When To Transition From A Crib To A Toddler Bed

Picture of Robyn Rosenblum, MD, FAAP

Medically reviewed by Robyn Rosenblum, MD, FAAP

Parent knowing when to transition to toddler bed

As a new parent, you're often so focused on keeping your little one safe in the crib that you aren't even close to thinking about when to transition to a toddler bed. But when you’re ready, you’ll want to have all the answers at your fingertips.

In this article, we’ll share all of the details you need to know about what a toddler bed is, when to transition to one, and how to make it smooth sailing for everyone.

Table Of Contents

What Is A Toddler Bed?

when to transition to toddler bed

The toddler bed is considered the “first real bed” for little ones, which they will typically grow out of before they go to school.

The main goal of this type of bed is to act as a transition from a crib to a twin bed. Most children move from their crib to a toddler bed between one and three years old or when they reach a height of 35 inches.

Toddler beds are the same size as a standard crib and still use a crib mattress, making them more space efficient. Even though they are super low to the ground, they provide peace of mind for you with guard rails that keep your child from falling out.

They are also sometimes themed! What child wouldn’t enjoy falling asleep in a race car bed or surrounded by a Disney character?

When To Transition To A Toddler Bed

It’s important to transition your child from a crib to a toddler bed before they can climb out and hurt themselves. And as we mentioned above, when your not-so-little one reaches that 35-inch mark, they have the potential to start hopping over the rail.

Climbing could start taking place anywhere between 18 and 24 months of age. Of course, this is just a gauge. Some children may feel adventurous and start climbing sooner than 18 months, while others may never even attempt it.

If your child is not a climber, feel free to keep them in the crib past two years old. But keep in mind that the longer a baby stays in their crib, the more attached to it they become and the harder the transition to a toddler bed could be.

The developmental milestones of childhood are also a factor in when to transition to a toddler bed, such as potty training or starting solid foods.

It's not a good idea to start potty training and transitioning to a toddler bed at the same time because they are both developmental milestones. If your child is already potty trained, it's important that they can get up during the night to use the bathroom by themselves.

Remember, just because a child reaches a certain age does not necessarily mean they are ready to transition to a toddler bed. The move from a crib to a toddler bed doesn’t always come naturally, so this is a move that you'll have to consider individually for your child.

Don’t get discouraged if your little one isn’t ready to transition when you think they should be. Remember each child is different!

Timing The Transition Before A New Sibling Arrives

Sometimes, parents make the switch earlier from a crib to a toddler bed if they are expecting another baby.

If this is the case for you, try to move your toddler to their bed a few months before your baby’s due date. This will give them time to get comfortable in their new sleeping quarters before more life changes occur.

Depending on your toddler's age, you could also delay the switch until the new baby is around three or four months old. Your newborn will typically be sleeping in a bassinet in your bedroom, so your toddler has time to adjust to the new baby and toddler bed.

Know that it is essential to base the timing of the transition on whether your child is ready or not rather than the need to free up the crib.

Signs Your Baby Is Ready

Toddler standing in crib

If you aren’t sure your baby’s ready to make the big switch, some telltale signs can clue you in. Your toddler may be ready if:

  • They are successfully climbing out of their crib. You could always lower their mattress, but this isn’t a permanent solution.
  • They express interest in a “big kid” bed. This enthusiasm is a good sign that they are cognitively and emotionally ready for the upgrade.
  • Their chest is higher than the crib railing. They may not be a climber yet, but once your child’s nipples are lined up with the top of the crib railing while standing (typically when they’re around three feet tall), it may be time to transition.
  • They are potty trained for nighttime. If they can ditch the pull-ups and diapers overnight, they might be ready for a shot at a toddler bed.

Whether you’ve given it a try and it isn’t working or you are still wondering when to transition to a toddler bed, there are also signs that your baby is not ready.

Your child may NOT be ready for a toddler bed if they:

  • Suddenly take a long time to fall asleep
  • Keep getting out of bed throughout the night
  • Start wandering around the house

Safety First

Now that your child has a taste of freedom, you will have to up the ante on safety around your home.

1) Install Gates

If you have stairs, install safety gates at the top and bottom if you don’t already have them. Some suggest putting a gate on your child's door, but you need to consider fire safety. Instead, use a monitor or attach bells to the door to alert you when they are leaving the room.

2) Keep Their Bed Away From Windows

Not only do you want to prevent an unwanted draft, but you also do not want your little Curious George pushing on the window screen or trying to climb out.

3) Steer Clear Of Electrical Outlets

Try to keep the bed away from any outlets. If you have to put the bed near one, make sure nothing is plugged into it and the outlets have child-safety covers.

Reasons Parents Skip The Toddler Bed

Some parents prefer to skip the toddler bed and move their child straight into a twin bed. A toddler bed is small, so your child will outgrow it fairly quickly.

Opting for a toddler bed also means you are incurring an extra expense. While they’re not super expensive, ask yourself if it’s worth spending money on something short-term.

Something else to consider is that the preparation you did to transition your child into a toddler bed may lead to them becoming attached, only to have to transition them again into a twin bed. It can be a lot!

Each parent and child is different, so no matter which one you choose, your toddler can have a peaceful night’s sleep. If it’s the toddler bed you choose, Newton Baby has you covered with our GREENGUARD Gold Certified mattresses, meaning they exceed the highest industry emissions safety standards.

Toddler bed or not, there is always a transition involved. Consider the tips in the next section for a gentler switch.

How To Ensure A Smooth Transition

Toddler crawling

The moment you may have been waiting for: ensuring a smooth experience. Transitioning to a toddler bed is quite a milestone for your little one, and not all transitions come easy. Here are some ways you can ensure a smooth transition.

Have Your Child Help

Children love to consider themselves “big kids.” This is a great opportunity for them to feel like one. Whichever bed you choose, let your child help pick out their new sheets, pillowcases, and comforters. Letting them do this can make the move to a toddler bed seem more appealing.

Stick To Your Bedtime Routine

Stick to your bedtime routine as much as you can. The consistent and repetitive set of activities completed before bed every night helps prepare your child for sleep.

A predictable routine can help your child master a new skill, giving them a sense of security, pride, and accomplishment.

Place The Toddler Bed Where The Crib Used To Be

If you can, place the new bed where your child’s crib used to be. Consistency is key. Also, stick with their old crib blanket to give them comfort, even if it is too small.

A Restful Night’s Sleep

when to transition to toddler bed

Moving your toddler to a new bed is exciting, but it’s normal to wonder when to transition to a toddler bed. Your child might even cry and insist they want their crib back.

Stay positive and expect it to take a month or two for them to fully adjust to their “big kid” bed. By taking all of the necessary safety precautions and staying consistent with their bedtime routine, you’ll be on your way to success.

When you do make the switch, be sure you have a mattress that’s compatible with the new bed, like the Newton Baby Waterproof Crib Mattress or the Essential Crib Mattress.

It’ll be sweet dreams in no time!