May 29, 2023


There are so many transitions to make and new stages to learn when raising kids. This feels especially true for young parents when their kids are young, before more “normal” routines have been established. One of the most significant changes you’ll make with your child’s sleeping arrangements is the transition to a big kid bed. 

You’ll know it’s time to make the transition to a big kid bed when your kid gets too big and their crib is no longer a sufficient size, they’re eager to get out of bed on their own, and you’re ready for them to gain a little bit of independence. It can be hard to make this transition if you’ve already established a routine because it feels like it will disrupt the comfortable patterns you’ve worked so hard to create.

We’ve put together expert advice to help you understand how to transition to a big kid bed with a solid plan and the right products to make it a little easier. 

When Should Children Transition to a Big Kid Bed

Overall, there is no precise answer for exactly when your child should transition to a big kid bed. The main reason that parents make this change is because their child is physically too large for their crib. It’s totally fine to wait until this happens, though it might make the transition feel more rushed. Many experts recommend starting between 2.5 to 3 years of age because your child will have better developed impulse control and more verbal language skills (in addition to being physically ready for a larger bed).

There are other indicators that your child should transition to a big kid bed. One common experience that can scare new parents is when particularly adventurous kids start to climb out of their crib. That kind of activity will probably require you to take action sooner rather than later. 

How to Transition to a Big Kid Bed

Once you’ve made the decision to transition (or once it has been made for you), there are some proven methods to follow you that will help make this large change a little bit easier on you and your child.

  1. Don’t change the physical layout of your child’s room beyond moving out their crib and moving in the toddler bed. Using the introduction of a toddler bed as an excuse to redecorate their room will make it much more tempting for your child to get out of bed and explore their new surroundings.
  2. Keep bedtime consistent and make sure that bedtime routines are established before making the big switch. Your routines will probably include activities like the following:
    1. Brushing teeth
    2. Reading books
    3. Putting on pajamas
    4. Potty time or diaper change
  3. Watch your child on a baby monitor so you can enter the room as soon as they get out of bed, place them back in bed, and explain to them that they need to stay there until it’s time to get up.
  4. Be consistent in your enforcement of boundaries and rules. Boundaries are incredibly helpful for kids. Just like they don’t understand how to regulate bodily functions when they are first born, they don’t know how to regulate their own impulses at a young age.
  5. Use praise generously. Let your child know that they are doing well when they stay in bed and encourage them to continue their habits. 
  6. Use a supplementary tool like the “red light, green light” alarm clock to help them understand when they need to stay in bed, and when it’s OK to get out. 

How to Keep Your Child in Bed

It’s hard to imagine that your child will follow all of their sleep training rules from day one. Instead, you’ll probably feel better if you just anticipate that your child will repeatedly, and perhaps for several weeks, get out of bed when they’re first put down to sleep, or too early in the morning. 

The choice to discipline, and the decision about how to do this, is very personal and should be made between the parents. But, make sure you decide what your process for discipline will be before undertaking the transition. Positive reinforcement can be a very effective method of showing your child how to act, and let them know that they’re doing the right things. 

For example, when your child first gets out of bed, it’s usually recommended to enter the room and put them back in bed while telling them (verbally only) “no” or showing them that they are not doing what they were told. The point here is to make it clear to your child that they essentially don’t have the option to get out of bed because every time they do they will be put back! 

What is a Big Kid Bed

Here’s the thing, there is no formal definition of a “big kid bed,” but most people consider it to be a toddler bed. Basically, a big kid bed is a bed that’s not a crib with sides that enclose the entire sleeping area. For your family, a toddler bed could look like a twin mattress on a box spring on the floor until you find a more permanent solution.  

What makes a toddler bed different from a crib? A toddler bed is essentially a lowered bed that is usually gated on most sides with only a partial gate on one side. Not all toddler beds are gated, but the ones that are have an open portion on one end that allows your child to scoot their legs over the edge of the bed and stand up on their own. The partial gate portion keeps your child from accidentally rolling out of bed, and it gives them an easy way to climb up into the bed. However, many other toddler bed styles are low enough that they don’t need gates once your child gets used to sleeping in the bed. Many toddler beds also have rails that can be removed if needed. 

Here are a few examples of common toddler bed styles that will make the transition to a big kid bed fun and accessible for your child.

  1. Ouef makes a classic style of toddler bed that features a low profile and railing - perfectly designed to grow with your child as they develop. 
  2. This twin bed (with trundle and trundle mattress) from Monte Design has a simple, sleek, and modern design in a soft gray. The frame is low to the ground and it sports a perfectly-sized headboard for an added bit of style.
For a different take on traditional toddler bed, Ouef also makes a “Perch” bunk bed that has a detachable loft on top. This is great as a bunk bed or as a cozy place for your child to play or snuggle up and read a book.
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