Transitioning to a Toddler Bed

Emme has typically been a pretty good night sleeper (naps have been another story). She sleeps 11-12 hours, goes down early and relatively easily, and sleeps through the night. We go through phases — some are harder, some are easier — but for about a year now, we’ve laid our little angel in her crib at 6:45 p.m., knowing that 9.9 times out of 10, she’ll sleep peacefully until 6:30 a.m.

“Nigh nigh Mommy. Nigh nigh Daddy,” she says as we turn off the lights, exit her room, and smugly pat ourselves on the back for another easy, breezy toddler bedtime routine. Tips for Transitiong to the Toddler Bed

Silly parents.

In August, our barely 2-year-old daughter changed her tune without warning. One night, after a typical bedtime routine at a normal time, we put her down in the crib, and she went ballistic. We calmed her down, and once her hysteria subsided into a mild whine, we made a move to leave the room.

The moment we walked away from the crib, she was hysterical again, begging us not to leave her. Then, she stood up, swung her leg over the crib railing, and hoisted her little body over it.

My husband grabbed her before she fell to the ground.

After three days of attempts to escape the crib, late bedtimes, and makeshift sleeping arrangements, we decided we had no choice but to move her out of the crib and transition to a toddler bed.

Now, I don’t know what we were thinking, but I, a longtime fan of Google who consults the Internet for basically everything, did not so much as type the words “transitioning to a toddler bed” into my browser. We just winged it. We took the mattress out of her crib, put it on the floor, and ta da! Transition to the toddler bed complete. Right?

It kind of seemed like it might be OK at first, until it wasn’t. We went about a week with 10 minutes of protest at bedtime before she would go down. But then, the hysteria started again—more tantrums, more begging mommy and daddy to stay in the room and sleep with her. We tried reasoning with her. We tried explaining to her the concept of being a big kid and the privilege of sleeping in a big kid bed. We tried staying in the room until she fell asleep. But it wasn’t working. This grand experiment was becoming a massive parenting fail.

So, I did what I should have done in the first place, and I searched “transitioning to the toddler bed.” I found this article most helpful, though I read similar advice in several places. Here are my two main takeaways:

  • Most toddlers aren’t ready to transition to the big kid bed until at least two-and-a-half (if not three or three-and-a-half). They have a better chance at “getting it” at that point, which makes sense to me — the cognitive differences I see between Emme and kids who are about six months older than her are pretty significant. She also doesn’t seem interested in being a “big girl” yet (my guess is that a toddler with an older sibling would probably feel differently). And I am A-OK with my baby not being my big girl at this point.
  • Just because a toddler climbs out of the crib doesn’t mean you have to immediately begin transitioning to the toddler bed. This little nugget of information is far less intuitive for me. I mean, truly, at the end of the day, what do you do if your kid can potentially get hurt launching themselves over a crib rail and falling four feet to the floor?

I don’t want to end up in the emergency room with my kid, but after another night of hysteria and refusal to stay in her bed, we decided to put her back in the crib (which I’ve read that you shouldn’t do, but oh well). She immediately seemed less upset, and though she halfheartedly put her leg on top of the rail, she quickly removed it and laid down.

Maybe she just felt more secure in the crib?

Since then, she’s been fine in her crib, but I sense we’re on borrowed time. The switch to the big kid bed is coming, and I’d like to be in front of it this time instead of scrambling.

The first thing I’d like to figure out is what kind of toddler bed we’re going to get. Putting the mattress on the floor was a stopgap; I want something more permanent so we can potentially have it in the room to talk about and get comfortable with before we make the change.

I’m considering three options for transitioning to the toddler bed:

Option 1. Convert her crib.

Pros: We have a Pottery Barn crib and could order the conversion kit online. This seems like the easiest solution to the big kid bed and would probably ease the transition because it would be familiar to her.

Cons: Obviously, there wouldn’t be time to set up the bed and get used to it before Emme had to sleep in it. The switch would have to happen immediately. I also hate to the make the $129 (+ $20 shipping) investment for something that is temporary — potentially even more than a regular toddler bed would be if we decide to have another kid (maybe?) in the near-ish future.

Option 2. A toddler bed.

Pros: I like the idea of having my little girl in a toddler bed that is appropriately sized. The Uptown Toddler Bed from Land of Nod is attractive and low to the ground, which I think means she could sleep in it without guardrails.

Cons: I’m actually not thrilled with the idea of a toddler bed. It’s a $300+ investment for a short-term solution.

Option 3: Buy her a real big girl bed.

Pros: I love the HEMNES Daybed from Ikea. I searched the ‘net for daybed/trundle bed options, and this is by far my favorite. Not only is it reasonably priced at $299, it has storage, and you can pull out the trundle to fit a double-bed mattress. This would be a nice option for sleepovers with friends or if we needed extra room for an overnight guest. And the daybed is perfect for cuddling and reading before bedtime and naps. We would also have to buy a mattress for this bed, but this set up would easily work for a decade, if not longer.

Cons: It’s a big bed for a little girl, and Emme may not feel secure in it. Safety-wise, it’s higher off the ground, and the bed frame has an odd shape above the storage drawers, which could be a challenge when adding a guardrail (I actually have zero understanding of how guardrails work).

