A major milestone that stands between the exit of infancy and the entrance to childhood is the move from a crib to a big kid’s bed. How do you ensure your little one continues to rest easy while you make the move?  Check out our list of dos and don’ts to promote healthy sleep for your big kid and avoid a transition nightmare.


  • Do wait until your child is developmentally ready to understand sleep rules. Most kids are able to comprehend the expectations that come with a big kid’s bed when they are around three years old.
  • Don’t rush your little one out of the crib when there are other changes occurring in your child’s life. It is best not to make the move when a new baby is coming, your family is moving or you are potty training.
  • Do try everything you can to keep your toddler in a crib until he is as close to three as possible. If you have a toddler who is nowhere near three and he has learned how to jump out of the crib, you might first try a sleep sack. Sleep sacks are great because they provide a cue that it’s time to sleep. They also ensure your child won’t get tangled up in blankets or become cold throughout the night. An added bonus to using a sleep sack is that they prevent climbers from achieving the leg extension they need to make the leap. Another tip that seems obvious but can be overlooked is to lower the crib mattress to its lowest position. Some cribs can be turned around so the headboard, which is typically higher and against a wall, will face out and make it more difficult for your child to jump the rails. If all that fails, catching your escapee in the act, saying a firm, “No,” and returning him silently to the crib repeatedly is your best option. If you’ve pulled out all the stops and you cannot keep your child in the crib you must move him to a bed for his safety.
  • Don’t make the move because your toddler is not sleeping well and you feel he will sleep better in a big kid’s bed. A crib provides more than enough sleeping space for most children under three years old and the newfound freedom will usually lead to more problems as opposed to less.
  • Do ensure your child is sleeping well in the crib before the move. The more solid the foundation for healthy sleep is in the crib, the smoother the transition will be.
  • Don’t abandon the bedtime routine. Remember that little ones thrive in a consistent environment. When they know what to expect at bedtime they will be more confident in themselves as independent sleepers.
  • Do get your big kid prepared for the move. Invite him to help pick out some new bedding or a new big kid’s bed. Talk about the upcoming transition and explain that he will still go to sleep the way he always has, the only thing that has changed is the bed.
  • Don’t forget about sleep rules. A big kid who sleeps in a big kid’s bed needs to understand that with this great privilege comes great responsibility. Your child needs to know that he is expected to stay in his bed until the morning.
  • Do give your big kid a visual cue to know when he can get out of bed in the morning. Try a tot clock or cover the minutes on a digital clock with electrical tape so that only the hour is showing. Teach your little one how to check for the number seven or the hour you choose to start the day.
  • Don’t forget about implementing a consistent plan if your toddler tests the boundaries of the big kid’s bed. If your child gets out of bed in the night, take him by the hand and walk him back to his big kid’s bed. Don’t acknowledge him or make eye contact as this will reinforce the behaviour. Don’t give more hugs or tuck-ins. If you don’t give any attention to the behaviour it will be short-lived and your child will learn to stay in bed.

If you find yourself in the middle of a transition nightmare, don’t forget we’re here to help. Follow our dos and don’ts of the crib to bed transition or reach out to us and we’ll help you, help your big kid, rest easy.

Alysa Dobson is a Certified Child Sleep Consultant with SleepWell Baby.  She works with families to help them get the sleep they need.  Alysa offers support to parents with children ages 4 months- 8 years old through both in home and remote consultations.  She can be contacted at alysa@sleepwellbaby.ca.

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One response to “The Dos and Don’ts of the Crib to Bed Transition”

  1. Petra says:

    My daughter just turned two years old and I thought that she needed to move to a bed because she is very tall it looked a little tight in the crib. We already moved a twin bed in her room and kept the crib in the room beside hers. She has no interest in the bed and I have been giving up and putting her in the crib in the other room. Will this arrangement ruin any future chances of sleeping in her bed or should we just move her crib back in her room and take out the bed?

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