There comes a time in every parent’s - or in my case, aunt’s - life when they’re asked the question: when can my child sleep in a big kid bed? I’m thrilled to be the child safety resource of my family, but I had to do some digging to help answer my brother’s question about my niece’s readiness to make the move. Here’s what I shared with him:
Time It Right for Your Child
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends transitioning a child out of a crib and into a toddler bed once the crib railing is lower than their chest. At that height, children are more easily able to climb out of the crib, which can lead to injury.
While there's no set age guideline for transitioning, it usually happens between 2 and 3 ½ years old. Most experts suggest waiting until their third birthday, if possible. Every child is different, and if yours is regularly climbing out of their crib or asking for a big kid bed, those are good reasons to make the switch.
Reassess Your Childproofing
Before moving your child to a bed, think of the room like one giant crib. They may get out of bed on their own while you’re sleeping, so make sure they only have access to safe things.
Make sure any dressers, bookcases, TVs, and other furniture are anchored to the wall.
If you want to keep them in their room overnight, consider putting a doorknob cover on their bedroom door or a baby gate in their bedroom doorway.
If your child will have access to roam the house overnight, put a baby gate at the top of the stairs if their bedroom is upstairs. A baby gate or doorknob lock on the basement door may also be a good idea. Doors and windows that lead outside should also be locked and not able to be opened by toddlers.
If your child is potty training, make sure their bathroom is safe by putting all cleaning products and personal care products up, away, and out of sight. If they’re stored under the sink, put a cabinet lock on that cabinet. The same goes for medications and other products you don’t want tiny hands getting access to without your supervision.
For more tips on child-proofing your home, including age-specific, room-by-room guidance, visit www.MakeSafeHappen.com.
Determine the Bed Style
If you have a convertible crib, simply convert it to a toddler bed.
If you don’t have or want to buy furniture, you can put a crib or twin mattress directly on the floor.
If you’re buying a new bed, you can get a toddler bed, which is smaller than a twin bed and may look like a fire truck, castle, or other fun environment. A regular sized bed with safety rails also works well.
Wait to purchase a bunk bed until your child is a little older. While the bottom bunk may be a safe place for a toddler to sleep, a curious toddler may climb to the top bunk unsupervised.
Look for Safety Features
Think your monkey won’t jump on the bed? Get a bed that’s sturdy enough to stand up to their wiggling and bouncing.
A bed that’s low to the ground limits injuries from falls and makes it easier for your toddler to get in and out by themself.
A toddler bed needs rails on the side to help prevent falls. Some beds come with side rails and others allow you to add them.
Make sure the mattress fits the bed. If the bed is designed for a crib mattress, use the crib mattress. If it’s designed for a twin mattress, buy a twin mattress.
Look for a sticker from the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) on the toddler bed and any side rails you purchase to ensure these products meet industry safety standards.
Choose Bed Placement Carefully
Remember everything you thought about when figuring out where to place your child’s crib? If their crib is in a good spot, put the bed there too! A good sleeping spot is away from windows, blind cords, hot things (radiators, heat registers), and electrical cords, especially when they are attached to things that can be pulled over, like lamps.
Put the head of the bed flush against the wall. Either allow enough room on either side of the bed that your child won’t get trapped between the bed and the wall or put one side flush against a wall (so the head of the bed is in a corner) and put a side rail on the other side of the bed.
If the floor isn’t carpeted, consider putting a rug around the bed to cushion any potential falls.
Congratulations on making the decision to move your child out of a crib and into a toddler bed! Remember to pack your patience for this journey and don’t push your child into this change if they’re not ready.
Laura Dattner is a research writer in the Center for Injury Research and Policy. With both a health communications and public health background, she works to translate pediatric injury research into meaningful, accurate messages which motivate the public to make positive behavior changes.
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