The question of when to transition from the crib to a bed with new found freedom, like a toddler bed or similar, is one I am often asked as a sleep consultant. My answer is one that some families are surprised by but one with the goal of the smoothest transition possible. The thought of transitioning your baby to a cute new bed can be an exciting one. New sheets, the promotion to “big kid” and new independence is a big milestone. The time will come, I promise! My hope for your family is that it takes place a time when you child is cognitively ready for the move. When is this? Are you sitting down?

3 YEARS OLD is my goal for you. Some kids are ready for this transition slightly earlier while other families prefer to stick with the crib much longer but this is the average age for a smooth transition. Why 3? Younger than this, it can be difficult for you child to cognitively understand that the physical rails of the crib are no longer there but the expectation is that they stay in that space for the entire night is in place. This freedom is one that can come with new negotiations and attempts for attention that you had not seen prior to the move. So, if your child is comfortably sleeping in their crib, lets keep them there until their 3rd birthday or after.

I know what you may be thinking… “What if they are climbing out of the crib before 3 years old? I can not risk them hurting themselves!”. I absolutely agree that safety is number one. With that being said, there are ways to attempt to safely keep them in the crib longer. Here are some tips for you if your little monkey starts to experiment with climbing out.

Lower the crib mattress to the floor – First, take a look at their crib. With most of them the option to remove the mattress frame completely and drop the mattress all the way to the floor is a good one. When you do, you want to make sure that there is no space between the top of the mattress and the bottom of the crib. If there is not, then the mattress to the floor can give you additional inches and hopefully additional months before they are able to pull themselves out.

Use a toddler sleep sack – Your child may have used a sleep sack (wearable blanket) as an infant but did you know that they make them for toddlers as well?? They keep them nice and warm but also safe by keeping the blanket off their face. Well, we can also use these to help with climbing out of the crib. The circular blanket shape at their feet often makes it harder to get their feet up of the rail as they are attempting to climb out of the crib. My advice if you choose to try this one… see if you can safely put the sleep sack on backwards so that the zipper is in the back. At their current age, playing with that zipper and taking it off may be an intriguing game.

Toddler Sleep Sack

Turn the crib around – Thinking about your crib, is the back portion of it higher than the front? If so, simply turning it around to where the higher part is in the front can be a helpful tool is discouraging your little one from attempting to climb out.

Use a crib tent – A breathable crib tent is a great way to take away the possibility of climbing out of the crib.

Teach a firm “No” – When our precious little ones do something that could be dangerous many parents choose to use a firm “No” to stop them from hurting themselves. Examples of this are touching the stove, playing with the outlet or standing on a chair. Climbing out of the crib can be just as dangerous. If you start to see them toying with the idea of climbing out, firmly telling them no can pair this behavior with other behaviors that are not safe.

Have you read the tips above and decided it is time to transition for your little one? If so, congrats! Sounds like this milestone is right around the corner. Planning the transition is important in making it a smooth one. There are many ways to support them through this time while maintaining expectations and boundaries. Toddler negotiations, power struggles, fears and attention battles are common and having a plan on how you can guide them through with confidence and consistency is key! I am here to help! For immediate assistance, check out the Toddler Sleep Video Series for detailed tips and strategies and my number 1 sleep recommendation for toddlers.


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