From Crib to Toddler Bed
Cribs are recalled due to safety defects and hazards from time to time, so check with the manufacturer before making your purchase. When conducting your own inspection, watch for the two common problems. First, the slats shouldn't be more than 2⅜ inches apart so children can't get their heads caught between them. Second, make sure older models weren't painted with a lead-based paint.
Cribs are not for climbers! Be careful about putting toys into a toddler's crib; if she steps on top of them, it may give her just the boost she needs to make it up the side and over the bars. It is dangerous for toddlers to climb over the bars of the crib because a fall from such a great height poses the risk of injury. Some little monkeys surprise their parents by managing to climb out not long after their first birthday. Put some padding on the floor beneath the crib to soften it in the event of a fall. As soon as your little one begins scaling the bars, it's time to move up to a toddler bed.
Toddler beds are a great next step because they have rails to keep youngsters from falling out — and from feeling afraid they might fall out. They are also lower to the ground and pose less danger to climbers; although if a child is routinely crawling out, it may be better to keep the bars down to reduce the risk of a fall.
Many children are in love with their toddler beds initially because they're so easy to climb out of! Parents must decide whether it's better to lower the bars, which makes climbing less dangerous or to keep the bars up to prevent a fall while sleeping. Another option is to have the child sleep on the mattress on the floor.
Since many toddler beds use the same size mattress as a crib, it's best to stick with the old one if at all possible. The familiar feel and smell of the old mattress can help smooth the transition from the crib. The quality of toddler bed frames varies dramatically from brand to brand. If you plan to lie down with your child to read stories or sleep, be sure to get a model sturdy enough to support both of you.
Making the Transition
How will your toddler handle the transition from crib to toddler bed? There's simply no way to predict it. It's smooth as silk for some, decidedly difficult for others. If a child is very resistant to change, slow to adapt to new situations, or a sentimentalist, leaving the safety and security of the crib can be trying. Given a toddler's love of predictability and routine, it's a bad idea to let him step into his room to find his beloved crib gone. He may not find his parent's idea of a great surprise to be so wonderful. Perhaps he didn't like his crib at all. Nevertheless, it was the steady friend that kept him safe night after night for as long as he can remember. If possible, provide a gradual transition.
The secret to getting youngsters to give up their crib more willingly, many parents say, is to have them participate in the process from the very beginning. If parents assume the role of enthusiastic cheerleaders trying to whip up excitement about the change, it will be infectious. Try these ideas:
Have toddlers help pick out their very own “big boy” or “big girl” bed, or at least the sheets.
Have them assist as you haul the bed into the room and set it up.
Ask if they want their crib toys moved. If so, hand over the toys one by one and let them do the arranging.
Let a doll try it out for size, or ask if you can lie on it.
Play a pretend game of “nite-nite” so the youngster can try it out long before naptime or bedtime, when they're likely to be less frazzled and cranky.
No matter how well toddlers seem to be handling the switch up to this point, it's anybody's guess how they will react when it's time to bed down for the night. Many toddlers find the change upsetting. Here are a few more ideas to help ease this transition:
Let your youngster choose which bed to sleep in if possible. Some youngsters take to it instantly, but months may go by before they suddenly decide they're ready.
Raise the bars on the toddler bed so they feel more secure and aren't afraid of falling out.
Consider leaving the bedroom door open or a night light on to lessen fearfulness.
Put a gate across the doorway to discourage roaming.
Avoid making the change when other major upheavals are occurring, such as a change in sitters or the birth of a sibling.
Provide some extra bedtime TLC to help your toddler calm down so she can drift off.
If you must remove the crib, it may help to let an upset child sleep on the mattress on the floor next to the toddler bed.
Some toddlers gladly make the move and never again express an interest in their crib. However, for many the excitement and enthusiasm about being “a big boy” suddenly disappears at naptime. Or, a youngster may be happy to nap in his new bed during the day, only to appear shocked and appalled when it's suggested that he sleep there at night. Many children like to take naps on it for a few days before tackling it at night.
Toddlers who are initially very resistant may to continue to want their crib for a few days or weeks, then spontaneously opt for the toddler bed. Some continue to ignore it for months before deciding they're ready. Many parents find it's best not to apply any pressure, since toddlers can be so quick to dig in their heels and do the opposite of whatever their parents want. They suggest leaving the crib up and remaining indifferent as to where the child sleeps.
Sometimes a toddler can't have a choice. A new baby is coming, so parents need her to relinquish her crib and move on. Parents in this situation may worry that being ousted because of a sibling will be yet another terrible blow that adds to the toddler's feeling of being displaced.
If the transition turns out to be very hard, sometimes the only consolation is that in a matter of hours, days, or weeks, the new bed will become sufficiently familiar and the toddler will adjust. Sometimes it turns out to be surprisingly easy. The youngster is delighted to participate in the preparations for the new baby, is thrilled because the move makes the coming sibling seem more real, and enjoys her lofty status of big sister. There's just no second-guessing a toddler!
The toddler who won't stay put in a toddler bed poses a real dilemma for parents: What to do with a little one who scurries out of bed the minute parents have finished tucking him in? What to do with the little insomniac who rises in the middle of the night when everyone is asleep and forays into the house? The first step to getting a child to stay in bed is to discuss it.
Explain that it is dangerous for him to be up by himself, that he must stay in bed unless it's an emergency, and that he is to call Mommy or Daddy from his bedroom if he needs something. After that explanation, which a child may or may not understand, make it a policy to studiously avoid further conversation. Limit verbal exchanges to repeating in a firm tone of voice, “You're supposed to stay in bed unless it's an emergency. Go back to bed and call if you need something.” (This assumes the parent has a baby monitor or is close enough to his room to hear him call.)
As with anything you are trying to teach your toddler, bedtime procedures are established with baby steps. Be patient and consistent as you train your child to stay in bed for the night.
Walk him back to his room, help him into bed, issue another reminder to call if he needs something, and leave. Toddlers in this situation are apt to cry or call before you make it through the bedroom door. If that happens, turn around and go right back to his bedside to check on him, just as you promised.
In getting across any new idea to a toddler, you need to go one step at a time and show him how things are supposed to go. Stepping out of the room and turning right back around to go back in demonstrates what is to happen: He calls; you respond. That can provide reassurance that having to be a big boy sleeping in a big bed doesn't mean he is expected to be independent. If a toddler doesn't start climbing back out of bed the moment the parent turned to leave, that should be considered a victory.
Remain calm and matter-of-fact as you approach your child's bed, and say, “I heard you calling/crying. Is everything all right? What do you want?” Provide a drink of water if a child says he's thirsty, do the monster check if he's scared; then give him a pat and tell him he's doing fine, that it will take a while to get used to the new bed. Repeat the procedure several times, avoiding all conversation except:
Begin extending the time between visits to the child's room. Difficulty with the transition to a strange bed is understandable, too. Many adults have a hard time sleeping when they're away from home for the very same reason.
It may seem inhumane to install a door protector and close the door to contain a toddler who keeps popping out of a toddler bed after everyone else is asleep. But given the danger youngsters can get into roaming the house, it may be the only recourse. Be sure to completely safety-proof the bedroom first!