Transitioning to the big kid bed

By Liz Hastings on January 06, 2014

When I was a little girl, I dreamed of having a canopy bed like my best friend Crystal. She had a white, lacy bed frame with posts and sheer chiffon cascading over her nightie, nightly. The kind of bed the princess from The Princess and the Pea slept in. The kind I had dog-eared in the Sears catalogue. 

The kind of bed kids whose parents loved them more than anything in the whole wide world bought for their little girls with minimal begging. Yes, Mom; I went there. 

I had two twin beds I would bounce back and forth on until I would either a) get caught jumping and get in trouble because I might hurt myself or b) slam into the wall and hurt myself. 

I knew if I had a princess canopy, those injuries would never happen and life in my big kid bed would bring nothing but sweet dreams. 

Then I became a mom and realized that serious thought was required when it came to the move to the big kid bed. Which one would suit our baby and growing family? When do you make the move? Will my child be safe? 

There were so many things to consider and none of them included a canopy. 

I moved my first-born out of her crib when she was two-and-a-half because baby number two was on the way. I placed a queen-sized mattress on the floor in her room and surrounded it with mesh walls. I checked the firmness and wrestled on a plastic sheet. I added pillows and then removed them, depending on whether suffocation or neck strain was the hot parenting topic that week.

All temptations from around the room were removed; anything sharp or pointy, items that could be mistaken for food, objects with a scary face or shaped like a happy toy by day, but something whose silhouette could spark fear in the middle of the night. 

With our second and third daughters, we opted for twin beds in a shared room. This way we had some flexibility when a friend slept over (has yet to happen) and it made use of the space in the room. 

Our second born was two when we moved her out of the crib and our third was closer to three. I know four-year-olds who are still sleeping in their cribs proving there is really no perfect time to make the transition. Every child and every situation is different. If it’s working, why not let sleeping babies lie? 

We were less anxious about our kids climbing out of their beds the second and third time around because (spoiler alert!) they do climb out of beds more safely compared to their cribs. And during potty training, being able to climb in and out of bed and get to the bathroom on their own was definitely a good thing. 

As an added bonus, these escape efforts almost always resulted in the delivery of an extra hug or to show you a dust bunny in the shape of a unicorn you may otherwise have missed. It’s just one more sign that your little angel is one step closer to independence and you are progressing in the right direction as a family.

Overcoming Nighttime Fears

The transition into a big kid bed can be overwhelming. Kids like order and a big kid bed can mean introducing freedoms they didn’t realize they were ready for, which can be scary. 

  1. I always told my kids where I was going to be after I left their room so they knew I was close by. Before they moved out of the crib, they didn’t ask because there was no way to wander around and go exploring. It set their minds at ease to know if they needed to find me, call or reach out, they knew exactly where I was in the house. 
  2. With each of our daughters, we gave them a new stuffed toy to be their “Bedtime Buddy.” My girls loved the idea of tucking in their sleeping partner, reading a story to their plush animal and always having a warm, soft body next to them. 
  3. Keep the bedtime routine as close to before as possible. Playing the same soothing music, washing faces, brushing teeth, reading stories will help make the transition less scary.
Get Your Big Kid Excited About a New Bed
  1. Assign titles, “Big Kid” and “Big Kid Bed” because who doesn’t love a title? Kids understand this special rite of passage and enjoy feeling ready to take on the new challenge with a title they’ve grown into and earned. 
  2. Talk about favourite colours, patterns and characters, and let your child help choose new bedding. Kids like being engaged and tuned into a situation rather than surprised by it. 
  3. Have story time on the new bed. Removing the crib from the bedroom means shaking up the entire environment during the nap and bedtime routine. Maybe you sat on the rocking chair together before. Now you can snuggle (with Big Kid’s permission) on the bed to read stories, sing songs, make shadow puppets – something you couldn’t do with the crib. 

By Liz Hastings| January 06, 2014

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