Right now, I’m torn between options 1 and 3. I think option 1 would be the least painful transition-wise, but option 3 will be a lasting solution. But, wanting option 3 might be more about what mommy prefers rather than what’s best for Emme at this point.

Any advice? Share your tips on transitioning to a toddler bed in the comments.

13 thoughts on “Transitioning to a Toddler Bed

  1. Hi Lou,

    I found you on Bloggy Moms and wanted to stop by and say hello.

    I do have a suggestion for you, or rather my experience to share. When my little girl was ready we borrowed a Toddler bed for that transitional time between crib and big girl bed. I’ll bet you know someone whose “baby” is moving into a big kid bed and may have a toddler bed to pass along or loan to you.

    Also, I have the Ikea Hemnes right now, in my guest room. It’s lovely and comfy, but it’s pretty darn big. The storage underneath is fantastic! The drawers are deep and are usable even when you pull out the trundle. When you do, the bed is almost King sized (use King Size Sheets for best results). . Ikea is another good bet for a toddler bed,..

    Hope you find this helpful.


    • Thanks for the comment Lisa! We went to look at the Ikea bed this weekend, and it does seem a bit large and high off the ground for her. Most of my friends are in similar kid stages, so I think I’m going to start looking for a secondhand toddler bed. It seems like that may be the way to go.

  2. I kept my first in the crib until his lease was up when #2 was coming. I followed that pattern (new baby coming, evict older kid). I bought a toddler bed from Walmart or Target for $50 I think. That was 2007 and it has lasted us this long. I just took my 5yo out of it! I’m not moving 2yo until I absolutely have to (climbing out consistently). Maybe you can put a mattress or something soft next to the crib in case she climbs out so she doesn’t break her head?

    • Hi Jen! I would like to keep Emme in the crib until she goes to college ;). What’s weird about this whole situation is that she’s now perfectly content in her crib again and has gone back to easily going to bed every night (fingers crossed) and has no interest in climbing out. Maybe we can continue to hold off on the switch. I do think I’m going to rethink the toddler bed option. It just seems like the safest way to go.

  3. Hi Lou, we moved my little one out of her crib and into her toddler bed (option 1 on your chart) when she was 2 years 3months old. It went really well because she felt comfortable and familiar to it. We talked it up all week and on Friday night just in case we made the move. We stressed that she could not get out and if she needed anything that she should call for us. It worked! I don’t know why or how but it did. Even in the morning she just says mom I need you and waits. It has been great, I wish you lots of luck.

    • Hi Kat! Thanks for the reply! The part I’m most worried about is how we get her to stay in her bed. When we had her out of the crib briefly, she would roam around her room no matter how many times we tried to explain to her that “big girls” stay in their beds. I’m hoping an extra month or two of maturity will help this. It’s good to hear that this can work.

  4. This was really, really, really great for me to read. I have a similar problem but kinda a little different… little guy (who is 1) has been sleeping in our bed for most of his life (it happened out of desperation….we just all slept way better that way), but we’d really love for his to transition to a crib. But of course, whenever we try to get him in his crib (which we moved to be next to our bed!!), he goes crazy. We actually decided to stop for a bit to see if things will improve in a few weeks. These little guys go through soooo many phases that you never know what’s going on in their head! It sounds like that may have been the case for yours too if she’s doing better now. Fingers crossed that my little guy will warm up to the idea soon! Good luck to you 🙂

    • I am a big believer of you do what you gotta do when it comes to sleeping arrangements and little ones. What ever gets the most people in the family the most sleep wins. Sometimes I think with transitions like this, you just have to push through a few rough days in order to make it stick. That said, that theory (which has largely served me well for 2+ years) did not work in this case. 🙂 Helpful, right?

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  6. Hi! I’m in about the same boat as you now… except my nearly 2 year old son has always been a terrible sleeper and has never loved his crib. He’s now asking to lay in mommy and daddy’s bed to read books and go to sleep at bedtime and having a really rough time falling asleep every night. Something that we could lay down with him in in the beginning as we slowly wean him into putting himself to sleep sounds ideal, and I’ve been eyeballing the Hemnes bed as a sort of short and long term solution (I hate the idea of spending money on a piece of furniture we won’t use for long, plus need something that can hold one of us, too). The height does make me nervous as he’s a pretty determined/active little fellow… Can you tell me what you ended up doing? Thanks!

  7. So I just read this/found this, whatever.

    We’re thinking about #2 next year and I’ve wondered what we should do regarding Natalie’s sleeping arrangement. I would like to keep her in her crib (which is the Kendall from P&B) as long as possible before doing the conversion (we have the kit) but that would mean buying a second crib for #2. (Totally going to IKEA for the next crib. Sorry future baby.) We also have a queen-sized bed in the guest room that we could lower and put guard rails on and use the current crib for #2.

    Emme is 2.5 now – what did you end up going with? What is she currently sleeping in?

    I love having the queen bed for guests but would also love to get rid of it and just make guests sleep on the couch or hotel (I’m so mean) so that I can make the other two bedrooms proper kids rooms.

    Help me, Lou. You’re my only hope.

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