One of our local experts offered to field this question, which comes up over and over again: For the past few days my son (2) won’t stop climbing out of his crib, and I’m afraid he will get hurt! Does this mean he’s ready for a toddler bed? Won’t he just get out of that too and play with his toys? Any tips will help!
Here’s what Stef from AskaNanny.com said:
Yes, this child is ready, and your child might be as well. For the sake of their safety, and your sanity, when they begin to climb out of the crib it is time. Sure, you may be able to find ways of keeping them in, but toddlers are determined and love a challenge! So I strongly suggest that when your toddler (over the age of 2) begins to climb out of their crib or requests to sleep in a big bed like yours, be ready with a few easy ways to ease the transition out of the crib:
1) Invest in a toddler-sized bed. I know a toddler bed has short-lived role, but it’s a very important one, and will help the most in the transition. By offering a bed that they can get in and out of on their own, you boost their sense of independence and ownership. Toddlers are all about “me do it” and “mine” after all, so play to these motivations and get them excited about their new bed. Other bonuses of the toddler bed: it’s a shorter fall if they roll out or are just fooling around (I would still suggest a thick rug or foam matting though); you can’t fit in there and therefore falling asleep with them in the middle of the night won’t happen; toddler beds are cheaper than a twin mattress set and bed frame; and, you can use all your crib sheets a little bit longer if you chose a frame that works with your crib mattress!
2) Transition at the right time. Understanding what’s happening with their development will help you to choose a perfect time to make the transition. Most “terrible twos” rear their head just before the second birthday, and then again at the tail end of the second year. (So 21 – 23 months and 30 to 36 months they may be less flexible and open to change.) Just-turned-2 year olds are usually rather pleasant and open to new ideas. Of course you know your toddler best, so when you feel like you can come up for air and the pre-2 screaming and tantrums are subsiding, that’s when I would introduce the bed – before the 2.5 tantrums come in. That said, make sure there are no other major transitions happening in their life at the time, like moving daycare classrooms or the birth of a sibling.
3) Let them pick out the bedding. This goes along with #1. Taking ownership is what toddlers do best: once they claim it, it belongs to them and no one else. Awesome! I use this to my advantage when transitioning toddlers for anything, really, by offering a choice. So when they are potty training, you pick two potties and let them choose the one they want. Same with moving to a toddler bed. Pick two comforters you like and have them make the final decision. (Even if you have bedding at home for the toddler bed, it really is important to have them pick a new blanket or sheets for their bed.) Limit it to two choices and offer the choice away from the bedding aisle, or she will automatically want the ones on the shelf and not in your hands.
4) Make a game plan for when they get out of bed. Whatever you decide, install a baby gate on their door. (I would do it before you even introduce the bed to normalize it.) Choices for addressing the exodus: 1) Ignore and let play. With this choice you will need to baby proof the heck out of his room, and then when he passes out on the floor, pick him up and put him in his bed night after night until he just goes there to pass out on his own. 2) Go in and put back in bed. Every time you see him get out, go in and put him back in bed. Do this without much emotion and talking. Just repeat the same phrase “It’s time for you to sleep,” or something like that. This is the toddler version of sleep training (like you may have done when they were a baby, going in every 5, 10, 15 min). Be supportive and firm, but shower with positive attention before bed and in the morning.
These ideas are just the tip of the iceberg! If you would like more tips head over to Stef’s AskaNanny.com post “Ready for a Toddler Bed?”! Stef is the expert nanny behind the parenting advice website AskaNanny.com, where questions about your 0 to 3 year old get answered for free. She lives in San Francisco with her highschool sweetheart and her two boisterous children. Ask her your question today at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @askananny #thenannyisin