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My son turned 2 today, and we have been considering for a long time to transition him to a bed. Specially since he already sleeps in a bed at the daycare.

I am afraid that he will not want to stay in bed once he makes the transition. What was your experience? When did you switch?

edit: I am looking for your experiences, and learn from them. As with everything related with children, every experience is different and will help forming your answer. This is not a math question. :)

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The question is a bit unclear... Are you asking a question, or asking for people to share their stories? :-) –  Lennart Regebro Mar 30 '11 at 8:19
    
@Lennart Thanks for your comment. Well, it's not an exact answer I guess. I am asking when should I transition, and the arguments (i.e. their own experiences), to back their answers. –  pablo Mar 30 '11 at 8:20
    
I'm not sure anecdotal answers is that helpful... See for example meta.parenting.stackexchange.com/questions/6/… –  Lennart Regebro Mar 30 '11 at 8:23
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9 Answers 9

up vote 13 down vote accepted

I was once told keep the kids in the crib until they start trying to get out. That is kind of what we did. We switched our daughter to a bed at about 2.5 years and the main reason we did that is because we were preparing for her to share a room with her little sister and her sister needed the crib.

My daughter took right to it. She rarely ever gets out of bed at night and if she does, we just walk her back to her room.

I think this really depends on the temperament of your child. My daughter is very laid back and no one was really surprised about how she took to sleeping in a bed.

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We were considering switching because our boy was getting to the point where he touched both ends of the crib when he stretched. While we were still thinking about it, he hit his head scaling the side of the crib one morning. Time to upgrade. –  Saiboogu Mar 30 '11 at 18:01
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Kids vary. Some take to the bed without any real difference from how they went to sleep in the crib, and others are all "oooh, freedom!" and getting up every ten seconds for a cuddle or a drink or to see what you are up to.

For the "oooh, freedom!" type, here's what I do:

First of all, make sure a good, solid, consistent bedtime routine is in place. Put on pajamas, brush teeth, get into bed, read a story, have a special quilt, you get the idea.

Then, once the child is in bed, the child does not get out of bed. If he/she does, pick him/her up with a quick "it's bedtime honey, now you need to get some sleep" and put him/her right back. After about two times, stop saying anything, just pick him/her up and deposit back in bed. After a couple of nights in which you don't get nearly enough sleep, the idea catches on and it works well. Then, you can trust your child to go to sleep properly wherever you are.

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+1! I've used up all my votes for today :-( The consistent method is a very good tip. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Mar 30 '11 at 11:25
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He defiantly won't want to stay in the bed once you make the switch... but he'll get used to is.

You can always put a gate on his room so he can get out of bed but not out the room without your help.

My twins are 19 months, and making the switch this month,

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The gate is counter-productive. It may be convenient to the parent, as he/she can be left alone without actually teaching the bedtime routine, but it robs the child of learning to go to bed properly, and the freedom that comes with it. You can't very well camp or travel with a kid who won't stay in bed without a gate. –  HedgeMage Mar 30 '11 at 9:09
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@HedgeMage, I disagree. In our case at least the gate was just insurance against sleep walking in the first few weeks, it soon came off completely. If he's still not staying in bed after that point then I do agree you have a larger issue. –  Jon Hadley Mar 31 '11 at 12:47
    
+1 for the gate. We use a gate and have kept it on even after he discovered on his 3rd birthday how to open it. Despite this, he knows he can't get up and wander the house in the middle of the night. –  Steve Taylor Mar 17 '12 at 2:58
    
Love the gate across the bedroom door. My boys (age 2 and 3.9) are up at dawn...and I'm not. They have learned to stay in their room and play quietly. Before the gate, they were out the door and into trouble before the birds even started chirping. And, BTW they both know how to climb it or just bust through it, they also know better than to actually do it. Sometimes, when fortune smiles on us, they go back to sleep after a bit. –  Jax Apr 3 at 20:35
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Don't make the switch permanent. We bought beds for our twins when they were 18 months (must be a twin thing ;) ). They were over excited with the prospect of having beds. When it came to sleeping, the just wanted their old cots. Maybe it provided them some feeling of comfort of safety. We have just stored the beds for the time being. We got advice from friends that you should make the shift when your kids start climbing out of their cots them self, or when they ask for it. So the basic answer the change is up to them

I am pretty sure that in the beginning they will not stay in bed, but maybe it would help making a ritual out of it by reading a bed time story for example.

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I really agree this is almost common sense: "Make the shift when your kids start climbing out of their cots them self, or when they ask for it." –  Jeff Atwood Apr 1 '11 at 5:42
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I think you generally have a "feeling" when to do it, personally i dont think theres a rush and its a battle id put of for a while. my daughters just turned two, have been thinking of putting her in a bed but just gut instint telling me wait a few more months, but agree that if she starts trying to climb out, thats when i will put her in a bed for saftey, and i dont think that moving a child to a bed because you need the cot for the NEW baby is a good idea, either do it long before baby comes or they will resent it and may cause dramas over bed time. make it a special thing, nice duvet, teddys etc, and take time first night

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Since you are looking for anecdotal answers here, here is mine. We switched our son to a "big boy bed" (twin size) around 15 months. Did it before he was really old enough to care (I think). The mattress was on a box-spring, no frame. We put a body pillow on the floor in case he decided to get off -- or rolled off. The bed was in a whole different room. So not only did he change beds, he changed rooms at the same time. I think that helped.

To make the transition, one night we just took him out from his crib while he was sleeping and just put him into the new bed. We were there for him when he woke up in the morning in case he freaked out. The next night we just put him in the bed (made sure he was tired, but not yet asleep). He never put up a fight or anything. He took to it right away. By the time he felt "ownership" of a bed, he was already in the right bed. To him, we never "took away" the crib.

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We kept the first one in the crib until she could climb out (around age 3 when her little brother came). Her little brother hasn't yet climbed out.

In any case, the kids will get out of bed anyway and you'll have that whole set of battles to overcome regardless.

I would just wait until either they start climbing out of the crib (because of the danger) or if they start to express interest in a "big bed". We pushed it a little too hard with the first child because we needed the crib and she started coming in our bed and not staying in her toddler bed. You may need to gradual ease them into the toddler bed (i.e. if they get out of the toddler bed, they go back in the crib), so keep the crib around a few weeks.

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Don't wait until he is climbing out. Ideally, you should set the agenda so you can take the time to do it properly.

This was our procedure over a number of weeks. Our son was 18 months old at the time:

  1. We bought him an adjustable bed from Ikea. We also bought side railings for both sides.
  2. We encouraged him to play in his new bedroom around his new bed. The bed was always ready for him to lay in it - sheets, pillow, pillowcase, quilt, etc.
  3. We read Big Enough for a Bed to him every day for a while.
  4. We encouraged him to lay in the bed just for fun.
  5. We eventually put him in the bed for an afternoon sleep. He took to it like a duck to water.

We were quite surprised with our success given that our son has always resisted change. Once he had that first afternoon sleep, he slept in the bed that same night and has continued to do so ever since then.

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Our children were both in toddler beds from the day they were born. The youngest has shown a small propensity to get out of bed after bedtime, but he:

  1. understands he's not meant to;
  2. does it only once a fortnight or so, and increasingly infrequently; and
  3. is quickly and directly returned to his room when he does it.

So, from my experience there's certainly no "too soon".

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