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Transitioning your child into a toddler bed

>> Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Many parents are content to keep their children in a crib as long as possible.  It makes complete sense.  They are safe, confined, and protected from everything else in the room they could get into.  They can't roll out of the crib, nor can they leave their room and wander around your home at night.

But, eventually, every child will need to make the switch into a more conventional bed.  Some children are transitioned because of their dangerous habit of trying to fly the coop and climb out of their crib, some children are transitioned because of younger siblings coming into the picture, and some children are transitioned because it just seems like the right time to their parents.

Whatever the reason for the switch may be, here are a few tips to help along the way:

Plan the switch when you have several days of extra time at home with your child.  Whether you plan this around a holiday schedule with less parental work requirements or on a Friday night with the weekend ahead- you'll likely need it.  Your child may be initially very nervous or scared of the change, especially if you are moving to a different room, and you may find yourself spending much more time during nap and bedtime routines.

Plan to be VERY off schedule for a few days.  As your child is getting adjusted to their new bed and/or new room, they may wake more often or become more upset when they do wake initially.  It's an adjustment period, and they'll likely bounce back quickly once they understand the situation, but increased night-wakings or earlier morning wake-times are always a possibility.  A toddler who normally takes one nap per day might need two per day initially when transitioning to a toddler bed if they haven't had very restful sleep the night before.  Keeping watch of your child's signs of fatigue is important the first few days.

Make sure your child's room is safe.  Lining the floor near the bed with pillows in case of falls, securing furniture to the walls, installing closet door locks, and hiding or securing cords and plugs out of your child's reach or ability are essential.  Some pediatricians will even recommend putting a baby gate in front of the child's door (if you choose to leave the door open) or a door handle babyproofing device on the inside of the door (if you choose to leave the door closed) so that your child is unable to leave their room and get into other non-babyproofed rooms in your home in the middle of the night.

Use transitional tools, like books.  If your child is old enough to understand, reading books about the transition to a "big boy" or "big girl" bed may be helpful.  Referring to the crib as something that babies sleep in and their new bed as something that big kids sleep in may be helpful.  Showing them pictures of the transition can be extremely helpful to those little ones who don't yet have the language to understand you explaining it to them.

How old was your child when you transitioned to a toddler bed?  What were your experiences?

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