First of all, don’t be freighted about the horror stories you hear from friends or read about online. Every child is different so, rest assure this is another one of those transitions that will be his/her new normal in time.
What are the signs your toddler/preschooler is ready for a toddler bed?
It’s a good idea to hold off this transition as long as possible and as long as your little one is happy and safe sleeping in a crib. However, in due time, your little one will start to show signs that he/she is ready to move on to a toddler bed. There is no specific age as to when your child should be ready. Some as young as 18 months old to sometime after their third birthday, start showing signs. Here are a couple signs:
· If your little one is attempting to climb out or has been successful in climbing out of the crib after you have lowered the mattress down to its lowest level
· If your little one has outgrown the crib and can’t sleep comfortably
First things first – prepare
Sometime before you are ready to transition your little one to a toddler bed, it’s best to prep his/her room first. It’s recommended to prepare the bedroom while your little one is still using the crib for sleeping and before he/she is showing the signs. There are lots of things to do to prepare and you will need the time it takes to be ready. When your little one is out of the crib, this gives full access to the bedroom for times he/she wonders or ventures around the room without your full supervision. Here are some suggestions in how to prepare the bedroom for safety:
· Is your little one sharing a room with a younger sibling who is still in a crib? Decide ahead of time, if possible, whether he/she should sleep in a separate room before this transition into a toddler bed happens. Will he/she disrupt his/her slipping’s sleep while wondering in the room?
· Childproof the bedroom – re-evaluate childproofing the bedroom. Sit on the floor and scan areas of the room that can become a safety hazard. Think about what he/she is capable of now that your little one is taller and loves to climb and explore
· Are there doors leading into another area of the house? Like a bathroom or medicine cabinets, closets, cleaning supplies, the stairway, an outside balcony, the pool area?
· Use safety gates, doorknob protectors which make it difficult for him/her to turn the knob, secure furniture like a dresser and bookshelves to prevent tipping over with furniture straps secured to the wall
· Lock or latch windows securely and wind up any cords hanging at his/her reach
· Remove lambs with cords, nightlights or any equipment requiring electrical plugs. Use secure outlet covers that can’t be easily pulled out or install a “safe plate”. If necessary, secure the cords with a “wire guard” and plug protector or “outlet cover with cord shortener” high and behind a secured piece of furniture
· Move out unnecessary furniture to prevent injury from climbing or jumping like a couch, chairs or tables
· Remove toys that can become too stimulating or loud for nap or bedtime. Stuffed animals, some books or medium size quite toys are good to have as toys for the bedroom. Keep in mind, even at this age, little ones like putting things in their mouths. Rule of thumb, anything that is smaller than an inside of an empty toilet roll is a choking hazard.
· Use visual monitors to watch and listen for your little one from other areas of the house; your bedroom, kitchen or where you are while he/she is alone in the bedroom
The right timing
It’s suggested to tackle one milestone at a time. Are you also transitioning with other milestones like weaning from diapers to the potty or weaning from the pacifier? Too much transitioning/weaning at one time can be stressful for you and your little one. Are you traveling in the next week or so? Having relatives visiting? Pick a time for this big transition for when the family routine is of the norm.
Choosing the right bed and bedding
Choosing the right bed for your little one can be just as overwhelming as it was when you were picking out the right crib a couple of years back. Here are a few tips on what to look for:
· Think sturdy and low to the floor as little ones like to jump or walk around on their bed and move around during sleep. Without the crib railings, they easily slip off the bed and fall on the floor or between the wall and the bed. Some parents like to place large pillows on the floor next to the bed to cushion the fall
· Look for a bed with side rails
· Keep it simple. Just like most safely designed cribs, find a bed that has a head or footboard with smooth rounded edges. Nothing that can’t pinch a finger, get a foot or leg stuck, or hook on to clothing or a toy
· Find a mattress that best fits snug and tight inside the bedframe. Most toddler beds are designed to use the standard size crib mattress
· Let your little one join in on the fun of picking out the bedding.
The big move
· Decide where you will position the bed in the room. Some parents position it in the same spot the crib was as their little one is familiar with sleeping there.
· Pay attention to what is accessible if your toddler is standing or climbing on the bed. Can he/she reach a cord from a nearby plug? Is it next to a window? Can he/her reach the window blind cord? Is it next to draperies? Is it next to a heating or cooling unit? Is the bed next to a piece of furniture with stuff stored on top? Are there shelves above the bed?
· If the bed doesn’t have side railings, it’s suggested to position the bed in the center of the room with the headboard against a wall and the sides a couple of feet away from a wall. This prevents he/she from getting stuck between the bed and the wall. Place large pillows next to the bedsides on the floor.
· Recheck screws and joints to make sure nothing is loose and all is secure.
The big transition
· Stick to the same bedtime routine as before with teeth brushing and book reading before bed. Do this about 30 minutes prior to when you know he usually gets sleepy.
· Check all the safe guards; safety gates, windows latched, doorknobs secure, and if small choke hazard toys are left of the floor
· Make sure video monitors are on
· Be prepared for new habits of asking for one more drink of water, one more book, one more hug and kiss, or any excuse to get out of bed and to keep you from leaving. This might require several trips of walking him/her back to bed in order to give the message that it’s bedtime.
· If you are consistent with the same routine, he/she will get used to the routine of sleeping in a bed.
· For the first day or so, if you find that your little one is really struggling with the new change, you might sit nearby for comfort. Once he falls asleep, you can quietly sneak out of the bedroom.
· There may be times that he/she might fall asleep on the floor or hallway. Simply carry him/her back to bed. It’s just a matter of time before he/she gets used to the new bed.
· He might wake up in the middle of the night crying because of a bad dream or some kind of disturbance. Come to him and comfort him until he is calm. Feel his forehead, arms and legs for signs of fever. If all is good, encourage him to lie back down. If you stay with him for a little while, he will fall back to sleep. I highly discourage laying by him/her in his/her bed, taking him back to your bed or sleeping with him. This will create a habit of him climbing into your bed or expecting you to sleep with him on a regular basis. If he starts the habit of climbing into bed with you, continue to take him back to his own bed. I know and I completely understand how tiring this can be; however, if you are consistent in the routine of bringing him back to his own bed, he will soon get accustom to his new bed, familiar blanket or favorite attachment(s). The habit of climbing into your bed will become a rare occasion.
Whew! Lots to think about with this big transition. I hope you find this helpful,
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