their room at night, which is the single biggest issue that parents run into when they move their little ones out of the cot.
The first step is preparation. You’re going to want to fill your toddler in on what’s happening. Explain to them that they’re going to be transitioning to a bed, set a date, and let them know when the switch is going to happen. When you explain what’s happening to your toddler, make sure you do it with a positive spin. On the one hand, you want to prepare your toddler for the switch, but at the same time, you don’t want to make a huge production out of it. Turning the whole thing into a monumental occasion puts a lot of pressure on your child and is likely to stress them out a bit.
Giving your toddler some input into what sheets they like and what pillows feel the most comfortable is great. It ensures that they get something they like, but will also help them feel a sense of ownership over their new bed, which can work wonders in easing the transition.
Now that the bed is put together and the sheets are on, keep the bed in the same place the crib used to be. In fact, you’ll want to keep just about everything exactly as it was in your toddler’s room except for the new bed. This is a big change, so try not to make any unnecessary additional changes. Routine is key!
When you’re getting your toddler ready for bed on that first night, don’t alter the routine, don’t switch up bedtime, don’t try to give them a new food at dinner. Keep everything as predictable and mundane as possible. Again, you don’t need to make a production out of it. Tell them you’re proud of them, but try to avoid statements like, “What a big girl you are now!”. Toddlers are typically in a perpetual state of uncertainty about whether or not they want to do this whole “growing up” thing. So we want to keep things as low-key as we can.
So, your toddler’s been put to bed and the light’s been turned out. They may do a few different things:
The solution to the latter two of these situations is the same. Offer a warning when your toddler demonstrates the unwanted behaviour. Tell them what the consequence is going to be. If they do it again, and then follow up on that consequence if and when they repeat it. Chances are that you’ve already discovered a consequence that works on your toddler. So I strongly suggest you keep that it place. Again, we don’t want anything to change except for the bed. So keep doing whatever you’ve been doing up until now in regards to managing behaviour.
When starting the process of your toddler bed transition you need to feel ready! Explain what’s happening, keep things light, set the expectations and enforce the rules. It’s not always going to be easy, but it is pretty straightforward.
As much as we’re trying to keep this transition as stress-free as we can, remember this: You are the boss. It’s almost a mathematical certainty that your little one is going to buck a bit about this change. They’ll probably leave their room a lot and make you come back and forth with glasses of water! More than anything, say that they’ll wants to go back to sleeping in their cot.
It’s crucial that you hold your ground every step of the way here, especially during the first few weeks of the toddler bed transition. If you start bending the rules and allowing them to climb into bed with you. Then this process is going to go on for months.
So harden your will, maintain an air of calm authority, and enforce the rules firmly and consistently. It may make you feel like a bit of a tyrant at times, but it will get your little one sleeping peacefully in their new bed a whole lot sooner.